The Zor Shrine Circus comes back to the Coliseum February 15th through the 17th, and it always makes me think of the year my whole grade-school class went to see it. I'm not going to tell you the precise year, but it was when the Coliseum was fairly new. I remember climbing up up up to our seats, horrified to find that they were in the very top row of the arena. I remember gripping the arms of my chair as I sat there, presumably to keep from flying off into space. (I did the same thing the other night at the Badger basketball game, way up at the top of the Kohl Center.)
Because I was nervous about being so high in the air, I don't remember much about the circus itself, except for two things: the elephants and the woman on the flying trapeze. And I remember that when we got home, my class started the process of putting together our own circus, which was to be presented for parents and friends toward the end of the school year. I don't remember how it was that I ended up auditioning to be ringmaster, what the job involved, or else anything about it. I remember only that they chose somebody else to be the star of the show. I had to settle for the part of a ringmaster in a skit about a clown who couldn’t find his smile. I had one line, and I still remember it: “Why don’t you look in your paintbox?”
There are no small parts, only small actors, and I suppose that if it wasn’t for me, the clown would still be looking for that smile. It does mean, however, that my first flirtation with showbiz ended up a disappointment.