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A ringmaster, or ringmistress or sometimes a ringleader, is a significant performer in the many circuses. Most often seen in traditional circuses, the ringmaster is a master of ceremonies where they introduce the circus acts to the audience.
Ring of the Circus
A ringmaster introduces the various acts in a circus show and guides the audience through the experience, directing their attention to the various areas of the circus arena. Ringmasters have become an integral part of the many circus shows and sometimes will be involved in elements of some of the acts performances. In France he is called "Monsieur Loyal" after the Anselme-Pierre Loyal (1753-1826), one of the first renowned circus personalities.
The traditional opening line of many circuses is the phrase "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...", drawn out in dramatic fashion.
It is the ringmaster's job to "direct" the attention of the audience to the appropriate sections of the performance area while the previous act's props are being taken away and the next act's props are being set up.
It is traditionally the ringmaster's job to use hyperbole whenever possible while introducing the acts to enhance the expectations of the audience. Declarations of the "biggest," "most dangerous," "amazing," "spectacular," and similar expressions are common.
The ringmaster is responsible for maintaining the smooth flow of the show and he may be called upon to fill time by talking or by joking with a clown if an act is not ready for its entrance.
A ringmaster is traditionally attired in a bright tailcoat, often red with gold trim and with a top hat. The outfit is designed to look like an 18th-century gentleman's riding habit, and often includes a whip, a relic of when the ringmaster directed the performance, not as announcer and host but as director of the many equestrian acts. It is generally accepted that this costume was first adopted by George Claude Lockhart on the orders of Bertram Mills in 1928, when Lockhart worked as ringmaster for his circus at Olympia, London. A female circus leader is known as a ringmistress, and often wears a red skirt and knee-high black boots, and either the same topcoat and tails as a ringmaster or a blouse.
- Adolph Althoff
- Norman Barrett
- Tommy Hanlon, Jr.
- Johnathan Lee Iverson
- George Claude Lockhart
- George William Lockhart
- "The Doyen of Ringmasters," Don Stacey, "World's Fair," 1979
- "Google Image Search". Retrieved 2014-07-03.