Ringling Bros. Circus returning

By: - April 8, 2021 8:53 am
Poster: five of the celebrated seven brothers who founded the Ringling Bros. Circus from Baraboo, in 1905.

One of Wisconsin’s most famous attractions, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, appears to be coming back to life. Shown here are just five of the celebrated seven brothers from Baraboo, in 1905. (Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society, ID 6050)

“The Greatest Show on Earth” appears to be coming back.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s parent corporation is looking to hire a casting director for the famed American circus, which closed in 2017.

Circus World Museum (photo by Jay Rath)
Circus World Museum (photo by Jay Rath)

The seven Ringling brothers’ circus was founded in Baraboo, in 1884. Its off-season quarters there have been preserved as Circus World, a Wisconsin Historical Society museum. The National Historic Landmark features artifacts, models, railcars and colorful hand-carved wagons along with live performances

The brothers’ combined show would be 150 years old this year. They purchased the older Barnum & Bailey circus in 1907 and formally joined with it in 1919. Born of canvas and literal horsepower, it survived the encroachment of vaudeville, then motion pictures and radio, and even television. However, ticket sales slipped sharply in the age of internet entertainment.  

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages mourned the loss of America’s iconic three-ring circus when its last show closed May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, NY. But it had been bedeviled by animal rights activists for decades. Though the circus retired its elephants in 2016, eight months later it was dead. 


But like a death-defying daredevil shot from a cannon, it appears that the circus may do just that – defy death.  

Yesterday on Circus Talk, an international bulletin board site, parent company Feld Entertainment Inc.  posted a job notice for “Casting Director – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey – The Greatest Show on Earth.”

 Feld Entertainment operates all kinds of touring shows, such as Disney on Ice, Jurassic World Live Tour, Sesame Street Live and monster truck programs. The Feld family began working with Ringling descendants in the 1950s. 

According to the company website, the new Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey casting director will work with producers and others to “conceptualize / develop new acts for the show; and advising on equipment and training required for existing and potential acts for the show.” Job requirements include experience mentoring, teaching, negotiating and “ability to evaluate/critique circus acts and all types of live performance.”

Perhaps most important of all, remember that if you want to run away with the circus, you “must be willing and able to travel extensively – both domestically and internationally.”

Feld Entertainment Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This job announcement for a revived circus was shared with an industry job website yesterday.
This job announcement for a revived circus was shared with an industry job website yesterday.

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Jay Rath
Jay Rath

Besides The Wisconsin Examiner, writer-cartoonist Jay Rath has contributed to Animato!, Cartoonist PROfiles and Nemo: The Classic Comics Library magazines. An early and longtime contributor to The Onion, for more than 20 years he taught cartooning and animation to young people through the University of Wisconsin School of Education-Extension.