Ringling Bros. circus ringmaster is living a dream

Circus will be at James Brown Arena Feb. 6-9

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David Shipman’s Christ­mas of 2012 is one he’ll never forget.

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Ringmaster David Shipman (top) says he loves the thrill of the circus every night.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Ringmaster David Shipman (top) says he loves the thrill of the circus every night.

It was on that day that Shipman stepped into the spotlight for the first time as the ringmaster of the Greatest Show on Earth – the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“It’s such a dream come true,” said Shipman, who will lead the ceremonies as the circus brings Super Circus Heroes! to James Brown Arena Feb. 6-9.

Shows are at 7 p.m. Thurs­day; 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. and 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $11-$41 from www.georgialinatix.com, by phone at (877) 4AUGTIX and at the arena box office.

“My first trip to the circus was when I was 2½ years old. I remember having huge eyes. My first memory was of the colors and the lights.”

Shipman’s journey to become ringmaster started on the stage. He attended a performing arts magnet school in Pensacola, Fla., and performed in numerous shows. He put performing on the back burner after college to follow a career path, but working a desk job wasn’t for him.

He landed some professional theater roles and a spot on Vampire Diaries, where he played the Mystery Man in an episode that aired in January 2013. It was while filming Vampire Diaries that a call went out for auditions for the role of ringmaster.

Shipman saw the notice on Facebook, but he had missed the audition. That didn’t deter him.

“I thought ‘Why not send off my information? The worst they could say is ‘no,’ ” he said.

He got a quick response. An hour after sending an e-mail, he got a call about an audition.

Shipman said he didn’t realize in this day that someone could still run off and join the circus. If he’d known, he probably would have done it sooner.

As the ringmaster, every night Shipman gets to relive those childhood memories that first made him fall in love with the circus. He watches the show with excitement and a sense of awe as the performers such as the Lopez Family do their death-defying acrobatics high above the ground.

“There is an element of danger in every act every night, but they’ve been doing it so long it’s mundane to them. It’s so natural for them, but they are aware of the danger,” he said.

What’s most exciting to Ship­man, however, is not the high-wire acts or animal trainers.

“I love watching the kids’ reactions. It’s something exciting to see,” he said.

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