What’s exciting about being on tour is that every site- and every town- is completely different. In Essex Junction, Vermont we were on a fair ground (the Champlain Valley Expo) and in Princeton, Massachusetts we were on a ski resort (Wachusett Mountain); in Brattleboro, Vermont we were on a farm. The scenery always changes and the surrounding towns all have unique things to offer.
Though some things are always different, some things are always the same. We have the same Big Top and the same bunk houses and the same Troupers and staff at each stop, and though parts of the show are constantly evolving and changing, the energy is always there and the smiles and laughter from the audience never ceases. After an early show in Princeton on Sunday morning, I heard one audience member say to another that the show was “phenomenal” and she would “absolutely” be coming back next year!
The circus arts are unique partially because of the way they combine tradition with innovation, and because no circus performer can perform on their own, there is a lot of collaboration involved. It’s evident here at Smirkus when Troupers will work together to practice acts and help each other perfect new moves on the wire or a new juggling pass.
But there is one time when the collaboration makes way for some competition… the Boss Clown Olympics! Every summer, the Smirkus clowns gather for a series of silly games and activities designed to help determine which clown will get the honored title of “Boss Clown.” Though points were awarded in the games, in the end the Boss Clown would be chosen by popular vote from the clowns themselves.
Smirkus clowns, Ashley Kim, Liam Gundlach, Sam Gurwitt, Sarah Tiffin, Chase Culp, and Sam Ferlo all competed in the Boss Clown Olympics. The games began with the clowns having one minute each to give a plea to the audience (which consisted of the rest of the Troupers and many of the staff) of why they should be chosen as Boss Clown. But this being Smirkus, everyone got pretty creative: Ashley’s plea was a haiku, and when it was Sam Gurwitt’s turn he decided to “take a serious turn” and do an interpretive dance. Chase took a very unique twist and told the audience “the reasons I should NOT be Boss Clown”, which included the fact that he is (in his own words) “a curmudgeonly old man” (though in reality, he’s only 18).
The plea was just the beginning of the competition – up next, the clowns drew names out of a bag and had to do their makeup as if they were the character whose name they had chosen. Making this even funnier was the fact that they only had two minutes to apply the makeup, and while they were doing this they answered rapid-fire circus trivia questions from Artistic Director, Troy Wunderle – such as naming professional clowns or listing tented circus shows.
Clowns are no strangers to acting out hilarious situations, and after getting made-up as another clown’s character, they participated in a game of charades, only this time… they had to act it out as if they were the character whose makeup they were wearing! Made up as the Cowardly Lion, Ashley had to act out “giving birth to a porcupine” and as Glinda the Good Witch, Liam fought a group of pirates.
It’s always nice cooling off during a hot day by getting wet, and the next event in the Boss Clown Olympics was just that. The clowns gathered together to answer Smirkus trivia, with the remaining Troupers and staff lined up across from them. As they worked together to answer questions like how long the current Big Top tent has been in use and naming girl clowns (Concessionaire Joy Powers is one, as is Sarah’s older sister, Francis, who visited at Wachusett Mountain) whenever the group failed to collectively answer a question on time those observing would pelt them with water balloons. Though everyone wanted to get the questions right, it was pretty hot so no one was complaining about getting soaked!
After a few more games, the clowns put it to a vote, and right before our final show in Princeton, Chase was announced as the 2013 Boss Clown… congrats, Chase!
Monday was another jump day, this time to Brattleboro, Vermont. Here in Brattleboro, we’re located on a farm- The Vermont Agriculture Business Education Center, just over a mile from the center of town. With the tents set up and a big red barn right here, I’m beginning to miss the Circus Barn back in Greensboro. Of course, in just about a month we’ll be back in Greensboro, but for now, we’re off to Richmond, Rhode Island for four shows at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Will we be seeing you this weekend (today, Friday, at 6pm or tomorrow, Saturday, at 1pm or 6pm)? Make sure to pick up your tickets here if you haven’t already!