On Thursday, there was a staff meeting at lunch, where the entire tour staff gathered in the studio over grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was the first time that we actually got to meet and be in one room with every person that’s going to be working on tour. Because the jobs are so varied- from Tent Crew, who set up the Big Top itself, to the Counselors, who make sure the Troupers are taken care of- we’re not always spending a lot of time together during the day aside from mealtimes. Yet as varied as these jobs are, every single one of them is important for making the show happen, and the magic of Smirkus is that everyone pitches in to help each other out. This year, Smirkus got a new Pie Car! The cooks are beyond excited about moving from the old tiny pie car where they magically churn out three meals a day, to this new better equipped and more spacious one. When the new Pie Car arrived, members of Tent Crew and Concessions ran to help the cooks clean and get the new kitchen set up.
Friday was spent doing a run-through and dress rehearsal of the show, but practicing their acts isn’t all that the troupers have to do in rehearsals. During the show, when they’re not performing the troupers are helping out in a number of ways- striking the wire, doing rigging for straps, and carrying props. It’s a lesson I’ve learned that everyone works hard, and the Smirkus work ethic extends beyond the performance and into the behind-the-scenes work that everyone has to do their part in order to get the show on the road. It always amazes me to see how much really has to be practiced- like who’s going to carry the juggling clubs or where the lights should be focused while the clowns are doing a funny gag. There is so much detail that goes into it, and while everyone works very hard, it really is a labor of love.
Seeing the Troupers outside of the ring- at meals, Council, or hanging out on the porch – gives me a very special view of who they are as people both in and out of character. They are kids – teenagers, most of them in middle school or high school- but they perform with the skill level and professionalism of adults.
The circus is special because of its’ juxtaposition of laughter (a clown gag that has everyone cracking up) and awe (a trapeze act that makes the audience gasp). Yet no matter how many times I see the Troupers rehearse, the magic is still there – laughter, I’ve come to realize, is its’ own kind of magic.
On Thursday afternoon, Trampoline and Chinese Pole Coach Fletcher performed his wire act for the troupers and staff, glittery costume and all!. I had seen Fletcher demonstrate skills for the troupers on the trampoline and Chinese Pole, but this was the first time we had all seen him perform on the wire. With backflips, jump-roping, and unicycling on the wire I was certainly impressed! After the performance he told the Troupers that the reason he was doing the act was to show them that “if you keep doing what you’re doing, and PUSH yourself, you’re going to be able to do what it is you want to do.” It was amazing to see his skill, and very encouraging for the Troupers – if they continued working hard and pushing themselves, one day they’ll reach that level of skill.
On Saturday, the Troupers had their first two triumphant shows in Greensboro! It was unbelievable to see them in front of an audience. Stay tuned for a blog post all about the incredible day and our first jump to St. Johnsbury!