So you want to join a circus. This question recently came up when I was giving a presentation on being a fire eater/performer/writer/reader to a teen group at the Franklin County Library in Brooksville, Indiana.
After talking about my experiences and answering questions from a small but engaged audience of tweens, a parent approached me. She looked to be about my age, and asked if it’s really possible to join a circus. “Can it be a real job?” She asked me. My answer, at first, was that it depends. When she clarified that she was asking for her ambitious 12-year-old daughter who excelled at gymnastics and dreamed of doing cirque for a living, I knew that I had driven 90 minutes to this library, on this day, for a reason.
A good friend of mine is living proof that you can join the circus and make a career of it, and it’s become part of his life mission to share this with others. Paul Miller of Circus Mojo (Ludlow, KY), taught me first hand that children and adults can perform circus arts for a living. My personal advice–to the young mother at the library was this: “Encourage her.” My advice to you is the same, especially if you’re young (or single, or don’t have children…it’s much easier when you meet these criteria).
Advice for Joining a Circus
• Practice as much as possible, and study your prop/act of choice to no end.
• Perform as much as possible, and network along the way.
• Continue your formal education. It’s always good to have a backup plan, as few physical performers can keep it up until retirement. That said, there are always extensions of circus (circuses need promoters, marketers, designers, writers, booking agents, stage managers, etc.) that you can continue once you’ve hung up your prop. And even if you’re travelling with a circus, which you very likely will, take online classes if needed.
• Be fearless, let go of your ego, and don’t compare yourself to others when it’s detrimental to your own good.
That last one was a doozy, but put it in your pipe and smoke it for a while. Then go practice.
Peace, love, and fire,