No, it cannot. The whereabouts of a thing usually follow the pattern "state the thing first, and then say where it is".
You may say that If you start your statement with a place, it serves as a "background" for you comment on what occurs at that place or what is situated there.
In this course we usually model sentences like "В кафе человек" as "There is a person at the café" (or, same thing "A person is at the café"). I felt it would be easier for native speaker of English this way. :)
It is definitely the general rule in this course. :)
Reality is a bit more complicated. If you are asked "What's there?" then technically "a circus" and "the circus" can both be a viable answer. In these course our main translation assumes that you tell about a new object. A simplification, sure, but is somewhat works.
On the other hand, if you are asked "Where is the circus?", I do not think "There is a circus over there" makes much sense.
The English structure "There is (something) (somewhere)" does not actually mean that something is literally in the place called "there". For example, "There are many cats in the park" does not mean that many cats are simultaneously in the park and in some "there". Rather, it is an English way to assert the presence of some cats in the park without it being "In the park, are many cats" (which is not how people usually speak).
In Russian, however, "In the park, are many cats" is the usual word order for such sentences.
This is mainly an English grammar problem. But if English speakers agree, that it is very common to omit the second 'there' it should be accepted, as I'm here to learn Russian, not proper textbook English grammar.
To the question: 'Are there cats in the park?' I would simply answer 'Yes, there are (many) cats.'.
Well, I still do not have the answer what native speakers mean by "There is a circus". Russian is my native language, not English. When it comes to tricky wordings ("I have in my bag a sandwich"?) I am never sure if they truly mean the same.
Essentially, the question is whether "there is a circus" belongs in the following conversation:
"Hm. So, the library is two blocks away, right? OK, let's say I take the next left turn. What do I find? A church? The train station? A circus?"
"Yes, there is a circus."
Another user suggested one more valid context for such a sentence, namely an answer to the question "Is there something there?"
If "The circus is there" (with "circus" emphasised) or "There is a circus there" seem more appropriate in such an environment then we should not accept that suggestion. Or, well, we might replace the sentence with something easier :) Always an option, you know.
I think getting rid of sentences that create more confusion than they provide learning is not at all a bad idea. (Feeling like getting rid of that medic Dima yet? ;-) )
With this one, because it's such a short and simple sentence, it's possible to read in many different ways, and clearly only some of the meanings in one language map onto the other language.
I imagined the question "What's there?" to be for example describing the various offerings of a theme park or other larger place:
What's there? (=What kind of things are offered there?)
There's a circus. There's also a theater. Then there are restaurants, a pool, and a museum.
I've read through through the posts on this exercise and I too am getting the answer incorrect... "Yes, there is a circus." I read it from the perspective of a child asking "Is there (such a thing as) a circus?"
I am a absolute beginner in this language and am getting tripped up by the multiple meanings a word can have in the English language the word "there" can have the connotation of existence or of location. Does the Russian language have the similar issue and I simply chose incorrectly?