Page 18 January 1982
Juggling and the Circus Show
then the circus came to town. Elephants, clowns, trapeze artists,
tigers, high wire acts, that distinct aroma, the whole bit. I
purchased a souvenir program and eagerly paged through looking for
the juggler who would be performing. To my great dismay, not a
single one was listed.
was almost ready to ask for my money back, but the clowns came out
for their preshow audience warmup and, as
usual, saved the day. They put on a fine demonstration of ball
spinning, cigar box stacking and club, ball and scarf juggling.
During the opening number the clowns passed clubs and torches.
the show I cornered Carter Brown, an IJA member and Ringling Circus
clown. I asked him about clowning and juggling, and here is what he
Rich Chamberlin Kenmore, NY
is my first year with the circus. I trained in mime at the Del Ane
School of Mime and Comedy in northern California. then directed a
troupe at the University of Vermont. Then I applied to Ringling
Brothers Clown College and got into the circus after the nine-week
school was over.
learned to juggle my first year in the mime troupe. Everyone else
juggled and I didn't. so there was a little peer pressure behind it.
From there I did some street performing with a partner who
juggled. I also got a lot of exposure to other jugglers in
do you like traveling with the circus?
on the road is an incredible experience. As a performer, everyone
should do some sort of touring. Its great because you're going to a
new town all the time. It really makes you aware of what different
cultures there are in America.
live on the circus train. All clowns have their own private room.
It's rather small- three-and-ahalf feet by six feet. but you put
up a lot of shelves and you have a lot of storage space. The bed
converts into a table or into a couch. We have our own kitchenette
down at the end of the hall and two bath rooms in the car.
on the circus train is fantastic! There's nothing like waking up in
the morning and looking out your window at the countryside rolling
How much time per day do you spend in make-up?
eight or nine hours. It takes some clowns up to an hour to put it
on, while others can do it in as little as three minutes. Myself, I
usually take about fifteen minutes. But if I'm in a hurry, I can do
it in seven.
in front of the audience about an hour out of the three hour show.
That includes the opening, the finale, and two other production
numbers in the show. I make about ten costume changes.
tremendous! You have this sea of faces... A full house gives me a
lot of energy. With half a house. my energy is a little bit lower,
but it still feels great.
all the clowns know how to juggle?
is only one who doesn't, but only six of us
actually juggle in the show.
much practice time do you get each day?
you're on the road, the practicing comes from doing so many
performances. Outside of the performances, you can have as much time
as you can find. Up to eight hours a day if you get up very early and
stay up late. I practice an average of three hours a day.
put more time into my club juggling than anything else, mainly because
in an arena it's much more visible than any other juggling. Ball
juggling is very easily lost from 35 rows up. Cigar boxes look very
small, and something like a devil stick would just vanish.
you do any other performing?
do a lot of publicity for the show. When we come into town we'll be on
television quite often, PM Magazines, a lot of radio shows, a lot of
newspaper pictures, a lot of interviews, a lot of mall shows. There's
quite a good opportunity for performing outside the circus.
do you find is the difference between entenaining a small crowd in a
shopping mall and the huge crowd at the circus?
the circus arena you know pretty much exactly what you are going to
do, what your spiel will be and what type of reaction you'll get for
a mall, though, you work up new material for each publicity stunt. I'm
always a little nervous because I'm never sure how it's going to go
the circus clown point of view, where do you see juggling headed in
feel that clowns will continue to be the jugglers in the show, and
they'll use it for comedy skits. As you grow with it, your comedy
grows. I want to stay with the show until I learn everything I want to
learn. There is so much there to pick up from the other performers -
acrobats, wire walkers, equestrians and the rest. It's an opportunity
not to be wasted.
Mike Stein of San Luis Obispo, CA, took these photos of an unidentified Ringling clown and Margarite Michel at the show he saw.