WIFE and I went to see The Greatest Showman which is spectacular and I will get why you should grab your entire family and run out to see it later. This is about the conversation we had after the movie.
WIFE looked at me and said “BOY, our 5 year old, will never see the circus.” That simple sentence sent ice through my veins, my son will grow up never having the opportunity to go to the “Big Top” and hear those magic words “Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages….”
I clearly remember walking into the circus with my dad as a little boy, watching in wonder as the Greatest Show on Earth unfolded in front of me. Then taking our daughter 16 years ago and feeling the same magic and electricity pulse through the stadium as Bello Nock made us smile, cheer and wince as he performed stunts and tricks that seemed impossible, but pulled it out with the grace of a true showman.
There is no more circus and that’s our fault. The last time I took my two older kids to the opening night of the Ringling Brothers Circus here in Chicago, it was half full and seemed, well, tired. What do you expect? If you worked for 145 straight years you would be too.
We are a culture of ADD filled teenagers who would rather worship a person who looks great in a bikini on Instagram than an artist who has spent their lives mastering an ancient art form. My kids can’t grow up in a world where a video from Kanye showing off the latest flavor of Mountain Dew is considered entertainment. That is the definition of madness.
The circus ran smack dab into a world that didn’t accept it anymore, a world that likes to find something wrong with everything and then complain about it as loud as they can, until that particular thing bends and breaks from the pressure.
At times that’s good. We are more aware of the injustice and tragedy that fills our world, but at times that hyper-awareness snuffs out the magical history of who we are and leaves it dead on the curb, that’s what happened to the circus.
People yelled about the animals and forgot about the humans. “Elephants are being treated badly. Tigers need to be tigers.” Cool, good for you. Let’s be clear, these elephants aren’t living in a condo in SOHO finally free to work on their novel, nor are they “free,” they are still on display, just in a different environment.
Forget about the elephants for a second. What made The Greatest Showman so great, wasn’t the elephants, tigers, snake charmers or any other animals, it was the people, their energy, their pride in who they are and sharing that with the world.
People. We forgot about the people. We may have saved a few animals but we displaced generations of people and families. For many of these performers, the circus is their life. They come from generations of circus performers, and they live on the massive mile-long circus trains that crawl across the country.
“The Show Must Go On” we all know the phrase, now it’s time to make it happen. Feld Entertainment ran the Ringling Brothers Circus and I can’t think of a better company to resuscitate our old friend, breathe new life back into her with the magic and wonder of this new world.
Feld Entertainment is responsible for millions of smiles and gasps of wonder a year, as their many shows travel across the country.” Monster Jam, Marvel Universe Live, Disney On Ice and Stage, Monster Energy Motocross, if you want to be entertained odds are you have turned to the Feld Family.
Kenneth Feld, his daughter Juliette Feld and their family are the modern day PT Barnum. They make magic and wonder happen every day, somewhere around the world, and I couldn’t think of a better group of people to save the circus.
I am not attacking Feld Entertainment, I am begging. Begging for the next 146 years of children and families. Save the circus! Here’s a little math for you. It’s estimated that 3,978,497 children will be born in the United States next year. Using that number times 145 years and that’s 576,882,065 kids that will grow up in the next 145 years without knowing the magic of the Ringling Brothers Circus!
Grave Digger, Bello Nock, Buzz Light Year, The Bluemen, Stomp, Spiderman, Nick Wallenda, Johnathan Lee Iverson, those motorcycle guys , trapeze artists, contortionists, American Ninja Warriors flying through the air, parkour dudes and a few clowns, who wouldn’t want to see that come to life in front of your eyes. No elephants needed.
People fell in love with Lin Manuel Miranda and Hamilton because of his energy, his passion, his talent and the incredible way he decided to showcase all of it together in one amazing story. Not because he was cool on Twitter!
Feld Entertainment has thousands of amazing stories at their feet and story tellers chomping at the bit to share what they have. Watch what Juliette Feld did with Marvel Universe Live and then try to argue that they can’t save the circus.
Holograms, 3d video, pyrotechnics and access to technology that makes us jump, smile and sing out loud, these are the elements that Feld Entertainment has at their finger tips and that can bring the circus back to the world for another 145 years.
Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a hurricane you can’t see the clear path out. That seems to be what happened with the old circus, they were trying to keep up and make the Greatest Show on Earth relevant to the new digital world. Hard to do for any group with so many moving parts.
Now the wounds have healed, the animals are gone and the world is smaller, we have access to the acrobats, contortionists, magicians, wall climbers, tricksters and other magnificent people who are proud of their talents and differences and want to share it.
I know it’s a massive financial undertaking and I am naive to think you can just jump back in to huge stadiums filled with millions of dollars of props and equipment. I/ we get it.
If you build it, they will come. Look at Cavalia and Cirque de Soleil as your path to the new world, they literally pitch massive tents in the cities they come to and then fill them with adoring fans. Wonder where they got that idea?
400 people lost their jobs when the circus shut down and that has ripple effect to thousands of others. If you follow Johnathan Lee Iverson on Instagram then you see how sad that reality is. He is a ringmaster, a “showman,” and still travels the world spreading his magic to kids and people across the globe, alone, but still doing it. Bello Nock was on America’s Got Talent and answering to Simon fuc$ing Cowell. What? That sentence doesn’t even make sense.
For other performers the circus was only one place they had to turn to make a living and showcase their talents. Face it, when your name is Willenda, you are not going to be riding a desk at the new tech start up. It’s their craft, their heritage and we as a collective yanked the carpet out from under their feet.
I once sat alone in the trailer of Grady Styles Jr. son of Lobster boy, the sideshow “freak.” Lobster boy became a mean, abusive, drunk, who met an ugly end. When I asked Grady about what happened to his dad, his answer was simple. “When people decided to save the “freaks” and fought to shut them down, they took away his one source of pride. My dad taught us to be proud of who we are and our disability, he made a living and supported his family from it. When they took that away, they took away his pride, it killed him slowly.”
We don’t need sideshow freaks, that’s not the point.
The point is, we decided it was time to take away the circus. The point is there has to be more for the future of our kids than YouTubers and Instagram stars influencing their lives. The point is it’s the circus is not dead and it’s time to wake the sleeping giant. Dilly Dilly can’t replace the amazing voice of Johnathan Lee Iverson as he once again exclaims….. Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the greatest show on Earth!
I feel like Princess Leia “Feld Entertainment you are our only hope…” Save The Circus! If you agree, then let them hear you, share, comment and let the words of Hugh Jackman inspire you.