When it came time to complete her class project, Smirkus Camper Anna Doucet wrote about her favorite subject, circus. In this essay, she writes a beautiful tribute to our late Residency Director, Rick Davis. Please enjoy.
Anna Doucet, 2015
For my study on circus, I did an essay about Rick Davis, a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performer and former director of the Circus Smirkus Residency program. Rick Davis is a truly exceptional man and his many stories amazed me. While I couldn’t have put them all into this paper, I took some of my favorites. During this interview, we talked about many things circus, from the acts to the animals. Rick had many exciting adventures during his time in the circus!
Rick Davis became interested in circus when his dad brought him to see his first one. When Rick saw the clowns, he thought they weren’t funny at all. In fact, he decided he could do much better. In 1974, he finally applied to a clown school and was accepted. As soon as her graduated, Rick was given a job with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey as a clown. He left soon after and joined Circus Odyssey, the circus that would soon become his favorite circus. “I loved it because I could be creative,” Rick told me. Rick Davis was happy to have finally found a place he belonged – in the circus!
Life in the circus was never easy. The performers, including Rick, were constantly traveling, usually by train, in cramped, tiny rooms. Circus Odyssey had 150 performers from all over the world. It was hard not to learn the languages all around him so Rick Davis began to learn a little German and Polish. Another thing Rick told me about circus life was that he always had to feed himself. Because of this, Rick had to constantly eat in restaurants and diners which was not only expensive but also not a lot of fun thing to do. As fun as life in the circus could be, there were always some parts Rick didn’t enjoy as much.
In the circus, Rick was always a clown. That was what he loved, after all! “My favorite act was a clown dance with a trumpet and VERY colorful costume,” Rick remembers. Some of Rick’s fellow performers weren’t human- they were animals! Traveling with Circus Odyssey were chickens, dogs, and even tigers and elephants! Despite many myths about circus animals, Rick told me that, at least in the circuses he traveled with, the animals were treated with expert, top notch care, 24 hours a day. The animals were the stars of many acts and behind the scenes were also treated as well as the human performers. Mr. Rick Davis loved the circus and its controlled chaos because it was a place he could be creative, use his big imagination, and live and travel with the people he worked with.
When the time came that Rick decided he was done performing, he found a job with Circus Smirkus, Vermont’s award winning, international, youth circus. There, he became the Director of School Residencies. Of all his time in the circus, working with Smirkus was a “life changing experience,” Rick loved working with all the kids because they were so willing and eager to learn and they looked up to him. In the short time he was with them, he couldn’t turn them into star circus performers but every time, the kids inspired him with their sheer excitement to learn. Rick loved Smirkus more than any other place he had ever worked.
Rick Davis is an amazing and inspiring man. If he could have joined the circus again, as something other than a clown, he would do trapeze. His favorite circus act he has ever seen was a trampoline basketball game. His favorite circus animals are the dogs. Rick never regretted joining the circus and its spirit, excitement, and magic will live on inside him forever.