Editor’s Fanfare Vol. IV, No. 3


A Time of Change


Many of us for whom elephants are an integral and indispensable part of what made a circus so memorable were shocked by the totally unexpected announcement from the Feld organization that elephants were being phased out of performances of the Greatest Show on Earth.  How could that be?  How will we ever accept a performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey without an element that had been an iconic figure for nearly 150 years?   How do you put aside such a long-running tradition?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure.  But we live in an age when change is more rapid and inevitable than ever, discarding elements of our culture which once seemed indestructible.  First vinyl records were replaced by cassetts and CDs.  These have all been replaced by other technological advances.  Even television that form of receiving entertainment that seemed to wipe all competition aside is being threatened.  A piece I saw on the nightly news recently talked about young people who had either abandoned their TV sets or never had one in the first place.  They are receiving their entertainment on various forms of computers.  So if the seemingly all-powerful television set  is being threatened, I suppose we should not be shocked that elephants are being retired from the circus.

But take heart.  A piece titled “Rolling with the punches,” that  I recently read gives us some sense of reassurance that we will be able to recover from the disappointment and move on.  The article by Alina Tugend in the New York Times began by pointing out that 2,000 years ago the Greek philosopher Heraclitus pointed out that change is the only constant in life.  There is no such thing as a life without change.  The problem is that change involves “letting go of what we know to be the current reality and embracing new thought.”   As a result change can throw us for a loop, particularly if it is foisted upon us, rather than being  our own choice.

But this is the part we need to keep in mind:  “It is the fear of change  rather than the reality of change that is the real culprit.”  In fact we are very bad predictors of how an event, good or bad, is going to affect us.  Research in a field of study known as effective forecasting has shown that although most people think something good will make them happy and something bad will make them unhappy, that is often not true.  One thing is clear, however, most people recover  from even the most difficult change. So let’s hang in there and see what develops.

Some other significant changes have been happening in the world of circus, and we will likewise have to wait and see how they turn out.  Just last week it was announced that Cirque du Soleil had been sold.  The buyer is a consortium of private investors known as TPG with global ambitions, most specifically opening up the entertainment market in China.  The selling price was 1.5 billion Canadian dollars.  Founder Guy Laliberte will continue to hold a stake in the company, and its headquarters will remain in Montreal.   So along with the change of top management comes some sense of stability as well.

One further change that has just come to my attention is that Ringling’s Gold Unit will close this coming October and will cease its tour.

A less seismic change came with Steve Smith’s move from Sarasota’s Circus Arts Conservatory to the Circus Center in San Francisco, but this change, like others,  is sure to have an impact on both organizations.  The one constant here is that Smith will retain the title of artistic director in his new job. We wish both companies well in adjusting to the new reality.