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Letter from a Trouper: Alexa Wang

Editor’s Note: This post was written by 5th year trouper Alexa Wang

I’ve had to remind myself that this isn’t “my last year with Smirkus”. Of course, it is my last year as a trouper and the last time I step into the ring as a “Smirko”, but one never leaves Smirkus and Smirkus never really leaves you.

Every time I look into my future, I envision Smirkus being a part of it— whether it be my commitment to see the Big Top Tour every summer or my dream of one day coming back to be an employee, Smirkus is not just something you forget about. However, the future I had hoped for a year ago as I was approaching my final year as a trouper was derailed by reasons we are all familiar with at this point, and the summer ahead is one that I have almost no familiarity with. How do I make the most of this summer for myself and those around me even though it isn’t exactly what I had anticipated? 

I am one of several troupers who technically exceed the age limit for eligibility but have been granted the privilege of returning for one final year. When it was announced that the 2020 tour would be cancelled and everything would be pushed back one year, I was evidently disappointed but was comforted in the idea that seniors such as myself would simply be able to tour the next year.

I was intrigued by the dynamics this would result in; many of us would be returning to Smirkus after attending a year of college (a concept I still cannot wrap my head around) and I lost myself in thought over the kind of person I would be after a year— especially a year without Smirkus. Ten months later and a semester and a half of college under my belt, the announcement that the 2021 Big Top Tour would also be cancelled and consequently the fact that I would never again be able to do a full tour with Smirkus again reached me in a state of acceptance. The summer ahead participating in the Big Top Tour inTENTsive experience will satisfy the “requirements” of a senior Smirkus year, but what I find myself contemplating often is how returning to Smirkus after a year of college will feel. 

I am a BFA musical theatre student at Pace University in NYC. I had always felt the connection between circus and theatre performance and continued to be passionate in both throughout high school, but the differences between the two made themselves clear to me when I immersed myself in theatre full-time. Even when the industry is completely shut down, the theatre world is incredibly competitive and non-stop. This is not a complaint; I thrive in a fast-paced environment. However, it is almost the opposite of the explorative, collaborative world of circus and Smirkus in particular.

Entering college after a summer without being on tour was not as jarring as possibly going from one extreme to another in a normal year, but I lacked the ever-present voice of Troy Wunderle telling me to bring Smirkus into the world wherever I go that echoes in my brain for at least a month after final council. While I wholly enjoyed my first year in college, I often wonder how Smirkus might have affected the way I approached this new environment if the year had been different. I have accepted that what ifs and suppose thats don’t bring me any closer to satisfaction, but I now wonder how my year of university will influence my experience at Smirkus in this final summer. 

It felt strange to be so detached from Smirkus throughout this year, but I have been slowly re-adjusting back into my old routines of organization and communication as I gear up for the Big Top Tour inTENTsive. I have been aiding in the process of preparing the end-of-summer performance that will be unlike any other Big Top Tour spectacle from years past, and I can feel the emotions coming back to me that typically arise in the days before tour begins.

As much as I will miss all of the traditions and rituals of the Big Top Tour (teardown, tour chores, homestays), I am very excited to see what this unique opportunity will produce. After watching the tour for over ten years, being a camper for five, and touring for four, my journey with Smirkus decidedly never ends but the finality of being a trouper one last time does not escape me.