“American Experience: The Circus” Slated for November 6 from PBS Distribution

PBS Distribution has announced the upcoming release of American Experience: The Circus (DVD: 2 discs, $29.99), slated for November 6.  Drawing upon a vast and richly visual archive, and featuring a host of performers, historians, and aficionados, The Circus brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town, its stars were among the most famous people in the country, and multitudes gathered to see the improbable and the impossible, the exotic and the spectacular. The two-part documentary begins with the history of the first one-ring show at the end of the 18th century in Philadelphia, when the circus met the disapproval of the religious. Eventually, circuses began to add elaborate menageries of exotic animals including lions, hippos and elephants, and “human oddities” from across the globe, and huckster P. T. Barnum transformed the trade in 1871, creating the largest touring show in existence. The second half chronicles events including James Bailey taking his circus to Europe on a five-year tour, the merging of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, and stories of performers such as the famed aerialist Lillian Leitzel, the horseback-riding (and somersaulting) May Worth, and big cat trainer Mabel Stark.