Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Step Right Up! Come one, come all to the John E. Conner Museum for scenes of the circus

John E. Conner Museum - 05/25/13 - 05/25/13

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

A tall thin man steps into the spotlight, wearing his signature red coat and top hat. “Ladies and gentleman! Boys and girls of all ages! If you would direct your attention to the center ring, we present for your viewing pleasure a look back at the greatest spectacle of all…the American circus.”

Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890-1965 will take the visitor back to childhood days when the circus came to town, complete with a circus train packed with canvas, exotic animal menageries, strongmen, fat ladies and roustabouts. 

This new traveling exhibit will be on display for the first time in the United States at the John E. Conner Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The exhibit begins Saturday, April 6, and continues through Tuesday, May 25. A reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11.

In addition, the exhibit curator Timothy Tegge, longtime circus historian, collector and performer, will hold two special events in May. Tegge will hold an artist workshop at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, in the Little Theatre. He will demonstrate applying clown makeup, using humorous props and more, with audience participation. Then, he and his wife, Barbara, will perform their family variety act Mystification: Magic and Illusion at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, also in the Little Theatre, featuring magic, comedy and juggling. 

Tegge, a second generation circus performer, was immersed in the circus culture from the day he was born. He first appeared under the big top when he was three, alongside his father, a career clown for the family-owned TNT and Royal Olympic Circus. Tegge continues to perform in circuses around the country as an illusionist, ringmaster, performance director and sometimes clown.

The Conner Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission to the museum and the exhibit is free, but donations are welcome. For more information, call 361-593-2810. 

About the Exhibit

Those visiting Step Right Up! Behind the Scenes of the Circus Big Top, 1890-1965, will get to explore another side of the thrilling spectacle and a history complete with intrigue and majesty. The romanticized imagery, backstage stories and photographs featured in the exhibit reveal both the fantasy and reality of circus life, exploring the illusions that played to the imaginations of so many.

The exhibit also highlights how the insatiable fantasy of circus life was both an alternate reality and a vision founded in truth. For many performers, the big top’s nomadic life offered a different kind of escape and in many instances, a life that challenged the economic and gender conventions of the age.

Step Right Up! features approximately 60 pieces of circus history including full-color posters, costume regalia, historic photographs, billboards, oversize graphic and oral histories from past performers. It takes viewers behind the scenes of the circus exploring dramatic pageantry, colorful past and living presence of this grand American theatrical tradition.

The exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at www.maaa.organd www.eusa.org.



This page was last updated on: March 28, 2013