Ringling Family Member Talks About His Famous Relatives
Michael Lancaster, who is the great-grandson of Charles Ringling, (one of the famous Ringling brothers of circus fame), comes to Sarasota to tell family stories handed down through generations.
Lancaster’s informal lecture takes place on Tuesday, December 4 at 7:00 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church in Pioneer Park (1260 12th Street). Lancaster is also the author of a new novel, “Ringling, The Last Laugh.” He will sell and sign copies of that novel following his presentation. Admission is $5 for the general public and free to members of the Sarasota County Historical Society.
Michael Lancaster was born in Sarasota to portrait artist Betty Warren and actor Stuart Lancaster who divorced when their son was a child. Although he did not grow up with the circus, Lancaster developed a longing for the world of the Golden Age of Circus and for stories of the Ringling family. In his twenties, Lancaster was reintroduced to his father. As a father and son team they began a project in the 1980s create a screenplay illuminating the story of the Ringling Brothers and their influence on the circus. Stuart Lancaster died in 2000 and Michael shelved the project.
In 2012 Michael wrote the novel “Ringling, The Last Laugh,” a fictionalized story of John Ringling. In the book, the legendary circus king shares life stories over whiskey and cigars in a New York Bar in 1936. In this work of fiction, Lancaster says he maintained a historical point of view, weaving family stories told by his great grandmother, “Mrs Charley,” his aunt Alice Lancaster, his mother and his father.
While visiting Sarasota and Tampa, Lancaster and his wife, Barbara Harnack will also preview their soon to be released children’s illustrated book, “The Boys from Baraboo,” the Ringling Brothers story for children ages 6-9. The book is unique in that it uses scenes created in 3-D sets to illustrate the Ringling story. Barbara Harnack is a graduate of Parson’s School of Design, where she majored in illustration and focused on three dimensional illustration. Since Harnack graduated Parsons in 1980, the couple has worked together, both collaboratively and individually making pottery. They reside outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.