Lessons Learned from the Circus (Smirkus)

I have been meaning to take the kids to see Circus Smirkus for the past two years. For those who don’t know, Circus Smirkus is an organization that teaches circus arts to kids. They put on a full-scale traveling performance each summer throughout New England. Since LadyBug loves trapeze so much (she’s hoping to take regular classes this fall), I knew she’d enjoy seeing kids putting on such an amazing show.

The theme this year is Oz Incorporated. It’s a modern visit to the Emerald City complete with Dorothy, Toto, the TIn Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. The kids showed off a nice range of circus skills from juggling and clowning on the ground, to trampoline and slack wire in the middle, to beautiful aerial acts high in the tent. Here’s a sneak peek:

The show is funny, but I do think a lot of the gags went over the heads of most of the kids in the audience. It didn’t matter since they were laughing hysterically anyway. I have to say, I was impressed by the talent, and not in a “aren’t those kids cute” kind of way. Seriously impressed. The Circus Smirkus troupers are pros, and they can do some very cool stunts, as well as being able to act.

Despite the wealth of talent, the kids occasionally made a mistake. They dropped a ball they were juggling or missed a stunt. And that made me love the show even more, because every single time they smiled and tried again. The first time, I felt bad for the kid who missed one of his juggling passes. I thought how hard it must be at just 15 or 16 (the average age) to be in front of so many people and make a mistake. But as the show went on, I came to appreciate those occasional blunders because it made the kids relatable. And once the kids in the audience could relate to the kids in the ring, it sent an entirely new message: The idea that you can be not perfect, that you can make mistakes and just pick up the pieces, but that you can do it while still smiling and having fun. I think that’s a powerful message, and one that both LadyBug and I need to remember.

After the show, the cast stuck around in the ring to mingle with the audience. I asked LadyBug if she’d like to go say hi and maybe take some pictures. She held back. So I suggested we just walk through and see what it’s like. I distinctly remember being at a baseball game with my grandmother at about the age of six and having the chance to talk with and get an autograph from Jim Rice. I was too afraid and my grandmother was so frustrated with me (making me feel like a double failure, FYI). I didn’t want to push LadyBug too hard, but I could tell she wanted to go. Sure enough, she talked, albeit quietly, with most of the main cast, and when I suggested after a couple of pictures that we head out, she once again held back, this time letting me know that we hadn’t spoken to everyone yet. I am so proud of my girl who tries so hard and pushes herself to grow. And we had fun meeting the Circus Smirkus troupers, who were all kind and delightful and encouraging.

Sarah & Ashley as Glinda and Toto, respectively.

Circus Smirkus Oz Incorporated

Ariana is just 9 years old, too young to be an “official” trouper. She inspired quite a few girls in the audience, as evidenced by the crowd behind her waiting for photos.

Circus Smirkus Oz Incorporated

Sam is the Tin Man. His dad, a former clown at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, must be pretty proud. It can’t be easy to pull off tin man rustiness with clowning around silliness.

Circus Smirkus Oz Incorporated

Alyson, aka Dorothy, gave LadyBug some tips on becoming a circus performer.

Circus Smirkus Oz Incorporated

By the time LadyBug posed with Alyssa, one of the flying monkeys, she was ready to do a little clowning of her own. Here’s her monkey impression.

Circus Smirkus Oz Incorporated

By the time she met Troy Wunderle, Artistic Director and Oz, she was in her element. Thumb’s up for Circus Smirkus!

Circus Smirkus Oz Incorporated

I want to point out that we’re missing Sam, the “Gurwitch.” Sam was just so convincing in his role as the Wicked Witch that LadyBug wasn’t interested in getting too close. I’m sure Sam experiences that a lot because he was phenomenal in his role (I did see a few younger kids retreating from their ring-side seats in tears when he took to the tent).

It’s late in the season, but there’s still time to catch Oz Incorporated in Freeport, Hanover (NH), Montpelier, and Greensboro. I can’t wait for next year, although I’m kind of hoping that LadyBug does Circus Smirkus Camp for a couple  of days next summer…

Disclosure: None

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