The Enigma Wants YOU

To be all you can be

Carnivals and sideshow oddities that entranced 20th-century dreamers from Ray Bradbury (Something Wicked this Way Comes) to Tod Browning (Freaks) and Walt Disney (Dumbo) have mostly faded to blackout. Not all’s lost, however. Former Austinite and co-founder of the Jim Rose Sideshow, the Enigma appears at Elyisum tonight to marvel the mundane mind.

Austin Chronicle: Four Elements Aerial and Creative Movement is involved in tonight’s show, along with a half a dozen other performers and, obviously, yourself. What should people expect?

The Enigma: When you go to a magic show, you wonder how it’s done, but in a sideshow you wonder why it’s done. I’m trying to revive that.

Basically, back in the day before television, radio, and newspapers, you’d go see the circus because that was the CNN and MTV of the day. Older people would see the elephant and the kids would see the clowns and the balloons. Kids being kids, they would go see the sideshow, where you would of course see the natural-born wonders using their bodies to do weird, strange, and amazing things.

What I’m doing is presenting something where everyone believes one thing and then you show them another. The truth appears as magic.

I’ll be starting out the show with some of the traditional sideshow stuff like the human blockhead, sword swallowing, neon swallowing. There’s going to be fire in the show as well, and then surrounding my show will be twisted aerials and contortion extremes with silks and magic and all that stuff.

The show I’ll be doing is still a comedy show. As far as music, it hasn’t been fully integrated yet. For the past eight years I’ve been doing a comedy show, but before that it was a rock & roll show, and I’m trying to get back towards that rock & roll show a bit.

AC: The concept of circuses has waxed and waned over the years, but these days it feels as if that sideshow vibe is all over popular culture, thanks in no small part to reality TV and the Internet.

TE: Certainly circuses were always part of pop culture and, yes, they have entered the mainstream somewhat. Britney Spears’ Circus, Ozzy Osbourne having little people in his videos, that kind of thing has always been there because it’s Americana. It was huge in the heyday and it’s important to remember that this is what America’s all about, that free enterprise – a wild west show with danger and stunts.

That’s something people will always want to see. We play on empathy and sympathy, and that’s something that everybody can feel, that sense of derring-do.

AC: Your bio mentions that you’ve been going into schools and helping kids with issues of identity and bullying.

TE: With identity comes self-empowerment. Animals get named but humans can name themselves. Tattoos are marks of identification, and the stronger the marks the more identification you have of yourself as an individual. And then you know your role, you know your place. You can exploit that.

You know that army slogan, “Be all you can be”? It’s really about being as much of yourself as you can be, and then the world will follow that, because everyone loves someone who’s truly themselves. Of course, they love themselves more than they love anyone else, but that’s just the parameters in which [human beings] work. [Essentially], I teach [kids] how to be superheroes.

It’s about having a social shield.

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The Enigma, Jim Rose Circus, The X-Files, MTV, Britney Spears, Ozzy Osbourne

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