During our shows the Big Top becomes the center of the Smirkus universe. People are constantly coming and going. Staff and crew pop in and out, catching acts as they are able. Audience members cart off fussy babies, or those in need of a diaper change. If I’m not running around taking pictures, I go and draft the day’s thoughts in shorthand under the dining tent where there is always shade and coffee. While the shade is always welcome, the coffee is deeply troubling, considering my caffeine dependency. The Essex Fairgrounds, where Smirkus performed six shows from Thursday through Saturday (yesterday) is a massive wide-open space with strips of pavement long enough to comfortably land a small plane. The tent looked towards the grandstand and further grounds beyond it. It is a good place to write and the sunsets over the fairgrounds were quite beautiful.
While I sit and confront writer’s block, troupers occasionally venture over and give me updates as to how the show is going before they grab a granola bar and head back to the backstage tent where they await their next cue. The music from composer and keyboardist Tristan Moore and percussionist Parker Bert radiates from the Big Top. Their volume when they play live is louder than when they played the recorded tracks during rehearsals in Greensboro. Naturally, the audience cheers and I can tell by the tone and duration of the applause if and when the performers have just accomplished one of their more difficult feats. You could set your watch by these moments as they are executed with such precision. Timing is everything and as I’ve learned, this maxim applies to everything in a circus from clowning to single point trapeze to prepping merchandise at the concessions tent before the show.
Immediately following the noon show yesterday, a meet-and-greet was arranged for the audience. When the cheering died down, the troupers dispersed to the ring curb to swap high-fives and hugs with the little kids, who sit clustered on rugs by the ring during shows. These are our youngest, but also our most passionate fans. The kids were amazed as they were each personally invited to cross into the ring and meet and get autographs from George Washington, Elvis, Louis XIV, a very cuddly caveman, as well as assorted cowboys and Vikings. To the kids, the troupers were rock stars and for these heroes to extend a friendly hello, sign a program, and maybe even pose for a picture, was not only a gesture of humility, but also an encouraging signal telegraphing the message that “you can do this too.” Someday – given discipline, practice, and dedication – some of these children will be exactly where the troupers are now.
Last night was different. As soon as the audience began filing out, tent crew had already started the disassembly process. Smirkus was on the move again; pulling up the stakes and moving on. By the time this is posted, I – along with the rest of the crew – will be hitting the road for the three-hour journey to Saratoga Springs. See you there.
Evan Johnson, Communications Intern