By Bill O’Boyle - boboyle@timesleader.com

For performers, the circus is a way of life

Source: Times Leader

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in Wilkes-Barre one last time before the show closes next month.
Print This Page
Circus lowns Stephen Craig and Matthew Lish juggle as a BMX flies over them.
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Ringling Bros. Circus Extreme performer Stephen Craig crouches under a BMX rider. 4/5/2017 Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Clowns Stephen Craig and Matthew Lish juggle as a BMX flies over them. 4/7/2017 Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Circus performer Viki Zsilak has one of her ponies perform Friday morning.
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
A BMX Circus Extreme biker jumps between jugglers Ivan Vargas and Matthew Lish while playing Friday morning.
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performer Matthew Lish poses for a portrait at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, April 7. 4/1/17. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Recommended


    WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Viki Zsilak is from Hungary, and she has performed in the circus all her life.

    At age 45, Zsilak travels with her son, Richard, 19, who began performing at age 6.

    Even as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus nears the end of its line — final performances will be in May in Providence, R.I. — the Zsilaks and most other circus people will look to continue their careers in other shows.

    “My family has always been in the circus,” Zsilak said. “I’m a third-generation circus performer.”

    Zsilak said her father taught her everything, and she attended a special circus school in Hungary, where she grew up. Originally a juggler, Zsilak now performs with ponies and goats, and she still does a juggling act with her son. She juggles rings, clubs, fire and bowls.

    Zsilak said she was surprised when she heard the news that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey decided to end its circus. Zsilak has been with the show for 18 years.

    “Of course, I am saddened,” she said. “It makes you re-think your strategies.”

    Zsilak talked about the train that transports the performers from town to town. She said Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey provides a school for the children, in addition to costumes and other needs.

    “We will try to sell our act to another show,” Zsilak said. “We are looking at our options.”

    A lot of the performers have been together a long time, Zsilak said.

    “We really are like a family,” she said.

    But with the end nearing, Zsilak said the performers continue to look forward to each and every show, never tiring of giving their all and feeding off of the crowd — especially the children.

    “The people who come out want to see us, meet us and take pictures with us, and we love that,” Zsilak said. “And the fans are sad as well. The fans are always close to our hearts.”

    Zsilak said the favorite memories she has usually involve children.

    “They want to hug us,” she said. “They send us letters telling us how much they loved the show. We will always remember their support.”

    Zsilak has been in Wilkes-Barre before and she said the fans here have been great.

    “I hope they all come out to see us this time around,” she said. “There’s nothing like live entertainment — it’s the best.”

    Stevey, the clown

    Stephen Craig is 25 and is from Myrtle Beach, S.C. He joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus 16 months ago.

    Craig performs as “Stevey,” an aviator clown, complete with goggles and large gold shoes. This is his first circus job, having performed in theater before this.

    “I believe that the clowns are what ground the circus,” he said. “Clowns connect all of the fans to the performers.”

    Craig said he is always amazed by the people he works with every day and like his colleagues, he is saddened by the decision to end the circus’ run.

    “I’m sure we will all find another stage to perform on, but it won’t be the Greatest Show on Earth,” he said. “I really feel attached to my family here.”

    As one of the new acts with the circus, Craig said it took a while to get adjusted, but his “neighbors” on the circus train made him feel welcome almost immediately.

    “The train has the feel of a really great small town,” he said.

    Craig has already started looking for another show to join, and he said he’s sure he will land on his feet. Although he never thought this show would ever end, Craig said he looks forward to his next tour.

    “Like all of us in the show, I’m here to receive the applause,” he said. “It’s been an amazing experience to be in front of the greatest fans on earth — every one of them. I love it.”

    Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey statement

    On Jan. 14, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, announced the decision to shut down the circus. The iconic 146-year-old circus will conclude its tours with the final shows in Providence, R.I., on May 7, and Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21.

    According to a statement on the Feld Entertainment website, the decision to end the circus tours was made as a result of high costs coupled with a decline in ticket sales, making the circus an unsustainable business for the company. Following the transition of the elephants off the circus, the company saw a decline in ticket sales greater than could have been anticipated.

    “We are grateful to the hundreds of millions of fans who have experienced Ringling Bros. over the years. Between now and May, we will give them one last chance to experience the joy and wonder of Ringling Bros,” Feld said.

    Circus lowns Stephen Craig and Matthew Lish juggle as a BMX flies over them.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL040817circus1-3.jpgCircus lowns Stephen Craig and Matthew Lish juggle as a BMX flies over them. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Ringling Bros. Circus Extreme performer Stephen Craig crouches under a BMX rider. 4/5/2017 Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL040817circus2-3.jpgRingling Bros. Circus Extreme performer Stephen Craig crouches under a BMX rider. 4/5/2017 Aimee Dilger|Times LeaderAimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Clowns Stephen Craig and Matthew Lish juggle as a BMX flies over them. 4/7/2017 Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL040817circus3-3.jpgClowns Stephen Craig and Matthew Lish juggle as a BMX flies over them. 4/7/2017 Aimee Dilger|Times LeaderAimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Circus performer Viki Zsilak has one of her ponies perform Friday morning.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL040817circus4-3.jpgCircus performer Viki Zsilak has one of her ponies perform Friday morning. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    A BMX Circus Extreme biker jumps between jugglers Ivan Vargas and Matthew Lish while playing Friday morning.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL040817circus5-3.jpgA BMX Circus Extreme biker jumps between jugglers Ivan Vargas and Matthew Lish while playing Friday morning. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performer Matthew Lish poses for a portrait at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, April 7. 4/1/17. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL040817circus1sm-3.jpgRingling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performer Matthew Lish poses for a portrait at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, April 7. 4/1/17. Sean McKeag | Times LeaderSean McKeag | Times Leader

    By Bill O’Boyle

    boboyle@timesleader.com

    Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

    VideoID: lxwAkDnw9VQ
    VideoType: YOUTUBE
    URL: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxwAkDnw9VQ
    Video Embed String: <iframe width=”560” height=”315” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/lxwAkDnw9VQ” frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen></iframe>
    Video Caption: The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in Wilkes-Barre one last time before the show closes next month.
    Video Credit: Times Leader
    Video Position:

    (use the “for files…” link above to associate attached files with this source)

    Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.