Yesterday, the conversation at lunch (among some of us, anyway) was about changes at Smirkus through the years. From a two week “circus camp” we’ve grown into a year-round organization with a full-time staff of ten and a seasonal staff of at least 100. From a tiny production featuring a handful of Vermont kids we’ve morphed into a training ground for talented youth from around the nation and the world (the current troupe features kids from 14 states (including Vermont), plus New Zealand).
Back in 1987, the year Rob Mermin founded Smirkus, the troupe was comprised of 15 Vermonters – four girls and 11 boys – ages 10 to 15. Their four coaches also performed in the show, doing fire-eating and trapeze acts. Animal acts included Rob’s dog, Rufus, a llama in a camel costume (fake hump), a llama without a hump, and a boa constrictor on a high wire. The “tour” lasted six days, and consisted of 10 shows – all of them in the Northeast Kingdom. This year, our troupers will tour five states and perform nearly 70 shows. Minus the late lamented Rufus, the llamas, and the snake.
But for all the growth and all the changes something essential has survived. Troupers today sign the contract that troupers have been signing since 1987, one in which they pledge to make mistakes in the ring “grandly” and not to be ashamed of them, to work with adults as partners, and to “have fun, learn something new every day” and “grow a little older and a little bolder.” The spirit of Smirkus has survived, and with it, the magic. It transforms mere children into astonishing performers, and transforms the audience into participants in a joyful and exuberant endeavor.
Lunch was over. The conversation ended. We all got up and trudged to the dishwashing station. Some things never change.
And now for something completely different. A cool video of juggling coach Tyler Parks.
Opening shows on Sunday, July 3! See you at the circus!