By Nick Rynes
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Asa Walker seems like the average man hailing from the heart of the Midwest in Cherryvale, Kansas. He throws on the face paint, an elaborate suit and a bright red nose, then becomes Professor Renzo as the curtain opens.
“I have been a performer and actor for most of my life,” Walker said. “I started out in the circus just in the concessions area, but it transformed into becoming an actual clown. I haven’t looked back since then.”
Walker has spent the last couple years traveling with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, and says it has been a great experience.
“This whole circus experience has been very fortuitous,” Walker said. “But also, combined with hard work and dedication over the last four years.”
Walker and the rest of the Ringling Brothers circus will have to take their final bow with the show on May 21.
For more than 100 years, the Ringling Brothers circus has been entertaining guests across the country with the “greatest show on Earth.” After declines in sales, Kenneth Feld of Feld Entertainment announced in January that the show would have its final performances in May.
The “Out of This World” tour closed the curtains for the final show in Baltimore last Sunday. Now, the mile-long train carrying all the equipment and performers will be packed up and head off to two more cities before the final curtain closes.
The train, which carries the entire show, goes from city to city with 57 different train cars, and the crew spends over 1,000 hours per year on the train.
“I loved living on a train,” Walker said. “It was not always the best living situation, but my friends and I were always like, ‘We’re living on a train, what do you expect?’”
Living on the train has been one of Walker’s greatest joys in the last couple years of his life.
“People who have works for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey are the only ones who can say they lived on a train for so long,” Walker said. “Who else gets to have this experience?”
Erin Tyszko of Fallston bought tickets to see the show for her very first time on April 22. She was excited at first, but her opinion quickly changed at the show.
“Seeing the animals in the show just broke my heart,” Tyszko said. “If they took out the animals and focused more on the people’s talent, I would have definitely gone back. It just broke my heart.”
Organizations like PETA are strongly against the use of animals in the circus industry.
John Seber, a litigation manager for the organization, was pleased with the prior actions of the RBB&B to remove elephants from the show in 2015.
“It was a great move,” Seber said. “Public opinion is evolving quickly, and [the public] is turning their back on companies that exploit animals.”
When it came to the announcement that the circus would be ending performances in May, Seber said PETA hopes that “Ringling will retire [the animals] to true sanctuaries.”
All in all, Seber hopes the public will make better choices when it comes to seeing acts like the Ringling Brothers circus.
“I encourage people to always research before they are going out to view any place that involves animals and become educated,” Seber said.
The circus train will made its final boarding call in Baltimore and departed for Charleston, West Virginia. This will be the second to last stop for the “Out of This World” tour before closing shop.
Walker and the rest of the performers are remaining optimistic about these final days.
“I’m excited to go on new adventures and to leave this portion of my life behind,” Walker said. “But I’m also devastated because of the amazing relationships I’ve built here on the circus. We don’t say goodbye in circus, we say, ‘We’ll see you down the road’ because the circus never stops.”