Onwards to Essex, VT!

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

Two shows down, sixty-four to go folks! We opened tour at our home in Greensboro to some enthusiastic crowds on Saturday before speeding off to Essex Junction for our next six shows from the 28th to the 30th.

If I haven’t mentioned before, I’m not a circus performer. But believe me when I say, that these kids do things that are astounding. I remember watching part of dress rehearsal only a few days ago and starting to tear up. What this crew accomplishes in such a short time is both delightful and humbling.

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As I said, my background is not in circus, more in theatre, so I’ve experienced a lot of tear downs. However, the one I saw Saturday night was unlike any I’ve seen before. Troupers and crew were quickly and carefully packing props away as soon as they were out of the ring. The moment our 6 o’clock show was over, our tent crew sprang into action and they haven’t stopped since. In about 36 hours, our big tops were torn down, traveled 60 miles, and were put up again in Essex.

We’ve only just begun folks! I can’t wait to see what the summer has in store for us yet! And so I will leave you with the words of Rabbi Ira J. Schiffer, who blessed our tent before the show on Saturday:

“We give thanks to the Source of Talent, Joy and Creativity in the universe, and the Force that has kept us in life, nurtured us and brought us to this day. Amen.”

Take care,

Jane

 

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Camp has Campers!

It’s been months of preparation and weeks of setting up but we finally have the first of our 2016 campers, and we (both campers and staff) couldn’t be happier!

It’s oft been said that a camp doesn’t really come alive until the campers arrive and Smirkus is no exception. Until Sunday morning when our site was teaming with the excited shouts and joyous laughs of our Intro campers, I never really appreciated the nature of this magical place. The look on the faces of our campers as they went into the air for the first time or the frivolity in which they clowned, was inspiring. The fearlessness of their acrobatics and the creativity of their juggling was infectious.

This week we had three sessions happen at camp: Intro to Smirkus Camp and Smirkling I and II. Intro is a one day taste of the joys of Smirkus Camp, and Smirkling is a two day one night tasting. The favorite activity of the week for our first and youngest campers, far and above any of the more traditional circus practices, was “Pie Day.” Pie Day is a staple of the Smirkus Camp experience. As the last part of each session, Campers get to pie someone, anyone, who will consent to step into the “Pie zone.” It is no coincidence that this event happens at the end of the day when the parents come (and they are the most popular target). I was lucky to be carrying a camera which is one of the magical items that creates a “No Pie Zone,” though simply asking not to be pied works too.

Of course with the joys of camp opening comes some sadness, we had to say a bittersweet farewell to Mike Richter. From his humble beginnings as a camper to this summer’s work as Head Rigger, Mike has spent many summers at Smirkus Camp and we are so grateful every time he comes back to our tents. He couldn’t do it alone though, Mike, Logan, and Alex created and installed a new rigging system in Mama Mia that will allow the aerial classes to maximize time in the air while maintaining the safety and level of instruction that our campers and parents know and love.

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I am on the edge of my seat for what the upcoming week long session will bring and all of the wonderful and exciting days ahead of us all. And if you want to follow that excitement add Smirkus Camp on Snapchat @smirkuscamp. It’s updated all the time with all sorts of happenings (this week we had a safari)!

-Aaron

 

 

 

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Smirkus and Rick Davis Fan, Anna Doucet Pays Tribute

When it came time to complete her class project, Smirkus Camper Anna Doucet wrote about her favorite subject, circus. In this essay, she writes a beautiful tribute to our late Residency Director, Rick Davis. Please enjoy.

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 Rick Davis

Anna Doucet, 2015

For my study on circus, I did an essay about Rick Davis, a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performer and former director of the Circus Smirkus Residency program. Rick Davis is a truly exceptional man and his many stories amazed me. While I couldn’t have put them all into this paper, I took some of my favorites. During this interview, we talked about many things circus, from the acts to the animals. Rick had many exciting adventures during his time in the circus!

Rick Davis became interested in circus when his dad brought him to see his first one. When Rick saw the clowns, he thought they weren’t funny at all. In fact, he decided he could do much better. In 1974, he finally applied to a clown school and was accepted. As soon as her graduated, Rick was given a job with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey as a clown. He left soon after and joined Circus Odyssey, the circus that would soon become his favorite circus. “I loved it because I could be creative,” Rick told me. Rick Davis was happy to have finally found a place he belonged – in the circus!

Life in the circus was never easy. The performers, including Rick, were constantly traveling, usually by train, in cramped, tiny rooms. Circus Odyssey had 150 performers from all over the world. It was hard not to learn the languages all around him so Rick Davis began to learn a little German and Polish. Another thing Rick told me about circus life was that he always had to feed himself. Because of this, Rick had to constantly eat in restaurants and diners which was not only expensive but also not a lot of fun thing to do. As fun as life in the circus could be, there were always some parts Rick didn’t enjoy as much.

In the circus, Rick was always a clown. That was what he loved, after all! “My favorite act was a clown dance with a trumpet and VERY colorful costume,” Rick remembers. Some of Rick’s fellow performers weren’t human- they were animals! Traveling with Circus Odyssey were chickens, dogs, and even tigers and elephants! Despite many myths about circus animals, Rick told me that, at least in the circuses he traveled with, the animals were treated with expert, top notch care, 24 hours a day. The animals were the stars of many acts and behind the scenes were also treated as well as the human performers. Mr. Rick Davis loved the circus and its controlled chaos because it was a place he could be creative, use his big imagination, and live and travel with the people he worked with.

When the time came that Rick decided he was done performing, he found a job with Circus Smirkus, Vermont’s award winning, international, youth circus.  There, he became the Director of School Residencies. Of all his time in the circus, working with Smirkus was a “life changing experience,” Rick loved working with all the kids because they were so willing and eager to learn and they looked up to him. In the short time he was with them, he couldn’t turn them into star circus performers but every time, the kids inspired him with their sheer excitement to learn. Rick loved Smirkus more than any other place he had ever worked.

Rick Davis is an amazing and inspiring man. If he could have joined the circus again, as something other than a clown, he would do trapeze. His favorite circus act he has ever seen was a trampoline basketball game. His favorite circus animals are the dogs. Rick never regretted joining the circus and its spirit, excitement, and magic will live on inside him forever.

Posted in Residences | 9 Comments

Long Summer Days

The days are long here on Circus Road but never boring.We have just six days until opening as of the time this post is being written. Practices are down to 20 minutes each with the focus on perfecting what have become completed acts. We had our Banquet last night where the Pie Car shows off their culinary skills and the rest of us reap the benefits.

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Pie Boss Andrew announcing dinner.

 

After that the Troupers said their thanks to their coaches – most of whom will be leaving before we go on tour – as well as the rest of the staff.

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Smirkus coaches.

 

We then had our No-Talent Talent Show. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tradition, it is essentially a talent show where circus skills aren’t allowed. The acts ranged from hilarious to clever to heartwarming.

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Earlier this week, the Troupers played a traditional Smirkus game called Panic. The idea is that they are given challenges that are in the form of a scavenger hunt. For example: Find a Josh.

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Pictured: A Josh.

Things are always crazy here. It is, after all, a circus. But the show is quickly coming together for the premiere on Saturday. I, for one, can’t wait.

Take care!

Jane

 

Posted in Big Top Tour | 1 Comment

Houston, we have a staff.

Big things are happening here at Camp, friends!  Did you hear that the staff is here?  THE STAFF IS HERE!

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We had assembled little by little over the past few weeks but on Sunday we all officially landed for our week of training and orientating.  Done your typical get-to-know-you games, learning about our stances on Harry Potter and such.  We had a glorious hike on Beeler Mountain with some spectacular views.

Not that it’s been all work though, we’ve had some time to get to know each other as well, walks to Willey’s and enjoyment of the beautiful surroundings and sunsets our camp provide in spades.  There was even a rainbow over camp this week!

 

Of course we’ve had our fair share of sit down talk sessions: rules, regulations, and ways to keep everyone safe and happy here at camp.  We had some great discussions and outside presentations that are helping everyone feel confident about the summer ahead.

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Probably the All Stars of staff week have been the kitchen personnel who have kept us not only fed but stuffed with meals that delight our senses!  I would like to give a special thank you to Caleb, who was a last minute addition as our Head Chef, and has fit in here like a clown in a tent.  Also I want to extend the shout out to Sue, Maria, and Mianda who have been going the extra mile with their kitchen duties as well.  If you are joining us sometime this summer get ready for some first class chow coming out of the pie car (there are even rumors of dessert!!)

I don’t want to over-hype this summer everyone, but this staff is pretty cool already and the forecast calls for the cool front to stay overhead for most of the summer.  If you are looking for more of the excitement and silliness that this summer will surely bring, you should follow my updates on Snapchat @SmirkusCamp.  And of course in the weeks to come I will continue to blog about Camps Greatest hits.  Up next in our summer schedule, a day of Intro to Smirkus, and 2 Smirkling sessions all adding up to a big week here at camp!

Houston, over and out.

-Aaron

Posted in Smirkus Camp | 1 Comment

Heating Up

Dear Smirkus Friends and Family,

It’s been cold here in Greensboro for the Trouper’s first week but things are quickly heating up for the Big Top Tour. We are 13 days away from opening as of today, Sunday 12th. Every day gets busier but the Troupers have persevered through the cold and have been hard at work rehearsing their skills.

It’s not all hard work though. The Troupers had a bonfire complete with s’mores earlier in the week. We had a silent movie night on Thursday where Greg Desanto, one of our clown coaches, taught the Troupers about a few famous clowns and some vaudeville history. In addition to performing himself, when not at Smirkus, Greg contributes to the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in Wisconsin. If you’d like a taste of what the Troupers learned, be sure to check out their website as well as the Hall of Fame’s facebook page.

On Friday night, we had a special treat when our founder Rob Mermin paid a visit to talk to the Troupers. Even if you don’t think you’re familiar with Rob, you’ve likely already met! His character Robbo was the inspiration for our logo!

For those of you who do know Rob, you know that he can tell a tale like the best of them. He regaled the Troupers with stories of the early days of Smirkus, some highlights from his career, and some footage of him with a former costar Rufus the pantomiming dog!

The kids have off as I’m writing this on Saturday the 11th. Let me tell you it is quiet around the lot. They’re off visiting the Cold Hollow Apple Cider Mill in Waterbury, VT, the Bread and Puppet Museum, as well as Nana’s Thrift Store. They’ll be back later today and then it’s back to work tomorrow.

Remember Opening Weekend is in two weeks get your tickets by clicking here or calling 1-877-SMIRKUS.

Take care!

Jane

 

Posted in Big Top Tour

Signs Point to Smirkus

The signs of the season are all around us.  The grass is liberated from its icy white sleep, the leaves have begun to reach for the sun, a warm wind brings the air of summer, and Circus Smirkus is up and running again.  Yes, perhaps my favorite sign of the summer is the white and blue tents that dot the various skylines of New England.

I’m Aaron, the PR Intern at Smirkus Camp this summer; a Smirkus super-fan, I’ve seen the Smirkus tour every year since 2000.  I was five when I discovered Smirkus, my mom took me a town over to Montpelier and I instantly fell in love with the magic of it all.  As I was finishing up my Junior year at Ithaca College this spring, I met some people who will be working at camp this summer who rekindled my ambition for Smirkus.  So here I am on my way to the source of the magic, a sleepy Greensboro hill on the apply named Breezy Avenue.  Along my drive I see many signs of my summer to be spent at Smirkus Camp: the green mountains of my home state, the lakes and ponds that dot the valleys, the occasional kid running around in their front yard.  All signs point to a good summer.

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I see a sign that says Summer Camp Area, as if the highway itself is rooting for this impossible dream of mine and the impossible dream of Smirkus to happen.  And every time I see something Smirkus I am reminded of the magic impossibility of it all.  In a rational, realistic world there would be no way that a circus could pitch its tents in the unpredictable Vermont weather, travel across  New England roads, and draw talented youth from all over the world to their canvas home.  And yet, here they are today.

I pull into the camp driveway and take it all in.  I see juggling clubs resting on the gravel roads like flowers poking through cement, and markers for the tents soon to be raised.  I am not in a rational, realistic world, I’ve finally run away with the circus.  The impossible dream of my five year old self, a dream that I too would run away to Smirkus has finally happened.  And it’s looking at the Smirkus Camp sign I realize that the magic that has made this impossibility a reality is not of some olden mystic circus spell, but it’s love.  The love that brings skilled people from all areas and disciplines to work days, nights, and weekends to make this dream a reality for the campers and for people like me who have felt the Smirkus magic over the years.

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I begin to walk around the camp when I see the best sign of all, it’s not big or prestigious but a little whiteboard message that says, “Welcome home.” And I am.

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Signing off,

-Aaron

Posted in Smirkus Camp