William F. Laman Public Library System OPENS STEP RIGHT UP! BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE CIRCUS BIG TOP, 1890 – 1965 ,September 2015
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. Now visitors to William F. Laman Public Library System new exhibition, Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890 – 1965, opening September 4, will get to explore another side of this thrilling spectacle and a history fraught with intrigue and majesty.
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.
Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 10am – 7pm, Friday and Saturday 9am – 5pm. For more information about the exhibit please call 501-758-1720 or check out the library’s website at www.lamanlibrary.org.
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.