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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus to open amid animal rights protest

City News Service | 7/9/2013, 10 a.m.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will begin a seven-day run at Staples Center ...

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will begin a seven-day run at Staples Center Wednesday while a coalition of animal rights groups plans to conduct a protest outside the arena over the circus’ use of animals.

“Ringling Bros.’ long and well-documented history of beating and neglecting animals is enough to make any kind person speak out in protest,” said David W. Perle, the senior media coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“Once Los Angelenos learn how baby elephants with Ringling are torn away from their mothers, slammed to the ground, gouged with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods until they learn to obey out of fear of punishment, they’ll stay far away from the circus.”

Steve Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, told City News Service that “once again the animal rights extremists at PETA have used the return of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to Staples Center as an excuse to disparage the dedicated men and women who spend their lives caring for our animals.”

“Despite PETA’s allegations, all of the animals on tour with Ringling Bros. and at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation are trained through a system of repetition and reward. Only highly trained and experienced staff work with our elephants, tigers and other animals.

“Rather than take what PETA says at face value, I would encourage all L. A. families to come out and see for themselves how all the animals with The Greatest Show on Earth are thriving in our care.”

An “Animal Open House” starts 90 minutes before each show giving all ticket holders the opportunity to see the animals up close.

The show is titled “Built to Amaze!” and is described by producer Alana Feld as a celebration of “how we put a show together.”

“Built to Amaze!” has a particular emphasis on youth, with the youngest director in Ringling Bros. history, 32-year-old Rye Mullis, and its youngest human cannon ball performer, 20-year-old Elliana Grace, according to Feld.

Mullis, who had been an associate director of three Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey productions and directed Disney touring shows, “brings so much youth and freshness to the show,” Feld said.

“Built to Amaze” has a cast of more than 110 human performers from 17 nations and 95 exotic and domesticated animals. Andre McClain, billed as America’s favorite cowboy, is the ringmaster.

Newcomers to Ringling Bros. include the nine-time international award-winning animal presenting duo Alex and Irina Emelin of Russia and the Tower Tumblers, a 10-member troupe from Ukraine who launch themselves from trampolines to scale, repel and pass through a three-story translucent tower.

Returning acts include the 12-member King Charles Troupe, which plays basketball while riding unicycles. In 1969 it became the first black group to perform in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus when Feld’s grandfather, Irvin Feld, was the producer, Alana Feld said.

Along with the traditional clown and elephant, tiger and horse acts, “Built to Amaze!” also includes

  • Duo Fusion and Duo Solys, hand balancers, whose females support their male partners
  • The Wheel of Steel, where four daredevils propel themselves in and out of the spinning double wheel
  • The Danguir Family performing a high-wire act including two-man pyramids and intricate jumps.

Each show will be preceded by the all-access pre-show, where one hour before the start of the circus ticket holders can go to the arena floor and meet performers, try on custom-designed costumes and learn dance moves and how to juggle.

Here is the schedule for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at Staples Center:

  • Wednesday — 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday — Noon, 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday — Noon, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday — 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday — 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday — 7:30 p.m.
  • July 16 — Noon, 7:30 p.m.

Following its run at Staples Center, the circus will be presented at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario from July 19-23 and Honda Center in Anaheim from July 26-Aug. 4.