Backstage, where we met an acrobatic rigger, an equestrian acrobat, and Pidge the clown.
How did ringmaster happen?
I was singing with Company XIV — they’re this Brooklyn-based group that specializes in Baroque burlesque. The Big Apple people came to see me without my knowing and got in touch. I was like, What?
Have you talked to former ringmasters?
I researched. You know, I Googled it; there have only been maybe five African-American ringmasters ever. I did talk to the last ringmaster after I’d done a few shows. He said I was doing a good job. Gave me some helpful pointers.
Mainly, “You have a cane: Start using it.”
So you’re a pigeon clown?
Yes. The idea is, I’m a pigeon who can’t fly. I’m afraid of heights; I fall a lot. I get flak for telling poop jokes, which I think is crazy. Imagine if I were a pigeon that didn’t tell poop jokes?
What’d you do before this?
I was a puppeteer for King Kong on Broadway. I was the ape’s right elbow — the whole puppet was 2,000 pounds and 20 feet tall. On opening night here, I posted on Facebook that I’d run off to join the circus.
Where’d you grow up?
All over. My dad owned a circus. When I was a kid, we had four elephants.
Once, when we were living in Jump River, Wisconsin, one of them, Liz, wandered right off the lot all the way to the grocery store downtown.
Do the performers hang out?
Yes. We all live on set. The Russian aerial acrobats and I cook for each other — I bring them stracciatella soup, they bring me Uzbek pork belly. It’s a real “wine, women, and song” kind of thing around here.
Do the horses ever spook?
Once. A kid in the front row flung his stuffed animal at us, and Caleb, my partner, flew right into the audience. He was fine. He picked up the stuffed animal, which was a horse, by the way, and gave it back to the kid.
*This article appears in the December 23, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!