Embrace the Old, Ring in the New: Celebrate the Circus Ring of Fame Awards! - StageLync
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Embrace the Old, Ring in the New: Celebrate the Circus Ring of Fame Awards!

Get ready to celebrate! On February 3, 2023, in Sarasota, Florida, the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation will hold its annual awards show to honor the achievements of our circus brethren—and the CircusTalk community will be right in on the fun this time around! Here’s how everyone is getting ready for the big day behind the scenes.

The hour is almost upon us for yet another major milestone of the year in circus: the Circus Ring of Fame Induction ceremony. This awards show takes place in Sarasota every winter to honor just a few of the amazing people who dedicate their work and art and lives to circus: artists, coaches, families, and circus allies who spend decades honing their craft, who set the trajectory of the art form and help propel the whole industry forward. Inductees are nominated and selected yearly by a community-wide vote and presented with a special namesake plaque at the awards show. And as these plaques become part of circus’ own Hollywood Walk of Fame, found at Sarasota’s St. Armands Circle Central Park, their recipients are warmly welcomed into the ranks of the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation. 

Not to mention that, with their help and partnership andyour support, we here at CircusTalk threw our own hat in the Circus Ring this year with our Members’ Voice Award, given in recognition of a circus artist whose work demonstrates courageous expression, social relevance, and artistic and technical acumen. We hope you’re as excited as we are to see the fun unfold next month! 

Whether you plan to be there day-of in the Circus Sarasota tent or watch the ceremony on your favorite device from the comfort of your home at a later date, you’re bound to enjoy yourself at the awards show. Plenty of well-known and familiar faces will be making appearances, in person or on video, alongside acts by powerful performers and touching speeches from awards recipients (including our Members’ Voice Award winner!). Expect an afternoon of entertainment and a true send-up to the splendor of circus arts.

In the meantime, before the show begins, we caught up with Bill Powell, the chair and CEO of the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation, about the work still to be done in getting things ready for February 3. Along with his leadership role, Bill was a major player behind the scenes of last year’s decision to televise the Ring of Fame Awards Ceremony for the first time ever, transforming the event from a strictly in-person affair to one available to the circus world at large through video. 

CircusTalk (CT): What kind of work goes into the planning of an awards ceremony? 

Bill Powell (BP): It is a multipart process… we start once we know who the inductees are, although we have a basic format for an awards show from watching other awards shows on TV. Once we have the talent and inductees lined up, we frame the show around them. For instance, last year we had a male and female duo as guest hosts… this year we have a guest host and a comedic sidekick…

CT: 2022 was your first time televising the Circus Ring of Fame inductions. Was bringing it to film a difficult adjustment? What changes did you have to make to the award ceremony process for that to happen? 

BP: It was a monster adjustment the first time as we moved the entire show indoors from a previous outdoor event in a public park. We had to hire a video producer…develop the script from scratch… deal with rights clearance… coordinate, for the first time, video segments to introduce the inductees and talent; live event cueing and lighting effects; special effects, animation… 

We essentially produced a live awards show that was captured for video distribution, similar to the Country Music Awards (CMA) in Nashville.  It took a lot of work and the expense increased accordingly.  It is not an easy thing to pull together; it takes a committed village of collaborators. 

CT: How did your audience respond to the filmed ceremony? 

BP: The live audience was overwhelmed with happiness that the circus arts finally has an awards show worthy of the art form… they had never seen anything like it before. We believe the production set a new bar for how things will be done moving forward.

CT: Would you do anything differently with this year’s ceremony (i.e. to refine your broadcasting process)? If so, what?

BP: A few things come to mind about the changes, but first, I want to address the delicate balance of combining pre-produced video with a live show. It can greatly enhance a production, allowing participation from anywhere on the globe… but it can’t be one giant Zoom call. Having a live audience in a theatre legitimizes the event and provides a richer experience. This path is harder, but ultimately the path we chose. For instance, on the live side, we have a ticketed event that requires promotion and marketing to garner attendance. Making a bridge from a live industry-themed show to one of general interest to someone who, say, is not “in the weeds” of circus arts but might like the arts in general, is a challenge. Broadening the interest takes time… like creating a brand, it doesn’t happen overnight… 

We also like to tie everything back to the physical location of the plaques (St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota) and to our website, where the biographies of the 155 inductees live for everyone to experience 24/7/365. To this end, we built a new site over the summer and populated it with all 155 bios. We also installed QR codes on all of the plaques…

Found in the Circus Ring of Fame at St. Armands Circle Park in Sarasota, this commemorative plaque honors the contributions of Monacan Prince Rainier III to greater circus culture

…. so that the three million-plus visitors who visit Sarasota every year can have a rich media experience. This is our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so to speak. But ours is physical and digital combined… it is a cost-efficient way to tell the stories of the inductees. You can check out the bios at  http://www.circusringoffame.org—go to the individual inductee section.  

This all said as a preamble, we did the following once the event was over last time: 

We did a post once the video was “in the can” and found several areas where improvements could be made. For instance, some camera positions were partially blocked by spectators, and we now have fixed positions with no obstructions…

American circus daredevil Annaliese Nock, a young blonde woman with red lipstick, appears in costume for the Circus Ring of Fame awards
Featured guest Annaliese Nock

We wanted to shift to introducing more comedy, hence the comedic sidekick, Chris Allison, who will work with host Joseph Bauer Jr. …

We wanted more entertainment value, so we added an additional act and will also have video from the CircusTalk award winner…

 

We are adding an additional Gen Next Artist Award winner to lower the demographics and get younger people involved in the Circus Ring Of Fame Foundation…

And we are doing a different opening which requires a location shoot (hopefully it works!).

Acrobat Danielle Arata, in costume, performs a one-hand handstand balanced on a single hand block
Guest artist Danielle Arata

All in all, we are not sitting on last year’s success… we are learning from it and evolving and changing—striving to create a better customer experience, both at the live event, and also to the viewing audience of the TV/streaming product. 

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Excited yet? Watch the trailer for this year’s ceremony:

Editor's Note: At StageLync, an international platform for the performing arts, we celebrate the diversity of our writers' backgrounds. We recognize and support their choice to use either American or British English in their articles, respecting their individual preferences and origins. This policy allows us to embrace a wide range of linguistic expressions, enriching our content and reflecting the global nature of our community.

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