Yesterday was the last day of preparations for today’s opening. Down the driveway from where the troupers tumbled and sprang through a full dress rehearsal under the chapiteau (French for “Big Top” and a word adopted by circuses worldwide), I busied myself at the computer keyboard sitting at a long wooden table in what is the upstairs bedroom of a farmhouse now converted into an office. This is the nerve center of Circus Smirkus. It is important to clarify that this is not where the magic happens – that’s in the ring, under the tent – but the red farmhouse and barn do play a different role, one crucial for the success of the tour. Up here is where Music composer Tristan Moore stays awake at all hours of the night composing and editing. Up here is where phones ring with the requests and concerns of circus-goers and distinguished members of the press. Discussions regarding choreography, troupe unity and group dynamics last well into the night. Call it an office, but a circus by nature requires us to throw any preconceived notions of “typical” or “normal” out the proverbial window.
The place certainly feels like home and for some that feeling is more tangible. Music composer Tristan Moore takes regular naps on the couches when recovering from his late nights of composing and editing. Producer and Executive Director Ed LeClair spends days at a time on the third floor, which has been converted into a cozy apartment. Downstairs, there is a kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink and full bathrooms in which to shower. It feels like home, and therefore it is.
Yesterday after lunch, I joined the rest of the staff in the upper loft of the barn for a pre-jump meeting. A “jump,” as I’ve learned, is the process of packing up the whole show and moving as a caravan to the next site. Such a movement takes a massive amount of coordination, organization and levelheaded thinking. Yet the entire staff as well as the troupe is ready, willing, and totally capable. At our meeting, we sat around on the dusty, rough-sawn floors on mats, folding chairs and barrels while Ed and Operations Director Judy Gaeth described the packing up and moving out process. We all ate lunch, sweated in the heat, and listened.
In the afternoon, the troupe ran through the first and second acts with the normal fifteen minutes allocated for intermission. From what I could tell, it was flawless and I sat on the ground at the edge of the ring with the camera in hand and gaped like an awe-struck-idiot. I took over 150 pictures over the course of an hour and a half. I learned later that the directors didn’t think it was “flawless.” But they are artists. I’m a “first of May” (circus language for a worker in his first season). To me, it was amazing.
In a previous post, I referred to this circus as an organism. In the next 24 hours I will see how this community uproots itself and converts that effortless energy to a more transient life style as we leave the creature comforts for a life on the road, swapping bathrooms for port-o-lets and wi-fi for spotty (at best) Internet access.
More to come.
Evan Johnson, Communications Intern