Smirkus Features Local Rising Star
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Caledonian Record in St. Johnsbury, VT on June 30, 2019 and was written by Staff Writer Amy Ash Nixon
ST. JOHNSBURY — The circus is coming to town!
Circus Smirkus is making a two-day stop in St. Johnsbury, presented by Catamount Arts – July 2 and 3.
Two shows are planned each day, at 1 and 6 p.m., and the stage is the grounds of the Green Mountain Mall, on Route 5.
One of the troupe members is local student Asom Hayman-Jones, 17, of Glover, who is a rising senior at St. Johnsbury Academy.
This is Asom’s second year as a Circus Smirkus troupe member.
He remembers fondly attending Circus Smirkus shows growing up in the Northeast Kingdom, not far from where Circus Smirkus was founded in Greensboro and flourishes today at its world headquarters.
“I watched a few shows, I think my first one was Up, Hup and Away, he said.
Asom says his mom worked for the organization and took him and his brother, Rian, to the final show in 2016. “
“We got to meet both directors and they invited us to a Circus Smirkus summer camp, which was super nice,” recalled Asom. “I looked forward to it all year.”
Accomplished athletes, both Asom and his brother took part in two Circus Smirkus camp sessions that following year.
“I had no idea how to juggle,” said Asom, who today debuts in the show, the 2019 Big Top Tour CARNIVALboth as a juggler and “basing,” a role in which he is responsible for helping to throw and catch troupe members, and be a strong man on the ground.
It didn’t take long in that first summer camp session for Asom to become passionate about being a Circus Smirkus camper – and to dream of being in the youth circus.
“I kind of fell in love with it, actually,” said Asom. “It instantly had a high spot in my heart.”
His life had revolved around family, school and sports. “When I got to Circus Smirkus it’s like I’m in a whole other world.”
Asom auditioned to be in the traveling circus last summer and was chosen for the Vaudeville show, saying half the troupe had graduated and moved on, and they were looking for a partner to help troupe member Chase Levy to be a base.
Troupe members sometimes are able to do everything in the show, and sometimes they’re really good at a few things – or the best at one thing, “It’s a balance of everything, some people can do flips, they can walk on wires, or they can juggle a ridiculous number of balls,” said Asom. “In this show, I am juggling and I am basing… Essentially that means you throw people, it’s a fun role, it’s pretty tiring.”
Asom is the only local member of the troupe. And he was a little awe struck in the beginning.
The troupers hail from 10 states and Canada, and range in age from 11-18, spending their summer “living and breathing circus arts.” Smirkus trains, tours, and performs as part of an extended circus family that includes coaches, counselors, cooks, musicians, tent crew, and more.
He said, “It’s a little nerve-wracking … but you fake it until you make it!”
From a casual awareness of the circus to a full-fledged troupe member, Asom’s rise has been borderline meteoric.
“I always kind of knew about it, I never knew how anything worked, I just went to a show and left completely confused about what was going on …. the kids who put on the show, they seemed like different human beings who could put on a show that is that beautiful,” Asom said. “It’s an honor to be part of it.”
Watch Asom’s Trouper Close Up Video
According to Circus Smirkus, they are the only touring youth circus in the country that travels with its own European-style Big Top tent. A cast of 30 troupers will travel this summer to 16 venues in five states and will perform 69 shows in 51 days.
The Circus Smirkus shows Tuesday and Wednesday in St. Johnsbury.
“The Big Top tour provides dazzling family entertainment to 50,000 spectators annually and has helped presenting partners raise over two million dollars to date,” a press release explains. “Catamount Arts has been presenting Circus Smirkus in St. Johnsbury since 2013. Since then, the Big Top tent has become a summer fixture in the community, often drawing sell-out crowds from the Northeast Kingdom and beyond.”
For folks who can’t run away with the circus, there are various ways to be part of the fun when the Big Top comes to town. Smirkus relies on an extensive network of host families and volunteers in every town on the Big Top tour.
“Really, it’s a community event,” says Jody Fried of Catamount Arts. “Every town has its local sponsors, teams of volunteers, households opening their homes to performers. Every year, we get to welcome them back like family. They are family.”
Tickets are available online at www.smirkus.org or by calling 1-877-SMIRKUS.
To inquire about volunteer opportunities at the St. Johnsbury shows, email firstname.lastname@example.org.