Keith Brown was a mere 14 years old when he ran away to join the circus.
“You can leave school when you get a job,” his mother told him. So he did. There happened to be a circus in town at the time and the very next day, Keith was on the road and heading for Perth.
“It was the foundation of entertainment that I wanted to be a part of,” he says.
The Sesame Street Circus Spectacular, a 1000-seat travelling theatre currently situated at Majura Park in Canberra, is offering the same opportunity to people like Keith who yearn for the drama of circus life. Up to eight different jobs are now open for applications.
After 40 years in the live entertainment industry, juggling a variety of jobs, Keith is now the director of the circus hosted by Silvers.
“In 1993, I went to see a show of a different kind,” he recalls. “Sesame Street Live had come to town! I was so enchanted with the show, I purchased the program and I still have it to this very day.”
Over the past 18 months, however, staff across all facets of the industry have been forced to find alternative sources of income as event after event was either cancelled or postponed.
In fact, an estimated two-thirds of jobs within the live entertainment industry were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF).
Sesame Street Circus Spectacular arrived in Canberra five and a half months ago with a full crew, but were locked down in Mildura for several weeks before that and locked down for eight months in Victoria previously.
“We’ve never had a problem employing people, but we just can’t get staff at the moment,” Keith says.
The current vacancies span marketing, electrical, sound, mechanics, front-of-house, and plenty more.
“We’ve had four people apply so far and one was suitable so we’ve scored one full-timer from here in Canberra.”
Over the years, Keith has learnt numerous skills on the ground, from backstage, logistics, costuming, marketing, advertising and location scouting to animal training, performances and clowning.
“You can move up the ranks quite quickly, if you’ve got the skills,” he says.
It doesn’t stop with professional development either. It was at the circus that Keith met his wife Lucinda, and the pair went on to have two children, Tegan and Oliver.
The working week on the circus set looks a little different to the standard workforce fare. There are no real set hours, and their weekend consists of Monday and Tuesday.
“It suits someone who likes to travel,” Keith says.
“There are days that we do nothing, and then there are other days that are the full eight hours. With the heat at the moment, that can be quite exhausting, but then there are days where we’re in the mud, the snow, and the ice.”
Five weeks is about the shortest time the circus will settle in one place, with the average stay time consisting of a few months. It’s a massive ordeal hitting the road with such a large convoy of trucks, vans, and cars.
“We all have accommodation on-site, with vans, cookhouses, power, water and shared company cars to drive.”
Anyone keen on running away to join the circus should contact Keith Brown via firstname.lastname@example.org.