In an era spanning the early 20th century, through depression ridden times and a dust bowl, one form of revelry thrived – the circus. Traveling from coast to coast, rail cars packed with canvas, exotic animal menageries, strongmen, fat ladies, and roustabouts brought a much needed relief to millions of Americans. The Park City Museum’s latest traveling exhibition, Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890 – 1965, will open on April 6 and run through Aug 11. Visitors will get to explore another side of this thrilling spectacle and a history fraught with intrigue and majesty. For more information call 435-649-7457.
As one of America’s oldest theatrical traditions, the circus started as a European transplant in the late 1700s and was perfected in the United States by the likes of John Bill Ricketts and P.T. Barnum, who first introduced us to sideshow oddities like the Feejee Mermaid and Tom Thumb. By 1900, there were more than 100 circuses crisscrossing the country and they were adept at using all of the advancements of America’s industrial revolution— the railroad, color lithography, and mass marketing strategies. The romanticized imagery, backstage stories, and photographs featured in Step Right Up! reveal both the fantasy and reality of circus life, exploring the illusions that played to the imaginations of so many.
Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890 – 1965 takes viewers behind the scenes of the circus, exploring the dramatic pageantry, colorful past, and living presence of this grand American theatrical tradition. The exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at www.maaa.org and www.eusa.org.