It’s a few minutes before six – almost dinner time – and I’m sitting on a forest green picnic table, watching tent crew set up the Big Top and listening to the many dogs on tour running around and barking. I’m on a baseball field in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and the weather is so pleasant; warm enough to wear shorts but not too hot. I don’t think this is the life I would have pictured for myself upon graduating from college. But something I’ve realized is that perhaps the appeal of the circus is that it isn’t a life that many of us planned on having, but we all found our way here one way or another and – in many cases – ended up staying for year after year.
Saturday, June 29th, was the most exciting – and the most fun! – day we’ve had since I’ve been here… OPENING DAY for Oz Incorporated! The fog was thick over the mountains when we all woke up for breakfast at 7am as usual, but by the time the Troupers were getting started warming up and rehearsing, the sun was out and the smiles were bright. As I poured myself a cup of coffee and wandered over to a picnic table in the sun, Artistic Director Troy Wunderle wished me a happy show day!
But all was not done by breakfast; as the troupers rehearsed all morning, I took photographs, wrote a blog, checked the press schedule, and helped our house manager set up some signs for the seating inside the tent. There were a lot of little things that had to get done before we could open the Big Top flaps, and it’s crazy to think it’ll all be happening every day on tour! A lot has happened in just three weeks of rehearsals- even three days or three hours before the show.
The first show was at 2pm, and I greeted press before the show. The ticket booth opened an hour before, at 1, and as soon as it did over 700 people began lining up for tickets… people were there for the first show, and I heard many of them talking about how impressed they were with the performance and that they were surprised it was our opening.
Crowds gathered around the Big Top in clown noses, fairy wings and Smirkus t-shirts. At the evening show I thought, for a moment, that I was seeing double, but then I realized – it wasn’t Smirkus’s Dorothy but a little girl in the crowd who had dressed just for the show! Wearing a blue checkered dress and red ruby slippers, her hair was in braids; she was shy when Glinda (played by Trouper Sarah Tiffin) brought her into the ring for a moment of audience participation. It was a magical moment and it seemed that this was a dream come true for this little girl.
Show Days are long for every person on tour, but the smiles from the little kids who get a picture with a clown or an autograph from the Cowardly Lion, and the gasps of amazement from the crowd as the hand balancers balanced on one hand or the jugglers passed clubs back and forth makes it all worth it.
But of course, as soon as the second show finished we began tearing down the lot in preparation for the jump to St. Johnsbury, Vermont! After breakfast on Sunday, we got everything packed up and ready to go – after macaroni and cheese (yum!) for lunch, the Troupers headed to Montpelier for their day off, and the staff began making their way to St. J.
I navigated for our Rigger, Andrew Adams, who drove the tech truck, and as soon as we pulled out of Circus Road and began the 37-mile drive, it was official… we were on the road!
Smirkus performs four shows in St. Johnsbury, at 1pm and 6pm on Tuesday July 2nd and Wednesday July 3rd- will we be seeing you there? Make sure to pick up your tickets here!