Choose Our Adventure: March/ April 2012 The Circus
She Said: Choose Our Adventure: Circus
I was really excited to start this feature. I still love it! I think it’s so cool that you guys take time out of your lives to vote on something cool that we get to share with you. Thank you for sharing in this with us!
I was pretty excited about going to the circus. Before RJ and I put up the nominations we always talk about will they work, can we afford them etc. I like to do some stretching and trying of new things. But, you won’t see us nominating bungee jumping or party bus nights. Well, I love Goldstar and we had some credit left there and I saw 15-dollar tickets. So I thought, “hey, why not try it again” because I used to love the circus. I was even in the circus when I was little. And it was awesome! Let me tell you for a willing human that center ring spotlight is amazing. I love elephants and juggling so it sounded perfect.
I was wrong. And, for once, it wasn’t just that “try to go anywhere that isn’t a nightclub without a kid and you’ll feel the pain of trying to conceive even worse” feeling. Because that is a huge problem anytime we go to a park, toy store etc. Seeing all the little ones was a little sad, but it can make me sad seeing Easter dresses at Wal-Mart. The big problem was the elephants. I love elephants! I think they are so smart and beautiful. I didn’t know they were going to look so sad. I had no idea that as a 30-year-old woman I would look at those beautiful creatures with their sad eyes and realize they didn’t want to be there. Every time that I looked at animal I felt just saw such sadness and tiredness it broke my heart.
When we first arrived I was excited. They had the traditional barker standing outside trying to get people the by the programs. And of course we bought one. We used to be actors we’ll buy a program for anything and everything! It was a pretty nice day so I didn’t even mind standing in line for 30 minutes to enter (my tickets were at will call but I didn’t want to get stampeded coming late). Plus, I had been told the preshow was awesome.
The preshow is supposed to be a “backstage” circus experience. It’s really chaotic because they have stuff going on in so many places. The first thing we saw was a stand where you could try on circus costumes. Are you kidding? I don’t like trying on clothes at Macy’s I’m definitely not putting on random costumes worn by people all over the country. We soon found a good spot to stand because we could watch what was happening in two areas. We saw a cool aerialist; an amazing tissue artist (that was cool to see up close), some really bad clown act (3 stooges stuff rip off) and we saw the horse act up close. It was then that my heart began to pain me about the animals. Their eyes really affected me. We were up close for the pony act and the horse act and they seemed to be really struggling. I love horses and these animals didn’t seem like they were in good health or spirits so watching them perform was painful. Asia, the elephant, came out and did some painting which would have been cool but her eyes haunted me. She just seemed like a tired, sad baby. Even though she wasn’t a little Dumbo elephant I wanted to wrap her in a blanket and cradle her just like his mother did.
We had purchased our tickets from GoldStar and they said we were in the 100 section so I figured that wouldn’t be too high for me (I have vertigo). But, I didn’t really understand how the floor plan worked and we were seated way in the nosebleed section. I would have appreciated if instead of just a section number that Goldstar had given me a row number too, so that I could have known to anticipate a problem. The staff at the Patriot Center was great. They gave us a seat reassignment as soon as RJ apprised them of the situation. I really appreciated that it was an easy transition to make. As for the seat itself, it was a hard stadium chair (not what my theatre derriere is used to). The seats also felt really claustrophobic. I was really glad that I had an aisle seat!
The food was not so great. I hoped that I could get cotton candy. The only kind they had was pre-bagged by Ringling Brothers. I love pink cotton candy. The bag they were selling was a little pink, some blue (I can’t eat blue food coloring, it makes me sick) and a ton of yellow cotton. What is yellow cotton candy anyway? S, I passed. Then I wanted lemonade but they were 10 dollars and didn’t look that great. I know it was served in a souvenir cup but was there BPA in it? I wasn’t going to risk it. Then I thought about popcorn but the Ringling Brothers kind was so fake looking and little kids were touching it where it was sitting so that was a no, too. Finally, we went to the Patriot Center’s main concession stand and got a couple of hot dogs and a bottle of water (16 bucks). It was a good hot dog but it was a plain hot dog and it was expensive.
They had tons of souvenirs for sale. I usually love souvenirs but I wasn’t having such a great time so I didn’t buy anything. I love stuffed elephants but what I had already seen made me sad so I didn’t want one. I smiled remembering all the light up wands and headdresses and things I loved when I was little but I didn’t want one now.
Now it was time for the big show! First of all, did you remember that the national anthem is sung before it starts? I didn’t. I just wonder how you are supposed to stand up, hold your food (and protect it from jostling of others) and sing. Then the show started with it’s opening number. Did you remember that the circus had musical numbers? I didn’t. They were kind of fun because I like a good musical number and while I was watching the talented human performers I had a good time.
We saw some cool acts. The aerialists were really fun to watch although it was a bit overwhelming to have all 3 rings going. The high wire act was cool but not as cool as I remembered. There was a man who lit himself on fire and got shot out of a cannon, which was crazy!!! They had a big dance number/ basketball hoop thing with people on jumping stilts that were neat (if they did miss a lot of baskets).
I am about to tell you a very dark secret. I used to want to be a clown. I know, it’s probably very shocking. But, I really liked when I got to perform with the clowns when I was little and I watched a special about Clown College that my mom taped. It showed how you learned to juggle, pantomime, make costumes (foreshadowing my being a theatre major, you think?) I was excited to see the clowns perform because I believe clowning and commedia are a very important part of any actor’s artistic training. I was pretty disappointed with what I saw. I know that clowns typically go for easy humor but it doesn’t have to be crude. There were a lot of fart jokes, men getting kicked in the crotch and even a pole-dancing joke (hey, isn’t this supposed to be a family show). There were a few people who were really talented and I enjoyed their bits of physical comedy and appreciated their talents. One girl clown(with a blue ponytail) we saw in the preshow particularly struck me. She was a nice person to everyone on the floor and she was really talented. She knew how to be engaged and fully appropriate to every situation. I loved her!
As we were leaving my heavy heart was made a little heavier by the protestors who were being very respectful but their signs got to me. I checked out circuses.org as soon as I got home and I wept. I don’t think elephants should be treated like this it all. I think they are so beautiful just seeing them is a treat enough and they don’t need to roll over or stand on each other. I have spent several sad days watching and reading about the problem of animals in the circus! The tigers are beautiful, too and shouldn’t have to hop like Tigger. I know that animals are cool. I love them! What I don’t understand is how I’m supposed to enjoy watching an elephant get jabbed repeatedly with a bull hook (anyone who saw Water for Elephants, you can’t imagine how upset I was to see people using those)
So, the circus isn’t for me anymore. I can’t watch my beloved elephants being hurt. I wanted to take one of them home with me and tell them they didn’t have to work anymore. I wanted to be an actor for a long time but these sweet babies didn’t get a choice. I was glad I got to come home and just be me without anyone demanding that I perform. I liked the little blue haired clown, the human cannonball and some of the beautiful physical performances we saw (aerialists, etc). If I ever do go to a circus again it will be an animal free one. I appreciate the artists who work and train to share their craft but no more hurting elephants (or tigers, or horses or anything), people!
Patriot Center Experience (parking, reseating, security) 7
Patriot Dog- 8
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Fully Charged- 1
He Said: Choose Our Adventure: The Circus
I still have fond memories of going to the circus when I was a kid. My dad was in retail, so he didn’t get very much time of on holidays, so every Easter we would go into DC and see Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus. I loved the spectacle, the costumes, the animals, and the excitement of all the human acts. Looking at it new eyes, I wondered if I would still enjoy it. Would the animals still be amazing? Would the costumes still seem appropriate? Would the aerialists still amuse me? The resulting experience was certainly surprising.
The preshow was a great idea that they’ve added recently that is really cool. You get to come down onto the floor of the arena, and see some acts that you wouldn’t see in the main show, up close and personal. These included several aerialists, and jugglers, as well as clowns, and even some animal acts. You could also get autographs from the performers and clowns if you caught them at the right time. They had modern high energy pop music playing, and I’m happy to report that they were edited for any troubling content.
The human performances were really cool. The ringmaster was great, and I didn’t remember that role as having to be so musical, but he really pulled it off. Brian Miser aka “The Human Fuse” was really awesome to watch and had a huge fun build up to actually loading himself into a giant crossbow, lighting himself on fire and being launched across the arena. It went off without a hitch. The Fernandez Brothers in their “Wheels of Steel” was incredible. Their act is one of the things I really love about the circus. The best way to describe it is the old act where you had two spinning steel circles on either end of a long central steel piece that would rotate around itself. This version features two apparatuses, and it’s even more interesting. They also had a strong man act that was super entertaining, and really reminded me of when there would be a really dominant tag team in professional wrestling that they said was some from exotic place that everyone was in awe of. I don’t watch wrestling anymore, but it was really nice to see that kind of spectacle. After all, the circus is where wrestling got that idea. This in mind is when the circus is at it’s best, when you have huge amounts of spectacle that don’t have to be weighed down with plots. It can just be fun.
That’s not so say that it was without any flaws, I didn’t like the Fusco Brothers and their juggling. I love juggling, but these two guys weren’t very good, and had a woman in a short skirt with them whose only job was to hand them things. In one of the other rings was a far superior juggling act that had a couple of women that actually juggled, that wore very similar outfits to their male counterparts. There was an Asian hat-juggling act that missed quite a few of their tricks. The Tianyicheng Troupe did some really cool things with their bounce stilts, including a cool black light sequence, but when they added basketball hoops and slam-dunks to their act, they faltered some. Overall though, I really enjoyed the human performers. The costumes with just a couple of exceptions were tasteful, and if you’re comfortable with red carpet fashion like what we review here, you wouldn’t be bothered with most of costumes.
What I did not enjoy was the animal acts led by Tabayara “Taba” Maluenda. He was the main event performer for the elephants, tigers, and horses. During the preshow we saw the other horse trainer, and it was explained that she used whips as extensions of her hands, to send signals to the horses. This made sense to me, since the auditorium was loud and full of distracting lights, but it wasn’t true for Maluenda. His animals looked less calmly and very jumpy. His horses looked scared. I’m not a big fan of horse acts like this anyway, what I liked about horse acts as a kid was the trick riding that was more of a human performance. During the tiger performance they looked mad, and didn’t always do what he said. There were a couple of manufactured moments where we were supposed to think he was in danger, but there were other moments that were clearly not manufactured that were worrisome. The tigers were also hit on the paws with his whips on several occasions to make him do what he wanted, which made me wince. The elephants looked sad, but I wasn’t fully prepared to blame him entirely until I noticed something that disturbed me. Instead of 2 whips like with the other animals he used one whip, and a stick. I wondered what the stick was until the stage lights glinted of some metal at the end of the stick. It was a bull hook! Not as pronounced as you would see in days of yore, but a bull hook to break their skin and show them who’s boss, nonetheless. I don’t think there’s any place for that kind of cruelty in dealing with animals.
Something does need to be done about this. I wasn’t prepared to find myself on the side of protesters that I saw as I left the show, but I find myself deeply upset. I see there being two options. The first is to remove animals entirely. They don’t have as many animals as they used to already. I don’t know if it’s because we saw the show designed fore smaller venues, but there were no lions, zebras, or even dogs. So since the human acts are so great, why not just rely on them? I’d be fine with that. There’s another option that should be considered too though. Why don’t they keep the acts, and just treat their animals much better? From my background in psychology, and classes I’ve taken in learning and behavioral science, I can tell you that you don’t need brutality to train animals. I’ve seen animals trained to do quite unnatural things using only affection as a motivator. It wouldn’t be fair to Ringling Brothers, if I didn’t point out that they have had marquee animal acts before that treated the exotic animals with much more dignity. Gunther Gebel Williams is widely regarded to have treated his animals very well. There’s also a “big cat and magic” act that we saw in Dollywood a few years ago that treats their animals like members of the family, and actually has the felines live in their house like big house cats. So there are options, and I did enjoy a lot about the circus. I really hope it solves this big problem.
I know you’d be disappointed if I didn’t talk about the food, so here’s a quick note about it. I ate a Patriot Dog that was from the arena concessions with cheese, and it was exactly what I was looking for in a hotdog. It was thick and meaty, and delicious, and the cheese sauce was great too. We wanted to get some traditional circus sweets, but they appeared dubious.