BroadwayWorld recently had a chance to chat with Brian Crawford Scott, the Ringmaster of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's new show, FULLY CHARGED. Brian Crawford Scott is the 36th Ringmaster in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's illustrious 141-year history. Here Mr. Scott tells us what it's like to work for the Greatest Show on Earth.
JD: Thank you, Brian, for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld.com. I was so excited when I found out I would be interviewing you because being the Ringmaster seems like such an interesting gig. Now I know that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been around for over 140 years at this point. It really is a staple of American entertainment. What do you think keeps attracting audiences to your show?
BCS: I think that the number one thing that brings people back is that it's real. What we do out on the circus floor every day is 100% genuine. I mean, the danger is real. When those guys are hopping from shoulder to shoulder on the high wire, there's a real threat of them falling down. There's no special effects. There's no phoniness, if you will, and that's what's so amazing about it. To think that that man is spinning a huge log around his head and it's not computerized special effects and it's real, that's really exciting and that's what keeps bringing people back to the circus.
JD: I read that you have a degree in Musical Theater. How did that prepare you for this job?
BCS: Well I'll tell you, I don't think that any other degree would have prepared me to do this job. [Laughs] Being a Ringmaster is about stage presence and about your voice. Ringling Bros. Ringmasters are also singers, so the training that I got to perform in Musical Theater between acting and movement and presence and being able to sing and being able to use my voice, particularly on what is a very demanding schedule here in the circus, was absolutely 100% essential. I'm very grateful that I had the training that I had and think that it segued perfectly to me working here in the arena.
JD: What inspired you to audition for Ringling Bros?
BCS: Actually it was a friend of mine who was working on a completely different project with the gentleman who was the writer for our show, FULLY CHARGED. He had mentioned off-hand to my friend that, "Oh, we're looking for a Ringmaster," and she said, "I know someone who would be perfect," so she handed off all of my information to the writer and he handed my information to the producers and everyone. That's how I got my foot in the door for this audition. But when she told me about it, I was a little hesitant. I had never seen the circus before. Before auditioning, I had never even been to the circus. But I did some research and I was like, "You know, this circus thing might be something I could actually do." So I signed up for the auditions, and like I said, I already had a foot in the door, and I impressed them! I got the job!
JD: That's a great story. So do you think not seeing the circus before helped you or hurt you in the creating your stage persona as The Ringleader?
BCS: A little bit of both. I think that my never having seen the circus before really gave me a fresh perspective on what I was doing and allowed me to be myself and to bring my own ideas into the mix. But at the same time, there was a very steep learning curve for me when I first got here. There's a whole new vocabulary when it comes to the circus as opposed to what I had been working with before in theater. There are all these languages and all these cultures and all of these people from all over the world. So there was a bit of catching up to do in that respect.
JD: And what was the rehearsal process like? I can only imagine how intense that would be given how large this show is and how many animals and stunts are involved.
BCS: Well, the rehearsal process is an entire month of pretty much six days a week, 9-5, coming in and building the show from scratch. What's nice is that there's a really solid mix of people who have been with the circus for years and years and years and know what they're doing as well as people who are just coming in for the first time and bring some new creative energy into it. As far as the animals are concerned, we've got people who have been here for a really long time and really know what they're doing with the animals and know how to handle them. It's smooth bringing the animals into a new show. And then you've got people like me who have never been here before that get to learn about the environment and play a little bit. But it's a full time job, the rehearsal process, and we spend that entire month working almost every day to create this brand new show. You show up one day and work all day and think, "Man! We've got it! This is really great!" and then the next day it's completely different. Everything's been changed and you have to start from scratch again, but it was a lot of fun to be so openly creative and to know that what we were doing was the first time it had ever been done before.