Today I had the pleasure of watching as casting decisions were announced. Before you’re too far into this post though, please realize that some of it has been left purposefully vague. Titles of acts are kept a surprise to add an element of mystique for you. However, even without these details, I hope that you will be able to imagine yourself sitting cross-legged on the well-worn floor of the Circus Barn studio- breathing in the sweet scent of warm wood with a hint of dust that has accumulated from years of classes and movie nights. You sit in the second level of an old, red barn, with rickety stairs and creaky doors. You sit in anticipation.
Though it’s been less than 48 hours since the Troupers arrived, a lot has happened to bring us to this point. The first full day here, Troupers attended eight different classes. They were each given two disciplines that they were required to attend, but the remaining six were up to them. This important day allows Troupers to show coaches how they have developed skills they already had but also to surprise them with newly acquired tricks. This is the time where someone who auditioned on wire could blow everyone away with newfound juggling abilities. As this day came to a close, for the first time it was decided that only one such day was needed before casting (in previous years, two days had been allocated for this process). The creative team came together that evening to make their decisions and that brings us to where we are now, on the floor of the studio.
Jesse Dryden, Creative Director and Troy Wunderle, Artistic Director, stand in the front of the room. Behind them, the coaches sit on a collection of gymnastic mats and make-shift chairs in solidarity. Last night, the production team spent hours discussing, deliberating, and debating to cast the strongest show possible. Despite this, casting results can be emotional. Every Trouper is here because they love to perform– and they’re good at it. And yet, not everyone can end up in every act that they try for.
“It’s only as big a deal as you make it,” Jesse says, “because the bigger deal is that you’re in Circus Smirkus.” He tells Troupers that it is alright to feel excited or letdown or nervous after casting but emphasizes that the most important thing is that they take care of one another. Then Troy takes out a puzzle, explaining that each piece does its part and that every piece is equally important to the puzzle just as every person is equally important to the show. With this, they begin to read off the cast list.
I glance around as they read off the list of names. A name is read and a smile slowly creeps across a girl’s face. Someone else happily gasps, eyes twinkling. But amidst this delight, there is disappointment. When it is clear that all the names for a certain act have been called, a dejected realization sinks into the eyes of a Trouper. But after a brief moment, she nods to herself and bravely forces a smile. The Troupers demonstrate a maturity well beyond their years as they handle the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, of circus life. This is, after all, a trying profession and they are performers.
Once all acts have been read, Troupers get up and move on to the next part of their day, letting go, at least outwardly, of their personal feelings on casting. More importantly though, they are still a family and families take care of one another. As they move into warmup time, they reach out to one another embracing those who need a pick-me-up, rejoicing in their shared success and all the while understanding that they all have the same goal: to create an outstanding show!