Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
Bekk McGowan of Wilton holds Emma Rogers of Peterborough in a handstand during the finale of the Circus Smirkus 2011 Big Top Tour. Bekk and Emma – both 16 – return this year to perform in the 25th Anniversary Big Top Tour.
Circus Smirkus, Vermont’s acclaimed traveling youth circus, celebrates its 25th anniversary this season with a return to Hanover, July 21 – 23. This year’s troupe includes two young performers and a coach from New Hampshire, as well as three from the Hanover area.
Circus Smirkus is the only youth circus in the country to travel “under canvas” – that is, as a traditional traveling show complete with a Big Top tent. The circus has not been to the Hanover area since 2005, when it played in Lebanon. It's last appearance in the Granite State was in 2009, in Wilton.
Founded in 1987, Smirkus was the dream of internationally renowned mime and clown Rob Mermin, a protégé of the late Marcel Marceau. Moving to Vermont after a long performing stint abroad, Mermin began the program on a former dairy farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
The first season included just 15 young Vermonters, who practiced for one week, then hit the road for a three-town tour. This year’s troupe of 29 youngsters, ages 11 to 18, will rehearse intensively for three weeks and tour for seven, performing nearly 70 shows in 14 cities and towns throughout the Northeast, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, and upstate New York.
This year’s circus includes two New Hampshire troupers: Bekk McGowan, 16, of Wilton and Emma Rogers, 16, of Peterborough, both in Circus Smirkus for their second year. In addition, Alisan Funk is the head aerial coach for the tour. Now a resident of Montreal, Funk brings to Smirkus a history of performance and aerial choreography with a variety of companies including Cirque du Soleil. The seven Vermonters on the troupe include three from the Upper Valley/Hanover area: siblings Sam Gurwitt, 16, and Sonya Gurwitt, 18, of Norwich, Vt.; and Liam Gundlach, 15, of Thetford, Vt. The other performers come from eight other states – California, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Texas – as well as the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Over the years, Smirkus has included coaches and performers from 26 states and 32 countries.
A Smirkus show features an original score, live music, custom-made costumes, and professionally choreographed dance. It requires an entourage of 45 adults (counselors, cooks, coaches and crew). But the stars are the kids; they perform as jugglers, clowns, aerialists, wirewalkers, acrobats and more. Smirkus is known for its “themed” shows, and this year’s theme is “Topsy Turvy Time Travel: A Blast from the Past & Fun from the Future.” The show invites the audience on a tantalizing trip through time, a wonderfully wacky exploration of pranks and pratfalls from the past and fantasies for the future.
In addition to the traveling circus, Circus Smirkus also runs a sleepover summer camp dedicated to circus arts, located at Lyndon Institute in Lyndon Center, Vt. More than half of the members of the 2012 performing troupe are camp alumni. The acclaimed Smirkus School Residency program brings circus arts to schools throughout the Northeast during the academic year.
Celebrations for the 25th anniversary include the publication of “Circus Smirkus: 25 Years of Running Home to the Circus,” a capital campaign to purchase a permanent location for Circus Smirkus Summer Camp; and strengthening a nascent collaboration with the National Circus School of Cuba.
Tickets for all venues are on sale at smirkus.org and 1-877-SMIRKUS (1-877-764-7587).
2012 BIG TOP TOUR IN HANOVER
July 21 - 23
Fullington Farm Field, 99 Lyme Road (Route 10), Hanover
6 shows: 2 & 7 PM – Saturday11 AM & 4 PM – Sunday1 PM & 7 PM - Monday
$20/Adult (13+), $16.50/Child (2 – 12)
Kids under 2, free!