What Goes Up, Must Come Down!
Editor’s Note: This post was written by summer Tour Communications Associate Lila Chafe
What goes up must come down! This truism takes form every few days for Circus Smirkus on our six week New England tour. At each new site, the tent crew, a group of experts in the assembly of big top tents, leads the cast and staff in raising three tents essential for the show.
This year, troupers have gotten to experience the full teardown process. Miki Hertog-Raz, a fourth and final year trouper, exclaims that getting to stay on lot and be a part of the action is a highlight, and now “[he] loves working with the tents!” For many of the troupers looking to perform with circuses beyond Smirkus, this year’s teardown schedule provides an incredible opportunity to learn the inner workings of a traveling circus.
Athena Montori, a first year trouper, has gotten to work with the tech crew in packing up lights and speakers, and as a part of that, she says “I also learned how to coil a cable properly, which was fun! Also I learned that they are super heavy.” Half way through the night, Sasha Misko exclaims “I love ratchet straps!” referring to the truck bed full of fencing that she had just secured. Along with all of the other troupers, Sasha’s first year on tour has entailed much more than performing well rehearsed tricks– it has introduced surprising skill and strength to their daily routines.
Our big top tent, Chapiteau, is intricately designed and requires a huge crew to safely disassemble. Billy Cholewka, a second year trouper in his final year was “really surprised that they let the troupers take down Hellie (the backstage tent), and then the other tents as well,” but he admits that “[he] felt super cool doing it.” Miki and Athena both shared that the order of teardown is paramount to maintaining safety and preparing for the load-in process the next day. While speed is the goal, Miki explains that “everyone goes as fast as they can, but many things can’t start until other people are done.” Precision and focus are just as important as efficiency on these long nights.
Troupers and staff have specific jobs such as packing the truck, wrapping props, disassembling the bandstand, transporting curtains, taking down bleacher pads, pounding stakes, coiling electrical cables, and even cleaning the popcorn machines! Before anything can go down in the tents, troupers team up to collect the bleacher pads on each row. Sasha almost convinces me that her team wins the bleacher pad competition in under one minute each time. That would be a fantastic feat, but despite the troupers’ hard work and skill, tearing down is never a quick process.
After two performances, clearing the entire front lot can be extremely taxing, which is why joyful screams, loud music, and lots of pizza are a crucial part of teardown. After a long night, troupers and staff get as much sleep as possible before we “jump” to the next site and load everything back in. Setting up tents that were only just taken apart is a big undertaking, but sharing our show with audiences from many corners of the northeast makes it all worthwhile.