Freshness Guaranteed

We are mid way through the summer now with Session III!  It’s been a blast of a week here in Greensboro with a full slate of campers coming in to experience their time in the magic of Smirkus.  From climbing to the cupola of Mamma Mia to rolling on the floor of Natalie, and it almost goes without saying, rocking some serious new-wave fashions on the Gravel Carpet to Dinner.  Camp is really getting into its groove as we hurdle forward through the summer.

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Some may wonder how as a staff we keep things fresh and exciting into our third time around, naturally everyone has their own ways.  Of course the campers are pretty much new each session but there have also been some rotation in the staff.  From our Nurses: Alice (our long term nurse), Julia (Session I) and now Sequana (Session III).  Each in their way has helped our campers through the occasional soreness that comes with long days of circus training.

Also changing in our staff line-up is our Counselors in Training!  We have had a bunch of CITs over the sessions here this summer, all under the impeccable leadership of one of our Assistant Camp Directors, Allie Browne.  Allie has revamped the CIT program this year to help these young adults become not only better counselors but better leaders in other parts of their lives. And it has really shown!  As part of this new program the CITs each leave a project behind at camp that will enhance the experience for the new generation of campers. The picnic table painting and common room design pictured below were created by CITs!

Though our routine doesn’t change at camp very much the landscape of our campers and even our staff does.  We said our goodbyes to Aerial Coach Liza this week but we will be welcoming some new coaches for Session IV soon.  So things stay pretty fresh over the summer (even if some of the people don’t always smell that way at the end of a day of training.)

Your Fresh Prince of Breezy Ave,

-Aaron

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Reconciling Childhood

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

We’ve been enjoying our brief vacation in the Cape and are ready to move on to Waltham today. While we’re setting up here, I’ll tell you a funny story.

A little girl and her mom came up to me after a show the other day looking very nervous. Her mom however was very excited. “Can you tell me- is your House Manager… is that Joy?”

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Joy from a recent blog post with her plants.

Our House Manager is in fact Joy and I told them so. “I told her!” she said excitedly, “We’ve seen Circus Dreams so many times. It’s one of her favorites!”

Circus Dreams, as many of you know, is a documentary by Signe Taylor that was done of Smirkus’ 2006 season when Smirkus was in slightly dire straits and it’s triumphant return.

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Circus Dreams (2011)

“I’m sure she’d sign something for you if you’d ask,” was what I said in response and they hurried off toward her. When I spoke with Joy about it later, she said, rather red-faced, that they had indeed gotten an autograph from her.

“I’m never sure how to react to that sort of thing,” she said, “[Her and production manager Josh Shack] did a residency a few months ago and all the kids had watched the movie and recognized me.

It reminded me of when I was younger and watched my older sister perform in plays at her high school. The kids in the shows look to me to be impossibly talented and older than myself. Looking back, I think that’s when I knew I wanted to work in the arts.

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I’m privileged to work for an incredibly professional show full of talented young performers. It’s easy to forget that these kids are still learning to be performers and how to handle the adulation of little kids who see them as celebrities.

We’re setting up in Waltham right now where we’ll be for a seven show run until July 25th. We’re about halfway through our tour now and, for me at least, it’s speeding by.

Take care,

Jane

 

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Happy Campers All Around

It’s a trope, but we’ve got happy campers! When we last saw our heroes they were eagerly anticipating the joys of the second week of camp, and they got that in spades!  We had a glorious chill day and a staff show bursting with talent.  Not to mention a visit from our founder and new best friend, Rob Mermin.  And of course, some breathtaking fashions on the gravel carpet for dinner dress-ups.

It’s not been all silliness though, the campers buckled down and honed some seriously cool acts for the show.  Everything from your traditional ball juggling acts to some crazy dance globe and funky clown bits.  From the goofy to the dramatic to the so-dramatic-it’s-goofy, This. Show. Has. Everything.

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It’s gonna be tough to say goodbye to some of these goof-balls and, I think, hard for some of them to say goodbye to their friends they made here.  But as we saw during registration many of these campers keep coming back and picking up old friendships without missing a beat every year, so I’ve got a feeling these campers will stay happy, even if it gets a little weepy tonight.

Speaking of happy, we shot a one take music video this week we like to call “Happy Campers.”  It was an absolute joy to make, and all the campers got really into it, you can watch it here.

And as always you can re-watch this session’s CampChat story here. 

Your happy blogger

-Aaron

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Circus Summer Fun

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

It is a hot day here for our first show in Northampton, MA. We’ve had a series of two day stops on tour so our staff and Troupers are looking forward to a leisurely three day, five show stop here. The kids hung out Trouper Cameron Zweir’s house today where they swam, watched movies, and partook of brownie Sundays, generally making everyone here on lot setting up extremely jealous.

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With the exception of the ladies on staff who had Ladies Night at the batting cages and minnie golf the night before. 

We’ve got a busy few days coming up though. We have a ton of different press engagements coming to the show today, which will be keeping the Troupers, staff, and myself busy.

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Head counselor Wendy and her husband Nick, our unicycle coach practicing in our lot.  

We also had a live-stream of one our acts on facebook the other day. Troupers Cameron Zweir and Ripley Burns performed their “hot air balloon” cradle act. The act is set up in such a way so that the top of the tent gives the appearance of being the balloon and the cradle the basket. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here on our facebook. The grace and strength combined in the act is breathtaking.

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Cam and Ripley performing their cradle act.

 

Lots to look forward to the next few days. Follow us on facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and twitter for up to the minute updates on all things Smirkus.

Take care,

Jane

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Double the Session, Double the Fun

We are about halfway through with Session II and it’s been jam-packed with excitement already.

Last night we saw the 2016 Big Top Tour, Up, HUP and Away!, which was fun and exciting for lots of people: Counselors Lucy and Abby got to see their brother Ivan perform, Clown Coach Chase Culp (a former trooper 11-13) got to revisit old friends and personally I got to see the tour for the 16th year (in a row.)  Of course for all of us it was nice to see former campers performing their hearts out, and see present campers revel in the magic the circus arts they love.

Speaking of love, we have been loving Session II!  From the moment they arrived the campers were full of energy and eager to get into the swing of things here.  Most of our campers are returning in Session II which means lots of traditions of Smirkus camp have been met with eager anticipation: skill work, dress-ups, capture the flag, the camper talent show, excitement is at an all time high.

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But of course the best is yet to come with some big events like the staff show on their way, along with the Camper Showcase on the last day of the session.  As always, follow SmirkusCamp on Snapchat to keep up with our daily shenanigans.

-Aaron

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The Circus is Green and Growing

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

It has been a hot couple days here on tour. We made the jump from Hanover and are in Saratoga Springs, New York until Sunday. Our staff and Troupers have been keeping cool with ice backstage, swimming in the Connecticut River, and surprise popsicles from the counselors.

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Julie, one of our concessionaires making a fairy garden by the Connecticut River.

One of the most interesting parts about watching a show run for so long is watching it evolve as time goes on. Small changes are made based on how audiences react to humor, the timing of transitions, as well as the current needs and abilities of the performers at that site. One of our clown acts for example has been altered several times to perfect gags and timing. I won’t say anything else here, only that if you saw the show at it’s naissance and were considering going again, it is well worth it.

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Ariana (front) and Troy (back) Wunderle in the ring.

The kids are spending their jump day catching a dress rehearsal for Cirque Us! in Brattleboro. Cirque Us! was founded by a few of Smirkus alumni so it was a real treat for the kids. If you want to learn more about Cirque Us! or purchase tickets for their tour, you can visit their website here.

I wanted to share with you one of the quirkier aspects of living in a close-knit, mobile community such as the one our staff live in. Close quarters mean that ideas travel fast here. One such idea was to grow plants on the road.

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Our lighting technician, Lee Ann’s, plants.

By my count, seven of our staff are cultivating peppers, strawberries, succulents, and more, in addition to their other duties here at Smirkus. It’s both beautiful and endearing to see staff bring pots out of their bunks after a jump day to allow them sun and any rain that may pass by. It’s also a reminder that for the seven weeks of tour, our lot is home for our staff.

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Nikki, one of our Assistant Head Concessionaires said, “Last year I think it was just Joy (our House Manager) and maybe Siobhan (our Wardrobe Manager) who had plants. But many more people are doing it this year. I did it last year because it made me happy, having the plants with me.”

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Nikki watering her plants.

 

Nate, our backlot manager, has taken it another step and has a thriving vegetable garden with tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and more. I asked him where they live when we’re traveling, he said, “my bunk. I just make sure they’re secure.”

I haven’t attempted any sort of plant husbandry since I was 8 when my mom and I grew sunflowers in our backyard, but seeing the effect that it’s had on my temporary home, it’s certainly tempting.

Take care,

Jane

 

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Rope Climbing and Little Sugar

As I’m writing this, we’ve finished setting up in St. Johnsbury. We said goodbye to Essex Junction and a packed house on Thursday and we’re hoping to get more of the same here in St. Johnsbury. So much has happened in the last few days so I’ll try my best to get you caught up.

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Photo courtesy of Robert Sanson

We had Local ABC 22 and Fox 44 come to the lot early last Tuesday so we could be a part of their morning show. We introduced host Alaina Pinto to all things circus including clowning, juggling, and lyra (aerial hoop) work. She saw a preview of our penny-farthing and learned a bit about the rigging system for our aerialists and wire-walkers, which is quickly becoming my favorite thing to learn about as well (while we’re on the subject, here is a completely unrelated photo of me learning how to climb a rope ladder. There is a trick to it!).

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Just style and smile.

In case you missed it live cause you weren’t up early enough, here is a link to the morning show segment on the My Champlain Valley website. You will find some very cool circus content and Alaina is as charming on camera as she was in person.

Now for a really cute story! People often lose things under the bleachers when they’re at the circus and we try our best to get them back after the show, even if it seems like the Big Top eats them. However, we had a special guest return to the Big Top on Wednesday.

Tani Gonzalez wrote to us on our Facebook page to remind us of our joke show last year where her daughter, BG, lost her toy rabbit Little Sugar. As someone who was attached to their favorite stuffed animals far longer than I am comfortable admitting, I can understand how traumatizing that could have been. Imagine their surprise when they found out that Little Sugar had not only been located, but had been adopted into the Troupe! Apparently when Little Sugar was back home, she told her family all about her adventures at the circus. Mom and daughter then made the story into a book, illustrated by BG, and then bound. Tani said that she made a copy but BG and Little Sugar wanted Smirkus to have the original.

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The authoresses plus little brother.

It’s currently making the rounds with the Troupers who wanted to read it but it will eventually have a permanent home at the barn. Here is a link to Tani’s Facebook page comment, if you want to read what she said and see some pictures from the book. Thank you so much to the Gonzalez Family!

The tents are up and ready in St. Johnsbury so hurry up and come see us here, July 2nd at 1 & 6 PM and July 3rd at 12 & 5 PM!

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The view from up on that rope ladder taken by LeeAnn, our lighting technician.

 

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