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Big Top Titans

By Tara Bennett

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus bring their new “Super Circus Heroes” show to the River Center on August 21-24. Dubbed as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” this action-packed super circus will feature superhuman athleticism, awe-inspiring aerialists and over-the-top feats.

“This year’s show is really unlike anything we’ve ever done before,” said Ringmaster David Shipman. “The idea behind ‘Super Circus Heroes’ is that everyone has a hero within themselves. They just have to have the strength and the courage to bring it out, and I think that’s a message that anyone can relate to, whether you’re five years old or 95.”

According to Shipman, with technology such as CGI performing much of the daring action on film, he believes that it’s essential for people to see what a person is truly capable of doing.

“It’s really great for kids to be able to get up close and personal with these feats of super human strength, agility, resilience; all these things that really make up what a true super hero is, and remind them that you’re powerful beyond measure,” said Shipman. “That’s an incredible message to them.”

The show features award-winning Italian clown Davis Vassallo, who makes his American debut as “Mr. Boredom.” He will take audiences on a journey to find a super power of his own while witnessing high-flying action and surprises along the way. Among the acts for the evening include the Lopez Family, specializing in high-wire and motorcycle globe stunts; Shaolin warriors; the Cuban Comets teeterboard troupe; the Lighting Rods hand-balancing trio; the Twin Titans aerial strap act; Clown Alley; and animals including elephants, horses, camels and more.

“I really love the Globe of Steel,” said Shipman. “There’s always something breathtaking of watching motorcycles race around in a steel cage with a woman standing in the center. We also have a really incredible roller-skating act. It happens in the beginning of the show and it’s breathtaking. It starts the show off with a bang and keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

By the end of the run, “Super Circus Heroes” will have traveled to 48 different cities across the nation. The show recently hit over 200 performances, but for Shipman, it still feels like the first time, every time.

“It’s amazing, it never really gets old,” said Shipman. “People always ask what it’s like doing the same show over and over again, but there’s something really magical about it. It’s really great to be able to look out into the audience, and see the reactions, and the magic and the wonderment on faces of people from the next generation who will be carrying these memories with them.”

Shipman himself was a little older than two years old when he saw his first circus in Pensacola, and recounts it as his first vivid memory.

“I remember the colors and lights and being taken aback by the sheer wonder of everything,” said Shipman.

That sensory experience stayed with Shipman the rest of his life. Because his mother would not allow him to run away with the circus, he grew up involved in theatre where he honed his performance skills. The circus would soon call to him again in the oddest of places.

“I found out a job opportunity to run away with the circus on Facebook of all things,” said Shipman.

Although he had missed the initial auditions, Shipman decided he had nothing to lose and arranged a personal audition that called for a lot of his theatrical skills: delivering the ringmaster speech, singing and dance improvisation. His audition won the day, and at age 25, Shipman is the third-youngest ringmaster in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey history.

According to Shipman, the circus is keeping up with the times, and his role as ringmaster has expanded to be much more involved in the show.

“When people think of the ringmaster, they think large, over the top, bombastic, but part of what makes this the Greatest Show on Earth is that the show keeps up with the times,” said Shipman. “It’s no longer just about being a speaker, I’m actually involved with the entire show now. I sing, and dance, and interact with the performers. I’m a much more modern ringmaster than what people may expect.”

An All-Access Pre Show will be held an hour before the main show begins, and will give circus fans a chance to meet the performers, their animals, learn circus tricks and more. The pre-show is free to all ticketholders.

“You’ll get up close and personal and have a little taste of being part of the Greatest Show on Earth” said Shipman.

For tickets for “Super Circus Heroes” visit ticketmaster.com.


Show Dates: Show Time:

Thu, Aug 21 7 p.m.

Fri, Aug 22 7 p.m.

Sat, Aug 23 3 p.m., 7 p.m.

Sun, Aug 24 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.


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