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Journalism alum uses his communication skills differently than most of his classmates
By Madison Thieman ’14
John Kennedy Kane, ringmaster of the Big Apple Circus, established a home amongst performers who seek to inspire and amaze audiences of all ages.
Kane, who’s had about 30 years of circus experience, didn’t waste any time pursuing his dreams. In addition to being a ringmaster, he’s been a clown, fire-eater and magician.
His explanation – “I love the circus.”
But Kane isn’t only a circus performer; he’s also an educated Bonnie.
Although he took a nontraditional graduation route, dropping out of college to rejoin the circus, Kane still acquired a journalism and mass communication degree from St. Bonaventure University. It just took him a little more time.
“This Bonaventure girl is the reason I went back,” said Kane, ’88. “She found an apartment for me (and) redid all the paper work… I just had to show up.”
But, getting a degree wasn’t the only highlight of his Bonaventure experience; it was the friendships he obtained.
“Not only did all four of my Bona buddies come to St. Bonaventure when I did my one-man show there, but they also came to the Big Apple Circus,” said Kane, who performed his one-man show “Circ: My Life in the Basement” at the Garret Theater in 2011.
“The loyalties and friendships of Bonaventure are still with me,” he said.
And Kane has remained loyal to the University as well.
“While here for (his one-man show), John conducted a workshop in clowning, magic and circus skills for our theater students, which was a great success,” said Dr. Ed. Simone, theater professor at St. Bonaventure University.
“It was interesting to see John working with our students on the Garret Theater stage because John had been in Garret productions during his years at SBU.”
Simone praised Kane’s work.
“I recall seeing him do Joe Keller in Steve Gray-Lewis' production of ‘All My Sons,’” Simone said. “Joe Keller is a challenging role, especially for a young actor, but John did a wonderful job with it.”
Although Kane has acting experience, he never wanted to stray from the circus. And he’s grateful for his current position.
“Even though I’ve been in the circus my whole life, this circus came around at the right time,” said Kane, who has a three-year contract with the Big Apple Circus.
“We say the show is about fun facts and great acts because we educate the audience on the origins of the circus and how certain things came to be,” Kane added. “I never mind going to work. I really do love doing the show.”
And, as of now, he doesn’t plan to slow down.
“I believe that people think that the circus is a carnival, which is rides and games and ripping people off and stuff like that,” Kane said. “But the circus is really about entertainment and it’s actually a show that you are going to see.”
Kane said the circus is always evolving.
“None of (the cast) is returning except the girl with the animals. That’s what this show does, it makes an all-new show every year,” said Kane.
“I think many people think that circus life and circus people may not have morals and have an unusual life,” Kane stated. “We do an unusual job, but the life is very normal.”
Even the Pope contributes to the circus people’s religious experience.
“There is a circus priest who is appointed by the Pope and he travels to all the different circuses in the United States,” Kane added. “I cannot tell you how many times I have attended a Mass in the tent.”
And although attending Mass isn’t always an option, Kane doesn’t seem to worry.
“I remember my mother saying even if you can’t get to Mass, you do a lot of good by making people happy,” Kane said.
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