Just a few days after Oz Incorporated was in Kennebunkport, we were back up in Maine with four shows at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport. One of the first things I saw upon arriving on site was a swingset and set of monkey bars – right away i had a feeling that Freeport was going to be fun.
The Troupers arrived on-site Monday morning to set up the ring and backstage tent before the show at 1pm. Once everything was set up, a few Troupers gathered in the school’s auditorium to practice their skills: Eyal, Wesley, and Bekk practiced their juggling; Maedya walked on the wire; and Morgan did some hand balances.
It’s no secret that the Smirkos have talents that extend beyond the circus ring – sisters Alyssa and Ashley Kim took turns singing and playing the piano on stage. But in or out of the ring, circus is a part of what the Troupers do – noticing the rhythm the juggling balls made as Eyal caught them in his hands, Bekk suggested he join Alyssa and Ashley in making music… perhaps a Smirko Band is in the works? But until then, Composer Tristan Moore and Percussionist Parker Bert will continue making the music in Oz Incorporated.
While we already miss Troupers Una Bennett and Noah Nielsen, who are off training at the Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, upon arrival in Freeport the Troupers and Coaches were hard at work re-working the acts without them. Maedya Kojis would be taking Una’s place in shapes, and Nathan Biggs-Penton would be taking Noah’s place in diabolo. Nimbly adjusting to these constant changes in the show are part of what makes Smirkus special. Throughout the tour, Artistic Director Troy Wunderle makes adjustments and changes so that the show gets better and better.
With four consecutive sold-out shows, Freeport was a ton of fun for the Troupers and staff, and the audience members as well. As Marieke and Nick climbed the ropes upside down, the audience burst out in applause, one fan asking “How did they do that?!”, and when Brin did a series of back layouts on the trampoline, a little girl shouted, “I wish I could do that!”
As if walking on the wire wasn’t high enough, Trouper Sorrell Nielsen walks on her tip-toes, or “en pointe” – another thing that wowed the crowd in Freeport! But while Dorothy’s slippers are ruby red, Sorrell’s pointe shoes were painted emerald green – a perfect fit for a trip down the yellow brick road!
The cast and staff of Oz Incorporated were joined by many guests during our stay in Freeport, including Smirkus Executive Director Ed LeClair and Clown Coach at Smirkus Camp, Sam Kilbourne. But perhaps the most special of our guests was Kylie, a six-year-old girl who was at the show with her family thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation. After sitting down for dinner, Troy lead Kylie and her family on a VIP tour of the lot. Backstage, the Troupers were practicing their acts and gave Kylie and her brother a shot to try them out – her face lit up when Troy asked if she wanted to try bouncing on the trampoline, and when she got up there it lit up even more!
During the show, Kylie blew bubbles with Glinda (Sarah Tiffin) and was later invited into the ring by Troy at the end of the show. Watching Kylie smile as she joined the cast of Oz Incorporated for the freeze-frame moment was incredibly sweet, and reminded me of just how special the circus is.
As PR Intern, it’s my duty to document all of the most exciting things that happen on tour – while walking around with a camera backstage, I paused for a moment to capture Nathan practicing a trick on diabolo. Just a moment later he said, “I just want you to know that’s the first time I’ve gotten that trick!” and I gave him a high-five for a job well done. It seems that Nathan’s hard work with the diabolo has indeed paid off – when he started doing tricks with two diabolos in that evening’s show, a little girl excitedly shouted “TWO!” and leaned forward to see the act.
As the show ended in Freeport, I stood in the entrata of the Big Top, watching the Troupers click their heels in the finale dance. “It’s not as easy as it looks!” Head Rigger Andrew Adams said, as we clicked our heels together, trying to match the rhythm and precision of the Troupers in the ring.