Josh Shack
Josh Shack with his baby brother,Casey, at the Circus Smirkus' closing night August 17, 2003

Josh Shack, a founding member of Providence Circus School, began clowning at a very early age and has performed at festivals and events throughout New England in his clown alter-ego of Nimo, a European style clown. He has been hired by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and will join them in November, 2003. Rehearsal at Ringling's winter quarters in Florida begins on November 29th and opening day is January 2nd. The 134th edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will be in Providence in the spring [May 5 thru May 9, 2004]. (

How long have you been a clown?
I went to the circus when I was three and every year since. I can't remember not wanting to be a clown. My first paid job as a clown was when I was nine. I'm 18 now.

When did you decide to do this?
When I was three, I decided I wanted to be a clown, and it's been my dream since. I went to a circus camp for two years. In 2000 I auditioned and was accepted to tour with Circus Smirkus, the international traveling youth circus. I toured with them for four summers. Last summer I was Boss Clown.

I assume Ringling is considered a high level clown job? Are you ecstatic, nervous?
Ringling is great to have on your resume. It's the greatest show on earth, and what most people think of when you say circus. It's a great way to see the country and meet a lot of people, but for me it's a place to get started. I'd like to tour with some other shows, one ring circuses; like the Big Apple Circus. I'd like to work in Europe too. My biggest goal is to have my own european-style one ring tented circus in this country. But Ringling has been a goal since I was three, so it's really a dream come true.

How did you get the job?
I sent in my resume and talked to Tim Holst, the vice president of production and talent. He asked a few questions and offered me a contract. My work with Smirkus helped a lot.

Have you taken movement classes other than strictly clown work? If so, what?
I've learned many basic circus skills: juggling, simple acrobatics, unicycling. I haven't taking many classes in clowning though, mostly learned through observation. I love all kinds of art. I paint and draw and play the trumpet. I go to the theatre. I watch silent movies. I do a little mime, I learned some from Rob Mermin, the founding director of Circus Smirkus, who studied with Marcel Marceau. We had a dance class this summer during rehearsal at Smirkus; it was actually taught by a well known RI dancer. [This was Brian Jones who taught and helped choreograph a tango-themed handbalance act, a class called E-Z Dance for Clowns and gave individual tutoring on how to refine movement in circus acts.]

Do you have suggestions for people interested in doing this work?
I would say go see the circus every chance you get. Take dance or gymnastics. Take classes in music, playing an instrument is a good tool. Practice juggling, mime, falling down. Smirkus has a camp for beginners that's great. You can get a start at Providence Circus School and see if you're interested.


Deborah Nash at
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