Joe DeSoto doesn’t know what he’ll be doing for a living by the end of next month, but he hopes it involves wearing a wig, baggy clothes and lots and lots of make-up.
“I love being a clown,” he said. “It’s all I have done for the past three years. I don’t want to give it up.”
He may not have a choice. After all, DeSoto works as a clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the spectacle will end its 146-year run at the end of May, with the company’s “Out Of This World” playing in Maryland for the final time when it visits Royal Farms Arena from April 20-30.
“When they gathered the whole cast in a room and told us this was it, we were all in shock,” DeSoto, a 28-year-old Californian, said. “It took us awhile for us to process it. I’ve been working in for Ringling Bros. for nearly four years, but there are some in our cast who have been in the circus for generations. This is all they have ever done.”
Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, made the decision to close the curtain due to the event’s high operating costs, expensive legal battles against animal rights groups and declining ticket sales.
“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement. “Ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop.
“This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company … The decision was even more difficult because of the amazing fans that have become part of our extended circus family over the years, and we are extremely grateful to the millions of families who have made Ringling Bros. part of their lives for generations. We know Ringling Bros. isn’t only our family business, but also your family tradition.”
“Out Of This World” is a show that’s vastly different from its predecessors. Last year, Ringling Bros. held its final show that featured elephants before retiring the performing pachyderms to its 200-acre conservation center in Florida. Elephants had been a circus staple since Phineas Taylor Barnum introduced Jumbo in 1882.
“Out Of This World” stars a cast of more than 100 performers, in addition to lions, tigers, llamas, horses, kangaroos, alpacas, pigs and dogs who are sure to entertain as they always have. Still, DeSoto said he understands circus-goers are sad the “Greatest Show on Earth” will cease to exist when its tour ends on May 21,
“It’s a lot of pressure for us because we want to make sure we go out with a bang,” he said. “We are a part of something that has been around for years and years and we want to make sure we rise to the occasion because this will be the final time fans get to experience Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.”
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus: Out Of This World
Where: Royal Farms Arena
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m.; Saturday: 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m., 5 p.m.; Thursday: 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m.; Saturday: 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m., 5 p.m.
Tickets: Start at $17 and can be purchased here