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Children and adults love going to the circus to see the high-wire acts and animals jump through hoops. The circus has been entertaining crowds at least since the sixth century B.C., according to the University of Chicago. Sometimes this enthusiasm turns into a career. The ringleader, or ringmaster, has one of the most demanding, prestigious and important jobs in the circus.
The most well-known circus in ancient times was Circus Maximus in Rome. This circus was held in an open-air arena, rather than in a tent, and featured chariot races, jugglers and trained animals performing tricks, along with a variety of other performances.
A circus ringleader entertains the audience while simultaneously running the show. Ringleaders may have an acting background, as this position requires a polished performance. However, it's possible for a circus acrobat or other performer to earn this prestigious job by attending a circus academy. Regardless of his background, the circus ringleader must be highly organized to coordinate all of the acts in the different rings while entertaining the crowd. He announces each new act and narrates the performance in an engaging way as it happens. If there's a mishap or an act is late getting ready, the ringleader must either entertain the crowd himself or adjust the order of the acts without the public knowing that anything is wrong.
The qualifications for ringmaster or ringmistress include the ability to sing and wow the crowd with a rousing introduction and narration of each circus act. Circuses may have a gender preference for this position. For example, Ringling Bros. Circus requires that ringleaders are men taller than 5 feet 10 inches who can sing and act to entertain the crowd. A candidate must have a booming voice that can reach the back rows of an arena that holds 40,000 people. Circus Gerbola, on the other hand, prefers a singing ringmistress, preferably an actress with a commanding voice.
The average salary of a circus ringleader is $51,000, according to the Simply Hired website. The salary varies depending on your experience and reputation with wowing the crowds and managing multiple acts simultaneously. An excellent ringmaster may earn significantly more, especially if he packs the house every night.
- Orlando Sentinel: Ringling Looking for Big Talent in Ringmaster Tryouts in Orlando
- Juggle Now: History of the Circus
- Public Broadcasting System: History of the Circus
- Kay Circle: How Much Does a Circus Ringmaster Make Per Year?
- Simply Hired: Average Ringmaster Salaries
- Inside Jobs: Circus Ringmaster
- University of Chicago: Circus Maximus
- Circus Development Agency: Job Opportunities
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images