WEST PALM BEACH — Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey are back with an all new exciting show, Dragons, coming to the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Jan. 10 – 21.
In the mythical show tribes from all over the world are brought together to compete in a championship tournament. Throughout the tournament the different tribes have to prove that they “have virtues of courage, strength, wisdom and heart to arouse dragons.”
The ringmaster taking center stage once again is Johnathan Lee Iverson. The face of this year’s show was named by Barbara Walters in 1999 as one of the 10 most fascinating people. He also goes in the books as the first African-American and youngest ringmaster ever in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey history.
“It’s a blessed responsibility to be ringmaster,” said Iverson. “I get to speak about circus culture and there’s the newness about every day, there is no typical day in the circus.”
Iverson, who has had an impressive career in entertainment, attributes his background as lead tenor in the Boys Choir of Harlem for preparing him to be a showman with the self-proclaimed “Greatest Show on Earth.”
“It taught me how to interact with different people,” said Iverson. “With the Harlem Boys Choir we were given intricate classes and had people come in to teach us how to — and not to — act. But my upbringing period was a foreshadowing for what I would do here.”
Besides his work with the Boys Choir of Harlem and Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, Iverson has performed in several off-Broadway shows and commercials. The passionate entertainer said he is in this for the long haul.
“When it comes to entertainment the ‘e’ is for endurance,” said Iverson. “A lot of people have a talent for something. It doesn’t mean it’s your calling, so be careful. Those who are serious about whatever vocation they choose are at peace wherever it takes them. If you don’t have that in you then it’s really not for you.”
Iverson said he doesn’t let his success go to his head and that his family keeps his ego in check and his focus narrowed. His wife also works for the show, and their children travel with them.
“I wish this upon every American family, that children can go to schools that are adjacent to where their parents work,” said Iverson. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. Our family has a great relationship that we build on every day. My kids wake up with hope every day because of our life with the circus.” This life has allowed him many opportunities, such as traveling to Brazil and witnessing firsthand as the country elected its first female president, and sharing that moment with his son.
“I told him you’re too young to understand this now,” said Iverson. “But, one day you’re going to look back and think, ‘Wow, I was there when history was made.’”
There have been many such teachable moments for Iverson and his family. He recalls the day that President Barack Obama was elected, and speaking with his son about it. “I sat him down and asked him, ‘Do you see our new president?’” said Iverson. “And he said, ‘Yeah, his hair looks like mine.’”