I just heard as many of you probably have, that after 146 years Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus is closing. It is the end of a tradition that brought us great performers and legendary clowns such as Lou Jacobs, Otto Griebling, and Emmett Kelly.
This tradition was continued when Bill Ballantine was asked to start the clown college for Ringling Brothers. Clown college graduates such as Penn Jilette, Bill Irwin, Barry Lubin and many others became the clowns and new vaudevillians of a new generation. They carry on the old traditions and make these traditions relevant today.
The Big Apple Circus closed, now Ringling Brothers is closing, and as mud shows(traveling tented circuses) vanish, it is up to the performers out there to keep this tradition alive in some form. When we juggle, balance, do magic, make balloon animals, or apply face paint to a child’s face, we create a magical hands on experience for them. They can not get this experience from their cell phone or a tablet.
In the circus there is a full band, many performers, lights, costumes, and animals. As individual performers most of us do not have the production value of the circus. We must create the magic ourselves. In many ways it is a lot harder to do. You have to create the whole entertainment experience. When you are able to do this successfully, and you are able to touch your audience, you share a wonderful experience between performer an audience. Whether you’re performing in one of the dwindling number of circuses, you perform in an amusement park, church basement, hospital, school, camp, or birthday party, what you do is very important. Many times you are the first live entertainment a child experiences.
As the sawdust and spangles of the traditional big show leave where they are and the wind blows them throughout the world, a spangle may land on somebody’s shoulder And a speck of sawdust may fall in their shoe. It will spark their memory of an age old tradition that brought audiences and performers of all nationalities together for the purpose of making people forget about their troubles for a while. The young will experience it for the first time. The tradition must continue in some form, so that the children of all ages can have the magical experience we all know as the circus.