Behind the Scenes: Elizabeth Stubbs

Hello All!

This week I have the pleasure of sharing a post by Elizabeth Stubbs. Elizabeth is a Smirkus fan, friend, former Trouper parent AND concessionaire (and also an all around lovely person)! Here she’ll share her path to becoming a Smirkus concessionaire and give you a little look into what she does behind the scenes. She’s done so much with Smirkus over the years that there was no possible way to fit it all into one blog post. Instead, Elizabeth’s story will be shared over two posts!

Hope you are all having a lovely summer,

“Evolution of a Concessionaire

My name is Elizabeth Stubbs and I’m from Massachusetts. I work as a concessionaire at Circus Smirkus. For each of my five years on tour, I have had the distinction of being the oldest member of the staff. Of course I am not a concessionaire year-round – my life is very different during the rest of the year. My relationship with Smirkus is a long one and is closely intertwined with my daughter’s.

Elizabeth and the Concessionaires in Matching Hats!

Elizabeth and the Concessionaires!

Many years ago, my husband and I took our two small children to see Circus Smirkus in Nantucket. We knew nothing about it, but thought it sounded like fun. That show was The Princess Who Wouldn’t Laugh. We enjoyed it immensely and got a big kick out of the audience participation part, when my husband Harry got pulled into the ring to do some scarf juggling. 

Over the years we returned to see Smirkus often. We loved the shows and thought those performers looked as though they were having the time of their lives. With a gift from my mother, my daughter Joy Powers was able to go to a session of Smirkus Camp. She was smitten and went on for three summers. Joy got to try out everything, from fabric to juggling, but she really liked clowning. Jesse Dryden, Smirkus’ Creative Director and former Camp Counselor,  encouraged her as a clown, and suggested that she might consider auditioning. She and her clown partner Maddy Hall put together some video, were invited to Vermont to live auditions and were accepted to tour. That was the beginning of my joyful and enthusiastic stint as a Smirkus parent.

After dropping Joy off in Greensboro at Smirkus HQ, I had no contact with her for three weeks, until the opening show. The first time I saw her perform in the ring, I cried. I could not believe the transformation in my child. She was poised, confident, intelligent and very funny. I went to many shows, I volunteered many times, I donated as much money as I could. Everywhere I went, I talked to people about Circus Smirkus and encouraged them to go and see it. They would always politely say, “Oh, that sounds nice”  and wondered what I was going on about. If they actually did go, they would come to me later and say, “Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”

it was such fun to be a Smirkus parent! We were all sad when Joy got too old to be a Trouper, though her cousin John Stubbs soon followed in her footsteps. A few years later, Judy Gaeth put out a call to fill tour jobs. I urged both my children to consider this, and when they didn’t jump fast enough at the chance, I said, “OK, if you don’t want to apply, I’m going to!” It would fit well into my teaching schedule.  There were several openings. Tent crew? Well, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t qualify in the brawn department. Assistant cook? Hmmm, no. Maybe Concessions. That fell within my skill set and experience working with people and it sounded like fun. It would be an adventure. My son Sam preferred to enjoy Smirkus from a distance, but Joy was eager to return to her circus home. Before I applied, I had a serious conversation with my nephew John about how he might feel having his aunt on tour with him. I wanted to respect his privacy and his need to have his own experiences separate from family members. He was enthusiastic. And so I applied.

The job description warned about the physical demands, the unusual hours and the communal living. One of the requirements is to be able to lift 50 pounds. (I can actually do that, though I can’t raise it very high.) A concessionaire is responsible for preparing and serving food, creating, maintaining, packing, transporting and unpacking displays and merchandise, keeping accurate counts for inventory purposes, loading and unloading trucks, interacting with customers while selling merchandise in the concessions tents and hawking inside the Big Top, among other things. All of this takes place no matter the weather conditions. Then there was a mysterious category called Miscellaneous Tasks as Required.

I applied. I got the job. I finished the school year – I teach Early Childhood at a Waldorf school – and packed for the entire summer. I got my personal life and household ready to leave for 9 weeks. I said goodbye to my son and my dog. We packed up the car and Joy and I set off for Greensboro, five years ago….”

Check back soon for the rest of Elizabeth’s story!  

Come visit Elizabeth and see the 2014 Big Top Tour, Anchors Away to Atlantis, while we’re in Cape Cod! We’ll be at Sandwich High School in East Sandwich, MA, Monday, July 21st through Wednesday, July 23rd! Shows are at 2pm and 7pm. Get your tickets today – visit or call us at 1-877-SMIRKUS!

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4 Responses to Behind the Scenes: Elizabeth Stubbs

  1. Miriam Rosenblum says:

    Elizabeth – Thank you for sharing this wonderful chronicle of your and your family’s multi-decade journey with Circus Smirkus. You are an inspiration to all folks over the age of 29 that they too can dream about running off to join the circus. I look forward to reading part two and sharing your journey.

  2. Connie Rinaldo says:

    You are an inspiration Elizabeth!

  3. Beth Schoellkopf says:

    Elizabeth – I so much relate to your story especially the part about what friends say AFTER they have seen the show for the first time! Thank you for all that you do.

  4. Deb Heath-Rogers says:

    Elizabeth – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! My sentiments exactly. People think you are kind of “Out there” with this circus passion/obsession until they actually see a show and then they “Get it!” I am also feeling quite sad that this is Emma’s last year as a performer with Smirkus, but Paul and I intend to continue being part of the family as volunteers.

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