Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson returns to Cleveland in the 144th season of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, October 22-26. Get ticketshere or by phone at 888.894.9424.
“This is the highest level of artistry,” Iverson said, commending the awe-inspiring performers who will entertain in the LEGENDS! Show.
Children of all ages are in for unimaginable family fun, as artists from around the globe perform feats of daring, spectacles of strength and thrills of wonder to summon the mythical and the mysterious visions that have only existed in your imagination and now materialize before your eyes: the Unicorn, Pegasus and a Woolly the Mammoth!
I talked by phone with Iverson while he was in St. Louis, three days before the Cleveland tour. A husband and father of a five-year old daughter and nine-year old son, Iverson shared with me his views on parenting and his displeasure with the inappropriate images today vying for our children’s attention.
“I think it’s unfair and disgusting. I think it’s done on purpose,” Iverson said, referring to negative and underlying messages in so-called children’s movies and games, under the guise as “appropriate for children” or “family entertainment”. “They are trying to force our children to grow up.”
Iverson believes the “imagination” of children is being sacrificed and dismissed for the sake of financial gain. “We put so much stock in our health, but we don’t put the same energy into our souls and our mental health,” he emphasized.
Return to the Basics
Parenting is sacred. It’s sacred. Iverson stressed that statement was worth repeating, since it seems parenting, in many ways, has become marginalized.
He contends that parents must return to the basics of teaching children to say please andthank you. Oh! And one more of the basics he adds – that prefix, also called a handle, must go in front of a grown-up’s name — Mr., Mrs., or Miss. The designated prefix signifies respect, something that he believes is a lost art, but should be quickly rediscovered.
Iverson says parents can learn a lot from their children if they, as parents, are willing to learnand parents allow their children to be individuals. A father of two, Iverson respects his son and daughter’s individualism and he treats them as such. On Saturday, Iverson’s busiest circus day, he and his daughter go on a date in between the first and second show. I get her from the nursery and I buy her a beverage and candy, and we just sit together. It means the world to her. He and his son also spend time together. A bit more reserved than his daughter, Iverson says he’s learned to respect his son’s space, but explaining to him that relationships make the world go ‘round.
But whatever you do with your kids, he says, you must be consistent.
We are a self-absorbed culture, worried about I-I-I and not about the affects your actions might have on others. It’s a very Western thing, Iverson insists. As I’ve observed from my colleagues from other parts of the world, lineage matters. It’s not about the individual, it’s about thinking ahead, 100 years. It’s the difference between rich and poor.
To that point of lineage, Iverson says it doesn’t have to be about money. The greatest thing you can give your child is a good name. It’s something he and his wife, Priscilla a former dancer in circus and now — Production Manager of the show — discuss all the time. We’re in a wonderful position. My wife is officially my boss and it’s wonderful.
I really enjoy the affect it has on our children. They’re used to seeing me in my position [as Ringmaster] – for them it’s just normal. They are aware that mommy is daddy’s boss in the show. He talks about that to “squash” this idea that it’s not possible for a woman to be in a managerial role – the notion of men over here, women over there. The discussion helps both his daughter and son see that there are no limits to what they can become.
Giving children access to opportunities is one thing but when children understand expectation, that’s far reaching.
Treasuring Family at Work
We’re very blessed because we’re in a workplace where it affords us the time to be able to have our family and children together. We play together, work together, live together. I don’t know of many families who are blessed like that. We’re together all year around. I would wish that for any family. It’s a great advantage.
We are a praying family. We pray everyday. Once a week, we have a fellowship and study. We find those lessons about character and nurture our children.
More Than a Circus
Iverson credits Feld Entertainment–the world-wide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment–for the opportunity to be a part of the Greatest Show on Earth. I take great pride in being a part of an institution that has the consciousness to care for its audience in the way that it does. We take great pride in putting these shows together, every detail is meticulous. There are no costume malfunctions. We’re not saying something over your head, where you have to explain it to your child.
To me, I feel like we are missionaries of joy. We spread happiness all over the world. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clowns and the not-for-profit group, Special Spaces, will grant a 10-year old Sickle-Cell patient in Cleveland, a dream bedroom the first day of the Cleveland tour.
It’s the most noble art–to make people happy.
And with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Iverson gets to do just that.
(Editor’s note: Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson was in Cleveland in 2012 for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Dragons Show.)