On Monday of last week, we arrived in Brattleboro, Vermont for a run of four shows in two days. We had plenty of visitors on-site — from former Troupers to press to well-known circus professionals.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, just as we were finishing dinner between shows, a semi-truck pulled up to the site… our new backstage and midway tents had arrived!
The tents came all the way from Italy (did you know that Italy is the best place to go to get a circus tent?), and the truck driver picked them up at the port in Boston before driving them to the Smirkus lot in Brattleboro. As he helped the tent crew carry the tents out of the truck and load poles and stakes and straps and vinyl onto the field nearby, Artistic Director Troy Wunderle declared, “It’s Christmas on the circus lot!” It was such an exciting feeling to see the new tents come off of the truck for the first time.
When watching the circus from an audience member’s point of view, it’s easy to assume that the tent just pops up easily, out of nowhere, but it takes a lot of hard work from all of our tent crew – lead by Tent Boss Nat Brown and his dog, Chyra – to make it happen. A lot of planning goes into how all of our equipment gets set up and torn down, so even though the new tents wouldn’t be in use until the next stop in Richmond, Rhode Island, the tent crew worked together to practice putting them up.
As dinner was finishing up and the sun began to set, the entire Smirkus tour staff and all of the Troupers gathered around to watch the end of set-up, everyone in awe of what was going on. Set-up and tear-down is the same at every site, but with these new tents it was something special. When the final poles were raised and the new midway tent was officially set up for the first time, everyone cheered.
Up until now, Smirkus has had two smaller tents for concessions in the midway: one for food (lemonade, water, popcorn, cotton candy, and hot dogs) and one for novelties (such as t-shirts, juggling balls, and the much-loved clown noses). The new midway tent is much larger, and will provide space for both food and novelties as well as for audience members to congregate and get some shade before the show. With blue and white stripes on the outside and a starry blue ceiling on the inside, when I stepped under the new midway tent for the first time a smile grew on my face as I anticipated all of the magic that would soon be happening right where I was standing.
The very next day we were visited by two very special guests- Jerry Bilick (a former executive at Ringling Bros., and a Smirkus fan) and Barry Lubin (“Grandma Clown” from Big Apple Circus). At intermission, Barry met some of the Troupers backstage, and gave them a few words of wisdom – when performing, in order to succeed, “It’s not the tricks, it’s the character.”
Letting Barry’s words soak in, soon enough it was time for the second act to begin, and after the final performance of Oz Incorporated in Brattleboro, Vermont, it was time to pack up the show and head to Richmond, Rhode Island for more shows.
We’re on our way from Sandwich, Massachusetts to Waltham right now – stay tuned for a blog post about our shows in Richmond!