Ask a circus performer
On May 21, 2017, the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus told the world the tent was coming down. After 146 years, declining ticket sales and rising transportation costs forced the circus to close.
But it is coming back this fall. Tour dates were announced last month. And the new circus tour will bewithoutanimals.
Johnathan Lee Iverson knows the ups and downs of this world all too well. He was the ringmaster at Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey for nearly 20 years. He was the youngest ringmaster in the history of the company at age 22 and the first African-American to hold the position.
Ironically enough, I will be the very last voice in the 146-year history of this show, so I will be the last person you hear to speak of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ — which is a wild little paradox, to be a first and a last at the same time. I don’t know too many people who can say that, in any industry.
Veronica Blair recognizes the importance of African-Americans trailblazing in the circus industry. The aerialist started The Uncle Junior Project, which documents the histories of Black circus performers.
We assemble a whip master, aerialist, clown, and ringmaster to answer your questions.
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