Many people have their own ideas of what a true circus should be. If you were to look it up in the dictionary, it would read:
1. A large public entertainment, typically presented in one or more very large tents or in an outdoor or indoor arena, featuring exhibitions of pageantry, feats of skill and daring, performing animals, etc., interspersed throughout with the slapstick antics of clowns.
2. A troupe of performers, especially a traveling troupe, that presents such entertainments, together with officials, other employees, and the company’s performing animals, traveling wagons, tents, cages, and equipment.
These definitions imply that a circus is an amalgamation of several performers and, while the sentiment is quite romantic, bringing to mind a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood is not necessarily the only way to define a circus. Certainly when we hear the word “Circus” we think of three rings, troupes of performers, animals, and the like. However, a circus could just as easily consist of a single performer on a theater stage.
I discovered this some time ago when I saw a performance at The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. It was a one-man show entitled “Circus Incognitus”, the performer’s name was Jamie Adkins. I did not know what to expect when Mr. Adkins stepped out on to the stage pretending to juggle balls of light and watching his own shadow. His demeanor and attire immediately lead me to believe that this performance would consist solely of juggling and some comedic slapstick.
An hour later I was in disbelief in how wrong I had been. A man of many talents, Mr. Adkins showcased not only his hand-eye coordination, he also demonstrated acrobatic prowess and strength through his physical comedy, balance through his slack wire act and his ladder trick, all the while stringing everything together with his comedic timing.
From what I could observe as a part of the audience, Adkins is a truly joyous performer. The look on his face throughout the show was that of pure glee and he managed to spread it through his audience.
At the end of the performance Mr. Adkins received a thunderous standing ovation; well deserved. As I stood applauding, I realized just how fitting the title of the show was. “Circus Incognitus” indicates a circus in disguise, in this case, in the guise of a one-man show.
It is better not to take on an elitist idea of what Circus truly is. It is difficult to classify the word under a single definition. I tried once but with every new circus I see, my definition is altered drastically. I’ve decided it’s better to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. ■