Nearly everyone remembers something special about attending their first circus: a nervousness while watching the high-wire act, the crack of the lion-trainer’s whip, the smell of elephants and peanuts. Big Top memories are multi-generational, often rekindled by adults accompanying their children to a performance. And, if you’re lucky, relived again with a grandchild.
I recently had the opportunity to watch legendary Ringling Brothers clown, Chuck Sidlow, prepare for a Circus Sarasota performance. His transformation began at his feet and worked up to the wig on his head, with the majority of time spent on his clown face. While Chuck applied greasepaint, he explained that clowns rarely “red” their upper lip- to better show their exaggerated expressions and they generously powder their make-up to keep it in place.
Clowning has been Sidlow’s life-long profession and he takes the job seriously. He cavorts his animated body with practiced ease, knowing exactly how to maneuver it to coax a smile onto a stranger’s face. His facial expressions move like silly putty on steroids. Mr. Sidlow provides his joyful humor therapy through Laughter Unlimited, the outreach program sponsored by Circus Sarasota to enlighten memory impaired patients.
I also heard famed aerialist Dolly Jacobs speak about growing up in the circus. Dolly is a headliner, a pint-sized lady with supersized beauty inside and out. She reminisced about her famous father, Lou Jacobs– likely recognized only in his clown attire. He was renown for stuffing his body into an impossibly tiny motorized car. (Here’s a photo of the car displayed at the Ringling Museum.)
Dolly along with her husband, Pedro Reis, founded Circus Sarasota, a non-profit group contributing to the community by enriching, educating and entertaining in 1997. They remain the celebrated ringleaders.
Circus Sarasota will present a one-ring tent show from February 3-26, 2011 to raise funds for these outreach programs. Their production far exceeds typical circus acts, they exhibit performances on par with the highest levels in international competitions. Gather up the gang and head to Florida’s cultural capital, Sarasota, for a family entertainment spectacular sure to create memories for children of all ages.
For more information visit www.CircusSarasota.org.
To watch Chuck Sidlow transform from street attire into a clown, please view my YouTube presentation: