I will never forget the sense of joy, connection, excitement, and longing I felt when I saw my first circus clown.
Her name was Jennifer Edgerton, and as a 6 year old attending Carson and Barnes in the early 90s, I wanted to be like her some day. As years went by, life and reality set in and I was encouraged to pursue academics and science, nearly mentally purging my secret ambition. Several years later, upon attending Ringling Brothers for the first time, I felt like that child full of dreams again. I was so taken by that experience I became a clown myself.
As a fledgling clown, my two biggest sources of learning were the Ringling clowns I had befriended and the rabbit hole that is Pat Cashin's Clown Alley web archive.
I feel, in the course of recent events, the need, now more than ever, to keep spirits and hope alive, to cary on, to continue to find inspiration and be an inspiration.
For a drought-ending first post, and with the recent heart-breaking Ringling closure announcement, I felt it fit to share the wonderful words of Steve Smith, former Dean of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College and current Creative Director of Circus Center San Francisco:
Sunday, January 15, 2017
THOUGHTS FROM STEVE ON RINGLING CLOSURE
As the news of the demise of the Big Apple Circus was finally finding a place of uncomfortable compromise in my psyche, came the thunderbolt announcement that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus would also be...no more.
To some, these are just sad but true realities at the level of difficult business decisions - hard to make but necessary. To others, just another news story of yet another shop that has to shutter its doors. But for some of us, this is news that shakes the very foundation of our souls. This hits at the level of who we are, what we do and why we’re here. This is devastating.
For me, these were more than just places of employment. These were the incubators of my dreams;
These were the classrooms for my creative spirit;
These were the playgrounds for my imagination;
These were the places that gave me purpose. They gave my life purpose.
For 45 of my 65 years on the planet, this is what has forged my love & passion for performance art with all the different parts and pieces of who I am - This is what has defined...me.
And so...where to from here? How do I make sense of it all? How do I unbreak my heart?
I. Get. Up.
I feel the full force of my loss. I wail and howl and weep with grief. I fall to my knees asking why & how and cursing the cruel, heartless fickleness of fate...but, I. Get. Up.
I honor my teachers and my colleagues and my friends and my family by not giving in to despair. I salute all those who came before me by not giving up. I reach down into the depths of my shattered soul to find the strength to give this life my absolute best.
And I am painfully aware that this will take more than strength...this will require courage. There is a terrific quote from Mary Anne Radmacher that says:
“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.”
And so, I must get up; I must try...again and again and again. It will most certainly not be easy...but it will be worth it. Because the alternative is not acceptable.
The circus ring is a circle...a symbol of unity. It is continuous - it has no beginning, it has no end. A great and glorious part of circus history has come to an end, but the circus, as an art form, didn’t die today. It is evolving. It is up to us to pick up the dimmed & tattered torch that has traveled across time and through the ages; to dust it off; to reignite the fire of wonder and awe and to fan that spark into an unquenchable flame that is the future of the circus. To do anything less is simply unthinkable.
And so, get up.
~ steve ~
This site shall be maintained again. Thanks to Pat Cashin's wife, in partnership with the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center, may it be a rabbit hole for years to come.
-Beth Grimes, Board Member, International Clown Hall of Fame