In 476 AD the Occidental Roman Empire fell and as a result numerous troupes of stage actors were scattered. These roving men and women who survived were generically known as mimes, troubadours, jesters, and more commonly clowns. Their performances in the piazzas, carnivals and courtyards, in most occasions were used to earn some money or a meal. The performers knew about entertainment and they possessed many talents; they were musicians, singers, dancers, acrobats, and jugglers. However, above all else the entertainer had to have the ability to astonish his audience.
In the mid 1500’s a new vivacious production which was ambiguous and unruly entertained both the rich and the poor and was known as the “Commedia dell’Arte” (Comedy of Art). People of all social levels came together to enliven the spectacle of the professional actors. This “Comedy” with new characters did not imitate but renewed the peculiarity that unified all performances of all ages. Humanity: alive or dead, magic or real, pacifist or warrior, saint or sinner fused the ridiculous with the serious.
In the second half of the 1700’s a potpourri of different kinds of spectacles would assume the definition of the modern circus. The content of the performances, although restrained was where the creativity of the clown was motivated. There were excellent companies of trapeze artists, acrobats, contortionists, high wire walkers, and tight rope walkers. There were also the delicate and precise movements of the ballerinas, illusionists, escape artists, jesters and knife throwers. The modern circus also included animal tamers, fire eaters, puppeteers, jugglers, wrestlers, mimes etc., etc. They are the foremost entertainers of the popular live performances that help all of us connect in our humanity.