Travis and Susan Fessler Run Their Own Circus

Breathing fire is just part of the gig for Travis and Susan Fessler of PB and J Circus. They share how the pandemic has impacted their work and the worst and best parts of performing for our February 2021 “Cincinnati At Work” issue.

Photograph by Devyn Glista

Ages

48 and 47

Title/Occupation

Travis: Head Freak and General Manager, PB and J Circus
Susan: Performer, Executive in Charge of “Yay Susan!”

How long have you been in this job and field of work?

T: I started street performing as a fire-eater in 1999.
S: I started out as the photographer and joined the show as a performer around 2006.

Why did you get into this field of work?

T: I was an awful magician, and the guy who was trying to teach me got frustrated and said, Why don’t you learn to eat fire or something?
S: I was in the audience taking pictures, and one show Travis asked the crowd, Do you want to see me set fire to my wife? They answered yes.

Best part of your job?

T: Making people smile and laugh.
S: Having little girls be inspired by me and yell Yay Susan! whenever they see me.

Photograph by Devyn Glista

Worst part?

T: Having a bad show. Sometimes things just aren’t clicking, and you leave the stage thinking, Maybe I should quit.

What value does this work provide to the community at large?

T: While it can be weird to think of what we do as art, I’ve had many people say they were inspired to learn a skill because of seeing our show.
S: You can just be an average person and still create great art.

What value does it provide you?

T: It’s fulfilling to watch people have a good time because of something we’re doing. Especially entire families.
S: It’s nice to see the hard work you put into something make people laugh.

How has the pandemic impacted your work?

T: The pandemic has canceled 75 percent of our shows since March. We’ve still been able to work a few limited capacity outdoor events, but those events have been for less people than in previous years. We’ve written new material and learned new stunts, so there is a silver lining.

What’s a fun fact about your job that the public wouldn’t know?

S: There is more paperwork than some office jobs I’ve worked!
T: Burnt hair smells really bad.

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