Through the Lens: A Camper’s Perspective

“This is my second year at Smirkus Camp and I came back because everyone was so welcoming,” Jeremy Mezoff, a Session 4 camper explains. Jeremy is an avid photographer who brought his polaroid camera to Smirkus Camp to capture his own perspective on camp life . He’s the face behind this beautiful shot, “Home <3,” which was recently featured on our Instagram.

Jeremy’s interest in photography began several years ago when a friend let him borrow a Canon camera. Jeremy’s Smirkus Camp photography captures individuals as part of larger landscapes and his photos share emotional moments through body language. By not focusing on specific facial expressions in his photos, the viewer is able to transport themselves into the moment of the photo and we feel like we were there, watching the scene unfold before us.

Stilt walking outside for the first time at Smirkus Camp!

Jeremy says “This is me and my best friend Dillon. We were the first people to walk outside on stilts on the new campus, so we captured the moment with a polaroid.”

I asked Jeremy about how being a part of Smirkus Camp affects him throughout the year. He told me that, “Here everyone is so diverse… at school there are certain groups that everyone falls into but here… you learn how to accept and learn about different people’s lives from all over… you learn from here that everyone is totally different.”

Jeremy Mezoff shares his Smirkus Camp collection of polaroid photography.

The sunset over Smirkus Camp.

The sunset over Smirkus Camp.

Practicing the tight wire overlooking the hills of the NEK.

Practicing the tight wire overlooking the hills of the NEK.

During his time at camp, Jeremy has been focusing on wire walking and silks. Last Thursday “… was the day I could finally walk the wire by myself.” Congrats, Jeremy!

Jeremy with twin counselors Abbey and Lucy on beach day.

Jeremy with twin counselors Abbey and Lucy on beach day.

“Everyone is convinced that they are my older sisters,” says Jeremy. Smirkus Camp fosters more than summer friendships, we become a family here at Breezy Avenue.

Unicycling outside of Mamma Mia.

Unicycling outside of Mamma Mia.

The Crystal Lake Landscape

The Crystal Lake Landscape

A photograph of Crystal Lake Beach, taken on Smirkus Camp Beach Day field trip.

A photograph of Crystal Lake Beach, taken on Smirkus Camp Beach Day field trip.

When asked about why he decided to return to Smirkus Camp this year, Jeremy said simply, “It was the greatest two weeks of my life.”

Thank you for sharing your Smirkus Camp perspective with us, Jeremy!

All the best,

Hannah

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

  • Ansel Adams
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Joy

Greeting Smirkus Family and Friends,

From the beautiful beaches of Sandwich, Mass., to the bustling sidewalks of Waltham, we have just landed in Northampton. We have 40 shows under our belt and it is that time in the tour where we go from slow-mo to hyper drive. In Sandwich we welcomed two coaches from pre-tour, Hula-hoop Coach Timea Zimmerman and Clowning Coach Jay Stewart with warm reunions and lots of laughter. In addition, we had a bevy of friends plus current and former Trouper parent volunteers to help us out in the tent. So I would like to take this time to thank Leslie Carleton, Dylan Gundlach, Malka Benjamin, Elizabeth Stubbs and Annie Stubbs, Debbie Landa, Maureen Devlin, Debbie Stein-Sharpe, Beth Ryan and Jenn O’Flaherty for all of their hard work and dedication, we couldn’t do it without you!

Hula Hooping Coach Timea Zimmerman giving a standing ovation at the end of the act she choreographed for the 2015 Bon Appetit Tour.

Hula Hooping Coach Timea Zimmerman giving a standing ovation at the end of the act she choreographed for the 2015 Bon Appetit Tour.

Hula Hooping Coach Timea Zimmerman with the 2015 Smirkus Hula Hoopers after the show.

Hula Hooping Coach Timea Zimmerman with the 2015 Smirkus Hula Hoopers after the show.

In Waltham, we have also had a bustling tent filled with many of our wonderful board members, friends, past Troupers and honored guests.  Friday, we honored the tradition of blessing our tent with Father Jerry Hogan. Father Jerry is the official national circus chaplain and has blessed tents, baptized babies and ministered to the circus since 1992 and we were “blessed” to be able to host him in our Big Top. We even have one of the many children he has baptized on staff with us! Tent crew member and roustabout Robert Cipriano was baptized by Father Jerry in 1992 (one of his first!) at a Ringling Bros. show in New York City.

Father Jerry leads the Troupers in a traditional ecumenical circus prayer.

Father Jerry leads the Troupers in a traditional ecumenical circus prayer.

Father Jerry blessing the tent.

Father Jerry blessing the tent.

Father Jerry with tent crew member Robert Cipriano, one of the first baptisms he performed as a circus chaplain.

Father Jerry with tent crew member Robert Cipriano, one of the first baptisms he performed as a circus chaplain.

We also had the Ring Master of the Big Apple Circus, John Kennedy Kane, attend the tent blessing and grace our ring with words of wisdom.  He spoke of his journey to becoming a ringmaster through clowning and fire eating and gave sage advice to those who wanted to make a career out of circus.

Big Apple Circus Ring Master John Kennedy Kane speaking to the Troupers.

Big Apple Circus Ring Master John Kennedy Kane speaking to the Troupers.

Finally, we had a full house of board members volunteering and in attendance! Circus Smirkus Board President Michele Levy attended or volunteered at all six of our Waltham shows. Michele shares her enthusiasm for Smirkus with husband and Chef du Smirk, Andrew Levy, who keeps all of us fed well and happy, along with son Chase who is currently attending Smirkus Camp in Greensboro, VT. We were also lucky enough to have former president and current Vice President of our Board of Directors, Miriam Rosenblum and husband, Sheldon Benjamin came as volunteers and attendees, as well as their son and former Trouper, Rafi and daughter Malka Benjamin who helped take tickets. Smirkus Secretary Neil Saunders, Treasurer Jane Culbert and Board members Pamela Lodish and Fred Nanni assisted with parking cars, ticket taking and ushering. We also had board members Ben Winship, Susan Norvich, Josh Aviner and Dick Plotz in attendance, Dick hasn’t missed a season since 1992 and is a former Trouper parent.

Artistic Director Troy Wunderle performing his bubble act in Waltham, Mass.

Artistic Director Troy Wunderle performing his bubble act in Waltham, Mass.

Last, but certainly not least we had a great turnout of parent and family volunteers and attendees! So another thank you to the Biedrzycki family, Ryan-O’Flaherty family, Eric Schondorf and Anne-Marie Wood, the Stein-Sharpe family, the Saunders family, the Norden family and the Kaufman clan for pitching in and thanks to the Landa family and Devlin-Zuckerman family too!

The lot at the Gore Place in Waltham, Mass.

The lot at the Gore Place in Waltham, Mass.

‘til next time,

Angelia

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

  • Christopher McCandless
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The Talent Show, Beach Day and a Visit from Rob!

Hello Smirkus Family!

Here’s an update about the latest Smirkus Camp happenings!

You would think that at a circus camp’s talent show our campers would be inclined to perform their latest circus skills, show off some hand balancing, their juggling routine, maybe a few magic tricks or even a little hula hooping (at least, that’s what I did for every talent show I’ve ever been in)!

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Passionate rap performance!

Our talent show is a little different…we want to see the other skills these campers have! So, for this talent show, circus skills are not allowed (we’ll save those for the end-of-session showcase!) Smirkus Campers are multi-talented and fearless in the spotlight. At the talent show we enjoyed singing duets, double-jointed madness, interpretive dance routines, guitar solos, and an entire camp sing-along to the ukelele version of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid! We love seeing all the things kids love to do besides circus!

Below are some of my favorite shots from the evening!

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Finger flexibility!

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A goofy synchronized dance!

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Dramatic interpretative dance

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Beautiful ukulele playing!

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Singing a duet.

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We have a lot of very musical campers this session.

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A duet from the musical “Wicked”

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One of our CITs shared his original poetry with us.

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In front of a live studio audience, an intense game of Connect 4 decided the ultimate winner.

Showing off shoulder flexibility at the talent show!

Showing off shoulder flexibility at the talent show!

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And more crazy shoulder flexibility!

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Crystal Lake Beach Day!

Saturday was also declared a Circus-Free Day in order to give campers a day to sleep in, take a break from training, rest their muscles, and enjoy a wonderful day at Crystal Lake beach, just up the road in Barton, VT!

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Campers spent the day getting henna tattoos, swimming, guitar playing, reading and playing Elimination.

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Jumping in front of Crystal Lake!

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Smirkus!

The evening ended with a visit from Smirkus Founder Rob Mermin who shared with us one of his favorite movies, “The Circus” starring Charlie Chaplin, whose physicality and clowning style continues to inspire performers around the world.

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As week 2 of Session IV begins, campers are switching gears to focus on their acts for the final show. Stay tuned for more!

All the best,
Hannah

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Circus Past, Present and Future

Greeting Smirkus Family,

Circus Past, Present and Future was the theme for the 2015 Worldwide Circus Summit, which I had the privilege of attending last weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was an incredible experience to be a part of Circus Smirkus, running our booth next to the Big Apple Circus and Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey Circus, and watching the showcase of talented circus acts from around the world! Our Smirkos Liam and Sawyer performed their jaw-dropping duo-diabolo act and Troy Wunderle and his daughters, Emily and Ariana, both Big Top Tour Troupers, showcased their wonderful clowning act.

Circus Smirkus has been offering circus opportunities to youth for over 25 years and we’re so happy to be a contributor to the growing world of circus arts. Circus has a rich past the world over, is growing in popularity today with talented and innovative performers, and we are confident in how circus will continue to evolve as an enriching part of many people’s lives in the future! Smirkus Camp is a part of that mission by bringing the opportunity to learn circus arts to kids of all skill levels and the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour provides professional level performance experience while spreading the magic of circus to all ages!

Home at Smirkus Camp

Home at Smirkus Camp

Check out this video from the Summit with highlights from Circus Smirkus performances!

 

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I had to share this amazing praise we received from renowned clown and star of the Big Apple Circus, Barry Lubin. Many audiences know Barry as the lovable “Grandma.”

Barry AKA Grandma

Barry AKA Grandma

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Grandma performing in the Big Apple Circus

We’ll take him any way we can get him, and we’re proud to know him as a friend. So, what does Barry Lubin think of Smirkus? With immense gratitude – we’ll let him speak for himself:

“This just in: GO SEE CIRCUS SMIRKUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The show is great, the acts are great, the costuming and original music is great, but the obvious love inside and outside the ring for the art of circus and clowning is unparalleled. This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the finest circuses in the world. Just in case you missed it, GO SEE CIRCUS SMIRKUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Barry recognizes a spirit and a passion that is infused into every aspect of Circus Smirkus! A clown car full of thank yous to Barry for his wonderful words!

Check out the Big Top Tour coming to a city near you this summer! To read more about Big Top Tour adventures, check out the Tour blog.

Tonight at Smirkus Camp is the Camper Talent Show so be sure to check the Flickr page for photos of the performances!

All the best,
Hannah

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Distant

Dear Smirkus Friends and Family,

According to Albert Einstein, the Theory of Relativity states, time dilation is a difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers either moving relative to each other or differently situated from a gravitational mass or masses. I tell you this because it is similar to how time passes here on tour, we are moving at this slowed down light speed where days feel like weeks and so much occurs, that even though we have been on tour only a month, it has felt like a year. I say this with fondness and fervor for this experience is a life changing one, it’s as if my life before Smirkus is a distant memory, where time was moving so slowly relative to now. That being said, I am going to talk about our last two sites, Keene, NH and South Windsor, CT.

The two best dressed ladies from the Keene, NH shows!

The two best dressed ladies from the Keene, NH shows!

First, I want to remember Keene, NH. In the second site of our New Hampshire leg we had four great shows at the Cheshire Fairgrounds. We were welcomed by the community with open arms and also had many parent volunteers and family friends in attendance. With all of our local ties to the community in Artistic Director Troy Wunderle, Circus Smirkus Assistant Operations Director Sara Wunderle and Troupers Emily Wunderle, Ariana Wunderle, Ben Kaufman, Dylan Biedrzycki it was no wonder we had such a family affair.  A special thanks to Penny and Jeff Kaufman, the Biedrzycki family and the Zweir clan for volunteering on show days!  In more Keene news we had Creative Director Jesse Dryden and wife/Smirkus Coach Alyson Funk  in the tent, thank you guys so much for coming down to see the show down the road!

The Zweir clan at a Keene show.

The Zweir clan at a Keene show.

Creative Director Jesse Dryden and Artistic Director Troy Wunderle catching up at a Keene show.

Creative Director Jesse Dryden and Artistic Director Troy Wunderle catching up at a Keene show.

Coach Alyson Funk and her adorable niece at a Keene show.

Coach Alyson Funk and her adorable niece at a Keene show.

Penny and Jeff Kaufman at a Keene show.

Penny and Jeff Kaufman at a Keene show.

Next, we traveled to South Windsor, CT, which was a bit of a homecoming since the Big Top Tour has not been through CT in eight years, but thanks to our presenters, The Silk City Chorus, we were able to grace the field at the South Windsor High school. We were met with such excitement and warmth from the community it was notable to everyone in the crew. The site also allowed us to be involved in the Worldwide Circus Summit, an event years in the making that so graciously coordinated with us to fit into our tour schedule.

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The Summit was a fantastic event for the Troupers, which allowed them to meet and interact with circus pioneers, legends, fans and working professionals. Not to mention, we had several Troupers, Emily Wunderle, Ariana Wunderle, Wesley Williams, Liam Gundlach and Sawyer Oubre perform on the same stage as circus legends.

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In addition, with an event so high-profile close to our tent site the Big Top was bursting at the seams with honored guests such as Co-Founder of Big Apple Circus, Paul Binder, Barry Lubin, better known as Grandma Clown, Ruth Chaddock, Peggy Williams, Barbara Miller Byrd, Jim Royal, Chuck Burns, Mark Gindick, Dick and Tiffany Riley, Adam Kuchler, LaVahn Hoh, Don Covington, Lane Talburt, Gary Payne, Jessica Hentoff, Mary Kelly Ravel, Karen Bell, a slew of Ringling Clown College Grads, and our very own Rick Davis and his wife Jackie Davis.

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We were also able to pay tribute to Rick, who has given so much to Circus Smirkus and the circus world, with laughter, tears and, of course, pies. To read a more detailed account of this special and touching moment click here.

Rick and Jackie Davis surrounded by Smirkus and Ringling family.

Rick and Jackie Davis surrounded by Smirkus and Ringling family.

Well, we’re finishing up in Sandwich, MA and to harken back to a previous tour, we continuing with our topsy turvy time traveling show!

‘till next time,

Angelia

If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.

  • Confucius
Posted in Big Top Tour | 3 Comments

We LIVE Circus!

Hello Smirkus Family!

Smiles even while doing superman in aerials!

Smiles even while doing superman in aerials!

Yesterday was Registration Day and with many happy screams and hugs from friends who haven’t seen each other in a year and are excited to be back at Smirkus Camp, Session IV officially began!

Getting acquainted with juggling clubs on Registration Day!

Getting acquainted with juggling clubs on Registration Day!

After the counselor rule skit, get-to-know-you games, and dinner, campers settled in for the night accompanied by sounds of a distant thunderstorm. As we say, if there isn’t mud, it’s not circus! Luckily the sun has been shining bright today and campers are getting acclimated to camp and going through rotations and working with coaches to assess their interests and skill levels.

Heading into Natalie on the first day of Session IV!

Heading into Natalie on the first day of Session IV!

Session IV campers are ready to show their stuff and I’m already so impressed with the level of circus skills these kids have! With pointed toes and eager spirits, these kids have tumbled, somersaulted, cartwheeled and stretched their way through the morning. Check out a few of my favorite shots from today and don’t forget to take a peek at the Flickr account for many more photos!

Silks practice in Mamma Mia!

Silks practice in Mamma Mia!

Having fun and working hard in Mamma Mia!

Having fun and working hard in Mamma Mia!

Upside down smiles at Smirkus Camp!

Upside down smiles at Smirkus Camp!

Learning acro partner balancing skills in Natalie!

Learning acro partner balancing skills in Natalie!

Training straddles and splits during aerial practice in Mamma Mia!

Training straddles and splits during aerial practice in Mamma Mia!

The mantra for this session is “WE LIVE CIRCUS!” Campers and staff shout this in unison every morning before heading off to rotations. As Danny Frank said today, we don’t just DO circus, we LIVE it. It’s the truth – here at Smirkus Camp we live and breathe and think and feel all things circus. We’re a family and for the next two weeks, we are here together to create that Smirkus magic for campers.

A little hand balancing in aerial class!

A little hand balancing in aerial class!

Ta-da! Partner acro in Natalie!

Ta-da! Partner acro in Natalie!

Campers get refreshed with forward roll techniques on the first day of camp.

Campers get refreshed with forward roll techniques on the first day of camp.

Happy Birthday to the Birthday Girl!

Happy Birthday to the Birthday Girl!

Upside down in Mamma Mia!

Upside down in Mamma Mia!

"Here you are! Are you here?" This sign reminds campers to be present, focused, and living every Smirkus Camp moment to its fullest!

“Here you are! Are you here?” This sign reminds campers to be present, focused, and living every Smirkus Camp moment to its fullest!

Please continue to check the blog and Flickr account for a glimpse into that magic!

All the best,
Hannah

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Honoring Rick Davis

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

Yesterday afternoon, in the hot July sun, under our beautiful blue Big Top, we honored a circus great and a man entrenched in the history of Smirkus, Rick Davis. 

Everyone involved to make Rick Davis' tribute possible.

Everyone involved to make Rick Davis’ tribute possible.

A former Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey clown, he was also the co-director of the Silver Lining Circus Camp, a developmental circus arts program and Circus Learning, an in-school and after-school program that teaches learning skills and personal values through circus arts. 

A former Ringling clown, Rick has been a pillar in the circus community for over 40 years.

A former Ringling clown, Rick has been a pillar in the circus community for over 40 years.

So, when it came time for Circus Smirkus to choose a director for our school residency program it was given he would be our choice. His involvement in teaching circus arts to children for the past 40 years made him the perfect candidate for the job and his magical spirit and enthusiasm for circus and empowering youth made him a perfect fit for Smirkus. Not to mention, the laundry list of Smirkos that has graced our ring under his tutelage.

The Silk City Chorus singing This is the Moment in tribute to Rick

The Silk City Chorus singing This is the Moment in tribute to Rick

Last year, Rick was the victim of a hit and run accident and miraculously, only needed a hip replacement. Weeks later a tumor was discovered in his brain, and since then he has been battling cancer with a spirit unique to Rick. I won’t lie, tears filled my eyes the first time I heard this devastating tale even though I had never met Rick or his wonderful wife, Jackie Davis.

Rick Davis modeling a Smirkus tee.

Rick Davis modeling a Smirkus tee.

However, yesterday was not about mourning tribulation, but a celebration of life, love and laughter. At the end of our matinee the entire Circus Smirkus cast and crew along with the help of a slew of Ringling Clowns, our South Windsor, CT, sponsors the Silk City Chorus, Circus Smirkus Executive Director Ed Leclair and Rick’s wife, Jackie and daughter Ellie (Erin, Rick’s other daughter, couldn’t make it but was there in spirit) gave a beautiful tribute to a man who has brought so much joy into the world and touched so many hearts.

Rick throws the first pie in a 21 pie salute, aptly in our Artistic Director and dear friend of the family, Troy Wunderle.

Rick throws the first pie in a 21 pie salute, aptly in our Artistic Director and dear friend of the family, Troy Wunderle.

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Epic pie fight in honor of Rick Davis

Epic pie fight in honor of Rick Davis

Rick and Jackie, post pie fight.

Rick and Jackie, post pie fight.

We began with the Silk City Chorus singing acapella creating a touching moment that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house and then in true circus fashion an epic pie fight ensued with Rick delivering the first pie into Circus Smirkus Artistic Director, Troy Wunderle’s face. Mere words cannot express this moment and I apologize because I cannot do it justice or put into words how it felt to be a part of something so special or an organization that cares so dearly for its members. But, if you know Rick and Jackie, and I am sure many of you reading this blog do, you know the kindness in their eyes and whimsy in their spirits are touching enough, just multiple that by 1 million.

Rick and Jackie Davis surrounded by Smirkus and Ringling family.

Rick and Jackie Davis surrounded by Smirkus and Ringling family.

’till next time,

Angelia

This is the moment,

This is the day,

When I send all of my doubts and demons,

On their way,

Every endeavor,

I have made ever

Is coming into play,

Is here and now today,

 – This is the Moment (Sung by the Silk City Chorus at Rick’s Tribute)

 

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