HARVEYSBURG, Ohio (WDTN) – Meet Susan and Travis Fessler, the husband and wife team bringing fantastic performances and light banter to the Renaissance Festival stage this fall.

Travis and Susan have been performing for 23 years as a daring duo with sword swallowing, fire eating and a healthy dose of humor, but they haven’t always been a success.

Travis’s performing career began as a magician for birthday parties, but according to his tutor, he never quite got the hang of it.

“I started out as a kids’ party magician, and I was very bad at it,” Travis explained. “And the guy who was teaching me magic finally just said, ‘You’re not getting any better, why don’t you learn to eat fire.’ And I did.”

Travis swallowing a sword at OHRF opening weekend (Sarah Bean, WDTN)

And thus began a collection of adventures learning to eat fire, swallow swords and other fantastic feats. But the 30-minute show you see on stage is the culmination of many years of practice and more than a few mishaps.

“The sword swallowing was probably the hardest one to master,” Travis said. “It took me a couple years of throwing up almost every day before I could get it down. Now the fire is the flashy one – the fire eating and breathing, but the sword to me is just really – I guess because I spent so much time learning it that’s my favorite”

He began performing with his wife and brother in the Pickled Brothers circus. After a few years, his brother retired to become a professional rock climber (yes, that is a real job) and the show continued with just Travis and Susan.

Initially, they continued to perform under the Pickled Brothers name, but people kept asking where the other brother was, so in 2020, they changed the name to PB and J Circus. According to them, the PB stands for Pickled Brother and the J stands for……Susan.

If you attend one of their shows, you’d see Travis performing death-defying feats, Susan making sarcastic remarks, and a crowd of people cheering “Yay Susan!”

Yay Susan! (Sarah Bean, WDTN)

“There’s lots of little girls yelling ‘Yay Susan!'” Susan said. “And it shows them they can be on stage if they want – and not do anything!’

While Susan may not be swallowing blades, she does carry half the show with her personality and the banter that comes from 25 years of marriage. Travis says he often gets asked how they came up with their quips. His response? “That’s pretty much just how we are.”

But the life of a performer is much more than what you see on the stage. While fun to watch, this is a real profession, with a real business to be run.

“It is not as glamorous as it looks,” Travis said. “A good 60-70 percent of our job is a lot like other jobs. You know, we deal every year with getting insurance, we deal with contracts, we deal with logistics like how do we get to the show, where are we going to stay, a lot of it is answering emails.”

“30 minutes up on stage and that’s the least amount of work we have to do,” Susan said.

Travis ‘flossing’ on stage (Sarah Bean, WDTN)

Even with all the background effort, the performance makes it all worth it in the end.

“I like watching people as I perform,” Travis said. “I like watching them react and watching, you know, just what makes them grossed out, what makes them laugh, and what makes them do both.”

The Ohio Renaissance Festival runs from Labor Day Weekend through Halloween, meaning you have three more chances to see this pair perform on the front stage.

“Don’t try it at home for one,” Travis said. “Everything we do is real. Some people call us magicians, and we’re not magicians because all that stuff that we’re doing is real. Especially this stage here – everything you’re going to see is like a learned skill that is actually dangerous and not an illusion. But come and see it because it’s really cool!”

But the Ohio Rennaisance festival isn’t the only place they have performed. They have held shows at ren faires in multiple states as well as Christmas festivals (Susan’s favorite) and other events.

Susan pulls a sword from Travis’s throat (Sarah Bean, WDTN)

For information on how to book the PB and J circus, or where you can see them next, visit their website at https://pbandjcircus.com/ .