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US’s first touring gay circus comes to St Petersburg

US’s first touring gay circus comes to St Petersburg

Roll up, roll up… for the US’s first touring LGBTI circus.

Circus Rainbow will launch on 22 October 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida – with shows running twice daily until 2 November. These will include an afternoon performance aimed at kids and families, and an evening dinner show aimed at adults.

The concept was created by show business veteran, Philip Anthony, a Florida- based producer, promoter and entertainment manager whose career in the circus world stretches back over four decades.

Mr Anthony is himself heterosexual. He says he got the idea for Circus Rainbow, which aims to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all families, a few years ago.

‘It was around 2005. I was looking for a new project. I’d had friends in the past that had done LGBT circuses in one spot, for just one time. They would include it in their normal route, and when they got to LA, they did two or three days just aimed at the LGBT community.

‘It was very successful, but it wasn’t a custom-designed show for the LGBT market, just “come and see our circus”. After doing lots of research, we think we’ve come up with something just a little bit different – dividing the day into a family time with the 5 o’clock show, and then an evening performance for adults of all ages.’

Anthony has previously worked for Circus Sarasota, The Great American Olde Tyme Circus and Ringling Bros, as well running his own Philip Antony Agency for almost 20 years.

He has worked with hundreds of different acts over the years, and has invited a selection of gay and straight performers to take part in Circus Rainbow. Among these is Rafael Palacios [pictured], another circus veteran who has been performing since the early 1970s.1

‘My parents were trapeze performers and I used to watch them perform when I was just a little kid and I would beg them to let me go up and swing on the trapeze with them,’ he told GSN.

‘My mother was eight months pregnant with me and still performing on the trapeze, so I think I was born to perform! At the age of five, I started performing with them at Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas.’

Palacious, who is gay, worked for over 20 years as an illusionist with his long-term partner of the time, Larry Fischer. Now solo, he’s looking forward to bringing his aerial routine and magic to Circus Rainbow.

He says that he had heard about the existence of a gay circus in Spain when he toured in Europe [it ran briefly to coincide with the EuroGames in Barcelona in 2008], but is surprised that no-one had thought about doing this before in the US.

‘When Philip told me about his idea, I said that this is something that’s going to be fantastic. I’m very excited about it and I hope things go well and it’s something that’s successful and we can keep doing it, and maybe even take it overseas.

‘Look at Cirque du Soleil: 20 years ago that started very small, but look at the big company it is and the shows they do today.

‘I think people are more accepting of things these days. I’m sure the evening shows will be a little more risqué, but it’s going to be pretty family friendly but with a touch of gayness… if that’s the right word to use’, he laughs.

Anthony says that he’s not heard any of any negative reactions to the idea of a gay circus, only positive.

Since announcing the launch of the Circus Rainbow, he says he has had many enquiries about the concept, and that the team has been invited to take part in several Pride festivals.

You can catch some of the performers entertaining and promoting the circus at Orlando Pride on 11 October and Sarasota Pride on 18 October, ahead of their St Petersburg debut.

‘There’s always going to be some negative with the positive,’ says Palacious, when I ask him if he expects any criticism from more conservative commentators.

‘It’s just something you deal with,’ he chuckles. ‘We’ve come a long way but there are still certain parts of the country that are still bigoted or discriminate the gay community… all over the world there is good and bad, but I think in certain cities they are more open-minded, like in Miami, St Petersburg, Orlando, New York, Los Angeles.’

After the St Petersburg dates, Anthony says that the circus will travel to Miami in December, and then Key West in January, before plotting dates across other States for the spring and summer.

Lest anyone thinks that the impresario – who says his ‘four beautiful daughters and eight grandchildren’ are the proudest accomplishment of his life – is looking to make a quick buck from the gay market, Circus Rainbow will be supporting local causes.

In Florida, it will be partnering with the Metro Wellness and Community Centers, which is soon to launch a new LGBT Welcome Center in St Petersburg.

James Keane, Fundraising and Event Manager for Metro Wellness told GSN: ‘We are honored to be the benefiting charitable organization of this exciting and unique entertainment experience.

‘Funds received will help Metro continue to deliver services to clients and further develop programming of value to the community. An official ribbon cutting at our LGBT Welcome Center is taking shape for December of this year.’

‘It’s a great blend of extremely talented people, says Anthony of his Circus Rainbow family.

‘In the circus industry, for years, people worked together. It didn’t matter which country you were from or whether you were rich or anything, your common bond was artistic element. That’s part of our mission, to show how we work together.’

For more information on Circus Rainbow, check the official website.