When she joined the circus, Valerie Berta joined a family. For nine months out of the year, she lived with people from across the globe, traveling from Texas to Massachusetts for nine months out of the year, seven days a week. But inside this eclectic tribe, where hard work is a constant, she was also creating her own family: she was pregnant with her first child. “The Mudshow Diaries” is a photographic journal of the years she spent following her husband, the acrobat Fridman Torales, across the country, and raising her two sons under the tent of the Kelly Miller circus. She spoke to R&K from her home in Missouri.
Roads & Kingdoms: How did you get involved with the circus?
Valerie Berta: I was working in a newspaper in a small town in Illinois called Jacksonville. I had just started and about two weeks into that job, the circus came to town. At the time, it was still a great photo newspaper so they insisted on having three features every day in this town of about 12,000 people. So when the circus comes to town, you jump on it. I had just come back from freelancing in Peru for the presidential elections back in 2000, and when I went to the circus I found out that most of their crew and some of the management were from Peru, so I was just elated. And one of the people I talked to the very first time I walked into the tent was the guy who became my husband. I gave him my contact number… And the rest is history. We started dating long-distance and I went to work in Southern California at a newspaper but I was laid off in the first wave of economic layoffs in the newspaper industry. That’s when I decided to run away with the circus.