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Circus Smirkus - Entertaining Audiences and Inspiring Youth

Jun 08, 2024 10:09AM ● By Genevieve Martineau

Come one! Come all! Circus Smirkus is back on tour again this summer! Grab some popcorn, then bring the whole family to see youthful acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, unicyclists, and so much more right here in the Upper Valley. Step into a world of whimsy and wonder, as Circus Smirkus celebrates playfulness, discovery, and childlike curiosity with the 2024 Big Top Tour: The Imaginarium. A magical toy shop comes to life with tumbling teddy bears, high-flying marionettes, and a very mischievous Jack-in-the-Box in this awe-inspiring and laughter-filled production.

The Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour—on the road June 29 through August 17—features a cast of 30 young circus artists who will perform 62 shows in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine. The shows will include a variety of circus acts including aerials, wire walking, clowns, contortionists, and more, all set to live music under a beautiful big-top tent.

Entertainment with a Mission


The mission of Smirkus is simple in theory and thoughtfully executed in practice: “To promote the skills, culture, and traditions of the traveling circus and to inspire youth to engage in life-changing adventures in the circus arts.” The organization’s three programs—School Residencies, Smirkus Camp, and the Big Top Tour—blend the best of circus tradition and contemporary practice to create immersive experiences that challenge kids to perform and live to the very best of their abilities.

Circus Smirkus programs are committed to offering youth of all ages and backgrounds a spot under the big top, and each year Smirkus raises money for scholarships to provide youth who might not otherwise be able to attend the opportunity to shine in the Smirkus ring. Executive and Artistic Director Rachel Schiffer says, “We never want money to be a factor for kids dreaming to be a part of Circus Smirkus, and our goal is to share the Smirkus magic with as many children and youth as possible. This year we were able to award over $80,000 in scholarships, and with growing needs in the community and beyond, we hope to offer even more in the future as we grow our outreach and partnership programs.”

Sleepaway summer camp sessions at the campus in scenic Greensboro, Vermont, come in a range of offerings—from one-day, get-your-feet-wet experiences for children as young as five to one-, two-, three-, and five-week camps specializing in the whole range of circus pursuits including acrobatics, aerials, clowning, balance, and juggling. For many campers, Smirkus Camp is a home away from home where they are celebrated for being themselves.

Get Involved


In all, more than 400 campers participate each summer in a variety of programs that range in level from beginner to advanced. Although most of the camps are open to all skill levels, advanced sessions require a video audition for placement.

When it comes to securing a spot in the Big Top Tour, the process becomes a bit more involved. The audition requires both a written application and recorded audition. After review by the tour’s
directorial staff, the pool is reduced to 45 performers who are then invited to par
ticipate in a second-round audition in which auditionees showcase a thematic act and participate in skills-assessment workshops, after which 30 troupers are selected for the final cast.

This season’s troupe comprises youth from 10 states. After the troupers’ selection has been finalized, the show script is created over the winter months, and act creation and rehearsals take place on-site in Greensboro during three weeks in June. Then the troupers hit the road for seven weeks in which full two-hour shows are performed twice daily.

The amazing performances that audiences enjoy require numerous helping hands and behind-the-scenes dedication to execute. The tour includes 80 people—the crew, performers, counselors, and coaches. It takes eight hours to set up the big top and the backstage and concession tents, and to prepare and organize 200 costume pieces, 100 props, 70 spotlights, and a mile of electrical cable. But ultimately, all this work is worth it for those involved. 

“We are very excited about this year’s show. We have an exciting troupe of young performers full of skill and passion. Our creative team comes from diverse backgrounds and experiences and all are exceptionally talented. Each year, we spend months planning and dreaming, but it really comes together in just three weeks of training and rehearsals. After a 20-year hiatus, I can’t wait to be back at Smirkus,” says Co-Show Director Julie Greenberg.

The Smirkus Impact and Alumni Success


What’s next for kids who participate in the camps or tour? Many alumni pursue careers in the circus arts, often attending prestigious circus colleges around the world. Graduates have performed with Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Big Apple Circus, Cirque Mechanics, and Les 7 Doigts, as well as other international touring companies. You’ve seen Smirkus alumni in movies, on commercials, and on variety shows like America’s Got Talent. Smirkus alumni have even been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The skills acquired at Smirkus, including confidence, team building, and communication, have tremendous crossover in a variety of careers, serving to benefit even those who do not continue on a circus-related career path. The Smirkus experience celebrates participants for exactly who they are, far from the pressures and expectations of family, peers, and school.

Co-Show Director Joshua Shack adds, “Smirkus is rooted in tradition, however one of the biggest circus traditions is innovation, and creating new traditions. Julie and I each have long histories with Smirkus, but this is our first time directing together. We are bringing new ideas and our own unique vision, but the show will also feel very familiar to avid Smirkus fans. We are excited to continue to deliver the magic that we are known for, in both familiar and new ways.”

Don’t miss the 37th Anniversary
Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour throughout
New England. Tickets are available at, or call (877) SMIRKUS. 

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