Who’s Who: Board of Directors


Often spotted as Ticket Takers, Ushers, and Parkers during the Big Top Tour, the board works tirelessly to keep our tent tops high, our popcorn popping, and our aerialists soaring above the crowd.



Neil Saunders, President
Neil is the Executive Director of Victory Productions, Inc., an educational publishing development company based in Worcester, Massachusetts. Born and educated in England, he moved to the United States 35 years ago. Among his interests are soccer, the theatre, craft beers, and all things literary. Neil’s daughter Olivia is a former Smirkus camper and trouper (2009 to 2012) now enrolled at L’École de Cirque de Québec.

Carole Parker, Vice President
Carole Parker is a policy analyst, program manager, community leader and fundraiser with thirty years of experience. Carole has served as journalist, legislative staff, and White House political appointee at Department of Defense and Environmental Protection Agency. Carole now independently consults to nonprofits, business and government, and is an active Board Member of the Global Health Media Project, supporting health care in the most underserved regions of the world. She is the parent of three children, Haley, William and Graham, all of whom have attended Smirkus Camp. Graham joined the Big Top Tour in its 2016 season.

Debra Ellis, Treasurer
Debra has over 25 years experience in technology consulting.  She is Director of Professional Services for JMT Consulting Group, Inc.  She enjoys all things circus and shares her love of arts and sports with her husband, daughter and son.  Her son is currently a camper at Smirkus Camp.

Kathryn Sarken, Secretary
Kathryn brings over 20 years of experience in non-profit financial management and grants and contracts administration. Currently a homeschooling parent and artist (creative writing and photography), she is passionate about kindness, inclusion, and community; the power of circus to change lives; and spreadsheets, serial commas, and a good cup of tea. She and her partner live circus in numerous ways including as Smirkus Big Kid (adult) campers and the parents of a youth Smirkus camper.

Stew Arnold
Stew recently retired from a career as a project manager in software development and from many years as an active volunteer for youth sports and scouting organizations.  A long-time summer and now year-round resident of Greensboro, VT, Stew has watched and supported Circus Smirkus since it’s first days when Rob Mermin and his dog Rufus performed their first show on the village green.

Josh Aviner
Josh is a co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of HIDEAWAY, a new kind of American circus. Since age thirteen, when he ran away with the Smirkus, Josh has had an unrelenting passion for creating unique and memorable live experiences. He previously led casting at Spiegelworld, overseeing shows at Caesar’s Palace and the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Josh also worked on casting and consulting for The PT Barnum Festival, The Late Show with David Letterman, Sleep No MoreTRACES, and The Box. He is completing an MFA at Columbia University in Theatrical Producing, and holds a BFA from New York University in Film Producing.

Laura Brewer
Having spent 25 years as a researcher, editor, piano tuner/technician, and perennial student — earning a Ph.D. in literature at age 43 — Laura then became a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer. She serves on the Board of Community Cooks, which partners with Boston area human service agencies by mobilizing volunteers to provide healthy, home-cooked meals for their clients. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of Smirkus since bringing her then 4-year-old twins to their first show in 2000. Her daughter, Grace Gershenfeld, a counselor at Smirkus Camp, holds the record for the number of years as a Smirkus Camper (12).

Michele Levy
Michele brings over 25 years of experience in brand development and marketing communications to her current work as a brand strategy consultant to nonprofit organizations. Formerly Chief Marketing Officer at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Michele actively supports the arts and other creative endeavors in her community, as well as at home – a home she shares with a chef husband and Smirkus trouper son.

Pamela Lodish
Pam, the sole proprietor of Pamela Lodish Project Management Services since 1996, also has 20 years experience in non-profit business and finance. She is an active volunteer in Brookline, MA town governance and other local non-profits. A grandmother of seven, four of her grandchildren have attended Smirkus Camp.

Robert Sanson
Robert Sanson is a computer engineer working for the Department of Veterans Affairs leading the Active Directory Infrastructure team. Robert spent 10 years both as Trouper parent (both sons) and a Presenter, having helped establish the Saratoga Springs site for the Big Top Tour. His younger son also attended Smirkus camp for several years and is now enrolled at École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal. Robert is also an avid Smirkus photographer and competitive speed skater.

Joshua Wachs
Joshua has been merging creativity and technology for the last 30 years. Currently Managing Partner of Echo & Co., an Internet strategy and consulting firm, he previously founded and served as President, CEO, and visionary of Natural Intelligence, Inc., known for its innovative custom technology. Joshua serves on the board of several arts and educational non-profits. Wachs is also a retired professional magician. His son is a Smirkus camper.

Jim Zien
Jim was the Chief Executive Officer of the Aloha Foundation, the nonprofit owner and operator of three residential summer camps, a family camp, a day camp, and a year-round outdoor education center in Fairlee, VT. Previously Jim managed the community-serving programs of the Boston Children’s Museum and led initiatives in institutional, community and real estate planning and development through his consulting practice, Public Placemakers.



John & Lisa Hewett

Curtis Ingham

Ed Koren

Norman Lear

Paul Zaloom

Julia Child (1912-2004)

Marcel Marceau (1923-2007)

Tim Holst (1947-2009)



Scott Atherton

David Barash

Jane Culbert

Jane Fisher (Past President)

Shelley Glassner

Francey Grund

Mark Heyman

Fred Nanni

Gail Neale (Past President)

Susan S. Novich

Dan W. Reicher

Pam Reynolds

Richard Reynolds

Elinor Ross

Miriam Rosenblum (Past Preseident)

Richard Saudek

Linda S. Schiffer (Past President)

Bill Schubart (Past President)

Tom Shampnois

Steve Shepherd

Brian Slater

Nick Speltz

Rob Smart

Debby Stein Sharpe (Past President)

Ben Winship