Troy Wunderle is coming to get you.
“The Pie” is an essential component of any successful clown act. Before I joined Smirkus, I thought that the pies clowns used were made of whipped cream. This is not true, as whipped cream would damage fragile costumes. Shaving cream is the favored material. When applied liberally to a paper plate it becomes the key ingredient for a good time. Give Artistic Director Troy Wunderle one or even two pies and he’s unstoppable. He will find you and when he does you’re getting a face full of Barbisol.
I have witnessed six “pie-ings” over the course of this summer; all were on birthdays, as dictated by Smirkus tradition. A circus lot is a risky place on your birthday. It’s not a question of if, but when the pies are coming. The first was in Greensboro during training. Former trouper Al Mireault got a Smirkus-style birthday greeting from current trouper Magnus Giaever. Zoe Ruth Sisson Silberblatt, also a visiting former trouper, got pied, well, just because. Sarah Tiffin’s birthday was in Manchester, VT and at the end of the evening show, Troy invited her in front of the audience. While they serenaded her with “Happy Birthday” counselors Danielle, Colin, and Willow snuck in from behind the gathered troupers, pies in hand. She didn’t stand a chance. The audience roared in laughter and before she wiped her face with the towel, she managed to get Willow back with the leftovers.
The pie delivery systems range from covert (Troy conceals the pie under his plate and strikes his victim while talking with them in line to wash dishes) to elaborate (trouper Sellam “Whistle” Cottle El Ouahabi literally had a trash can full of shaving cream dumped on him in his first year). On Olivia Saunders’ birthday, I introduced a group of photographers to the troupers who were visiting to take professional shots during the show. I explained that in addition to their extensive experience shooting “weddings and funerals” (my exact words), they also enjoyed photographing birthdays. They had Olivia pose in front of the ring and smile while Troy and the counselors snuck up again. My camera captured every second. Additional troupers that have been pied this tour include Brin Schoellkopf, Remi Sanchez, and Ezra Weill.
The final pie-ing I have seen was my own on my 22nd birthday while we were in Richmond, RI. We had just finished our last show and we were nearing the end of teardown and the prop truck was almost fully packed. I was standing near the truck’s extending ramp when head counselor Willow Yonika started telling me the details for the next day’s roadtrip north to Brattleboro, Vermont. The ruse kept me distracted and prevented from moving; making me a perfect target. Sure enough, I didn’t see it coming and to this day, I don’t know who hit me with the two pies that followed. The shaving cream was everywhere; in my ears and nose and over my eyes and mouth. It was totally enveloping; I could not see, breath (don’t inhale shaving cream), or hear. The only thing I could compare it to is being hit in the face with a great-smelling cloud. Through the foam, I could hear 29 troupers cheering and laughing and I thought to myself: “Clearly, I work at a circus…”
Evan Johnson, Communications Intern