August 9, 2017 (Bartlett, NH) –Vermont’s award-winning international youth circus is back on the road with its 2017 Big Top Tour, celebrating a 30-year tradition of bringing joy and magic to towns all over the Northeast. Attitash Mountain will present Circus Smirkus at the Fields at Attitash on August 13 & 14 with show-times at 1pm and 6pm both days.
“We are extremely excited to welcome back Circus Smirkus to the area,” stated John Lowell, President of Attitash Mountain Resort. “The Circus is perfect fit for the family activities in our area and the Fields at Attitash provide a great backdrop for the big top tent.”
The traveling youth circus has been performing shows this summer, traveling from the mountains of Vermont to the shores of Maine, with stops along the way in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and upstate New York. Thirty budding circus stars, ages 12 to 18, bring youthful exuberance and polished circus skills from all parts of the country and the world. This year’s troupe hails internationally from Zambia and Canada, and from thirteen states – California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.
Corey Madden, Attitash Mountain Events Director, has been working with local & state officials, as well as Circus Smirkus staff on obtaining permits, traffic coordination, and trash removal at the fields. “The Fields at Attitash are a wonderful venue we are looking to use more often for events such as Circus Smirkus. All the parties involved have been a pleasure to work with and I can’t wait to see the tent go up,” stated Madden.
The Big Top Tent will be located in the field on the south side of the Conway Scenic Railroad Tracks where a golf driving range once stood. Tickets are still available online or can be purchased in person at the shows.
Tickets are $25 for adults & $20 for kids under 12 & seniors 65+. Tickets are available in advance at attitash.com or by calling 800-223-7669. Tickets will be available at the door starting one hour before show time. For more information, contact Circus Smirkus at 1-877-SMIRKUS toll-free or visit www.smirkus.org.
More about Circus Smirkus:
THEME BASED SHOWS
This year’s tour continues the tradition of Smirkus’ theme-based shows with ‘Midnight at the Museum’, which it describes as a wild adventure through the hallowed halls of a magical museum that springs to life when the clock strikes midnight. The show will feature young aerialists and wirewalkers, clowns and jugglers, live music, brilliant costumes, and the many skills of its young circus artists on full display under the Big Top.
THE SPECTACLE OF A TRAVELING YOUTH CIRCUS
Circus Smirkus is the only American youth circus to travel “under canvas;” that is, the only youth circus to put on a full-season tour under its own big top – a 750-seat, one-ring, European-style tent. The touring company consists of some 80 people including the performers and coaches, counselors, costumers, tech crew, tent crew, circus chefs and a live circus band. The tour caravan requires 23 support vehicles: five equipment trucks, three equipment trailers, four bunk trailers, seven pickups, three passenger vans and one “pie car,” where the meals are made. It takes eight hours to set up the big top, backstage and concession tents, and to prep and organize 200 costume pieces, 100 props, 70 spotlights and a mile of electrical cable.
“‘Circus Day,’ the day the circus came to town, was historically a holiday-like celebration.” says Executive Director Ed LeClair. “We try to keep that tradition alive. Watching the show pull onto the lot, watching the tent go up, it recreates all the excitement and spectacle of ‘The circus is coming!’”
THE STARS ARE KIDS
Troupers are selected for skill, character and personality through an audition process that begins each fall. The show is created over the winter months. Then, in three intense weeks in early June, the troupers arrive and the show is rehearsed at Smirkus headquarters in Greensboro (pop. 772) in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom. During this time, troupers work closely with coaches, a choreographer, composer and costumer. Then the circus hits the road for a seven-week tour, during which troupers learn the ropes of traditional circus life: hours of practice, full two-hour shows twice a day, and the demanding labor of loading the show in and out. In addition to circus arts, the troupers learn about teamwork and community, and give back to the larger community through free performances at children’s hospitals and nursing homes.
“Smirkus was an incredible experience for me, and continues to be the source of my most precious and cherished memories (and friends!),” says Joy Powers, a Smirkus “graduate” who went on to work for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and now performs, with two other Smirkus alumni as The Piccolini Trio. “It was exciting, nurturing, enveloping and breathtakingly enjoyable. I think that I can speak for most of my fellow Smirkos when I say that we will spend the rest of our lives searching for another environment like Smirkus.”
Parents and audiences alike witness the transformation in troupers. Francey Grund, a former trouper and current marketing executive and former Smirkus board member, explains: “Smirkus is magic. I see it each and every summer. It is as though the new troupers arrive with wings they didn’t know they had, and by the end of the summer Smirkus has taught them to soar.”
Over the years, Smirkus has received accolades from the world over. It is the focus of an award-winning documentary, Circus Dreams, which has been shown in film festivals worldwide.
In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dan Barry profiled a young Smirkus trouper in The New York Times. In 2010, Teen Kids News brought the joy of Smirkus to an audience of millions, including more than 5 million viewers on network television, 2 million on the Armed Forces Network and 3 million school children. The program called Smirkus “one of the nation’s most fun circuses!” Circus Smirkus starred in its own 15-part series, Totally Circus, on The Disney Channel. Soon after Smirkus was founded, The New York Times praised Smirkus as an “extraordinary troupe with a serious commitment to the circus arts, [offering] a show that brings standing room only audiences to their feet . . .” The Boston Globe commended Smirkus as “One of New England’s most treasured cultural and educational resources.” Family Fun magazine called Smirkus “one of America’s best circuses!” A few years before his death, famed French mime Marcel Marceau visited Smirkus and broke his silence to say, “What Circus Smirkus is doing is an absolutely wonderful task: to bring children hope for the future, to create an entirely new form of circus and make it universal.”
In January 2016, Circus Smirkus was recognized by Circus Now with their annual Community Impact Award, which recognizes “a circus artist or organization that has succeeded in harnessing and demonstrating the power of the circus arts for community engagement and social good, and in bringing diverse audiences together through quality programming.”
Smirkus has also been highlighted by Fox & Friends, the Associated Press, National Public Radio, The Martha Stewart Show, Fetch! and myriad other media. It has entertained luminaries including Julia Child, Norman Lear, David Mamet, and former President and First Lady George H.W. and Barbara Bush.
Over the years, Circus Smirkus has fostered youth exchanges with more than 25 countries in Europe and Asia and with 10 Native American tribes. Smirkus has won awards at festivals in Russia, Ukraine and Sweden; and performed several times at the International Children’s Festival at Wolf Trap National Park in Virginia, where it was given the title “The United Nations of the Youth Circus World.” In 2010, Smirkus began a collaboration with the Cuban circus community, with the help of the Vermont Caribbean Institute.
This year, Circus Smirkus features a youth performer, Patrick Chikoloma, from Circus Zambia based in Lusaka, Zambia. The Princess of the Council of Chiefs of Zambia, along with members of the Council, will travel to the United States to attend the opening shows in Greensboro, VT on July 2. Their attendance at the show will honor and recognize Chikoloma as the first Zambian member of a Circus Smirkus troupe.
LIFE AFTER SMIRKUS
Smirkus troupers often go on to successful careers in the circus arts. Smirkus graduates have performed with Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey, Big Apple Circus, Cirque Mechanic, Sept Doigts de la Main, Pan-Twilight Circus, and the Moscow State Circus, as well as other international touring companies. Two Smirkus alumni have been listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Smirkos have appeared in Hollywood films including Alice and Water for Elephants.
“Circus has turned into a passion for me. I got sick of competing for scores in gymnastics. I prefer making people happy,” says Molly Saudek, now an international performer named “the best tight wire dancer in the world” by Planet Circus magazine.
Other Smirkus alumni have made careers in business, health care, agriculture, science and other fields. “Though I no longer perform, the Smirkus experience shaped my life’s work,” says Sajana Blank, a former trouper who now works in global education with AFS-USA Intercultural Programs. “I credit Smirkus with teaching me how to follow my dreams, to value differences and to know that anything is possible.”
ROB MERMIN, FOUNDER
Circus Smirkus is the brainchild of Rob Mermin, who ran away to the circus himself at the age of 19. He performed as a clown for over a decade in the national circuses of Europe, studied with Marcel Marceau and became an accomplished and skillful performer with his own show on Swedish television. Along the way, Mermin developed a keen understanding of both how to move an audience and how to manage a small circus company. When he returned to the United States, he was ready to teach, serving as director of Ringling Brothers’ Clown College. He moved to Greensboro in 1987 to create a format for youth to experience some of the adventures he had enjoyed with a traveling circus. Today, Circus Smirkus is a treasured Vermont institution. In 2008, Mermin won the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the state’s highest accolade. Mermin, who is pursuing projects in circus arts and history, maintains close ties to Circus Smirkus through a consulting position.
THE CIRCUS DREAM IS ALIVE AT CAMP, IN SCHOOL AND IN THE COMMUNITY
In the summer months, the 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization runs the Circus Smirkus Camp, from a one-day “Intro to Smirkus,” through two-week, advanced sessions for aspiring performers (up to age 18). Smirkus campers come for a remarkable experience that combines the fun and friendship of a traditional overnight camp with the excitement and thrill of circus. Author Yvonne M. Vissing lauds Smirkus Camp as a “model of safety” in her book How to Keep Your Children Safe: A Guide for Parents. Some campers go on to audition for, and join, the Big Top Tour. More than half of the performers in the 2016 troupe are former campers. Former Trouper Olivia Saunders of Acton, MA says “Smirkus Camp is where I learned my love of the circus. I was completely new to circus and had no idea what I was getting myself into. As a shy kid, the fact that I could make friends instantaneously showed me that this was a completely welcoming place. The mixture of fun and training made me want to push myself. In the two sessions that I attended camp, I learned more about working with others and being myself than I ever had before. Smirkus Camp is what convinced me that circus was the thing for me.”
During the school year, Smirkus offers a School Residency program, which brings circus skills and the Smirkus philosophy to schools from Vermont to the Virgin Islands. After her school’s residency program in 2011, Coleen Healy, director of the Southshire Community School in North Bennington, VT, wrote: “All of the students thoroughly enjoyed the program and the teachers were able incorporate the circus theme in all subject areas. It was an individual confidence builder, and developed the students’ large and fine motor skills as well as team cooperation. I highly recommend the Circus Smirkus program.”
Thanks to Mermin’s vision, the annual Big Top Tour engages the entire community. Circus Smirkus carries on the European style one-ring traveling circus tradition one-ring big top. In the intimate arena, no one sits more than 25 feet from the ring. The appeal of an international youth company captivates young and old with astounding aerials, clever clowns, and fabulous feats of contortion, acrobatics, juggling and more.
NON-PROFITS USE SMIRKUS SHOWS AS FUNDRAISERS
Local organizations and businesses are “presenters,” using Smirkus performances to promote themselves, to raise funds for important social missions, and to engender overall community goodwill. Since 1987, Smirkus has raised more than $2.5 million for non-profit presenters. These desirable – and profitable – benefits make the circus a sold-out, annual event in many towns, bringing communities together in healthy celebration.
This year, [your organization] is presenting [list #] exciting performances in [your town] on [list dates]. Show times are [list times].
The Circus Smirkus performances in [your town] are an important fund-raising event for [your organization], with the potential to bring in [last year's totals or a good guess] to support [describe how the money is used and add your sponsor pitch].
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS
In 2012, Circus Smirkus celebrated 25 years of bringing the joy of a traveling circus throughout the Northeast. Anniversary initiatives include the publication of an anniversary book, written by founder Rob Mermin and journalist Rob Gurwitt; an environmental push to “green up” the Big Top Tour; a capital campaign to purchase a permanent location for Circus Smirkus Summer Camp; and strengthening the collaboration with the National Circus School of Cuba. Fans can support these initiatives through our website, www.smirkus.org.
“At twenty-five, one is truly an adult, allowing wisdom and conscious thought to mitigate or even supersede the impetuous behaviors of adolescence,” said Alex Aldrich, Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council. “But for a circus turning 25, the rules are a little different. Sure, Circus Smirkus, is considered a “mature” organization; carefully managed, successful, and in possession of an unmatched reputation. But its stock in trade is youth, vigor, laughter, and fun. In staying young, Circus Smirkus keeps all the rest of us young!”
This summer, join Circus Smirkus for Midnight at the Museum! For “kids” of all ages, it really is possible to run away to the circus without leaving your hometown!