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Letter from a Trouper: Scott Raison

Editor’s note: This post was written by Scott Raison, Smirkus Camper and 1st year trouper. 

WATCH Scott and LilyRuth’s audition video from the 2019 Live Auditions for the Big Top Tour

On January 23rd I was pacing around my house right before the news came in on whether or not I got accepted to Circus Smirkus’s Big Top Tour. A flurry of emotions was swirling around inside me. Every five seconds I looked up at the clock to see if it was seven yet. After hearing the phone buzzing from across the room, I grabbed it and read the email from Circus Smirkus. “Congratulations on your acceptance to the Circus Smirkus 2019 Big Top Tour!” At the moment, I didn’t know whether to scream, cry, or laugh. I did a little bit of all three. After all the chaos, I relaxed and asked myself “How did I get here?” I looked back at all I’ve done to be where I am today. I never thought that I would be on my way to a professional career in the circus arts.

I vividly remember starting my first circus class at Philadelphia School Of Circus Arts (PSCA) on my tenth birthday. I thought of it as merely a hobby and an after-school activity. Shortly after I took a few sessions of classes, I auditioned and started performing with PSCA’s Youth Troupe when I was thirteen. The troupe helped me to improve my stage presence and skills overall.

I never really fit in or felt totally welcome at school. I acted and liked different things than everyone else. All the boys my age were into team sports, not about dance, theater, music, or circus like I was. It was very hard then, but as I went to PSCA more often, I formed closer bonds with fellow students and I found my people.

Circus Smirkus

Sophie, LilyRuth, Coach Richard Kennison & Scott

Fast forward one year later, and I joined my circus school’s new pre-professional training program in the recent facility. Then, I started to train at least ten hours a week in acrobatics, aerials, juggling, balance, contortion, and partner acrobatics. When my circus school moved buildings, I met Juggling Coach Richard Kennison, and he has been coaching me for a little over a year now.

When I heard about Smirkus Camp last year from my friend and coach, Richard, I decided to audition for Session V Camp. That August I got to go to Smirkus for the first time and experience my first sleep-away camp. I fell in love with the Smirkus magic, and I was already thinking about how I could incorporate Smirkus into my everyday life. When I thought it couldn’t get any better, we took a trip to see the 2018 Big Top Tour.

I didn’t really know what to expect because it was the first Smirkus show I ever saw. I was speechless when I saw everyone run into the ring. The unexplainable happiness made me grin from ear to ear. I thought it was astounding. Being one of those troupers, I thought, was out of reach. The amount of happiness that that one show gave me drove me to train harder in order to be on tour. I knew the tour was the most professional I could get at the moment. I wanted to train and perform under a classic Big Top Tent in front of almost 50,000 people. If all the audience was as happy as I was when I watched the show, then I wanted to give back to them and make them all feel that Smirkus magic I felt. When everyone waved goodbye after the show, I knew that that was my next step in my circus career.

Skip ahead three months to when five auditionees were chosen from my circus school to attend live auditions in Vermont in January. We were all fluttering with emotions after we received the email. No one knew what to expect next because no one from PSCA had been on tour in many years. Sophie (a fellow first-year trouper), however, had gone to live auditions the year before, so we had some knowledge of what the audition weekend had in store for us.

Circus Smirkus

The Philadelphia Kids: LilyRuth, Sophie, Cassie, Scott & Bronyn

Before we knew it, it was January 18th and Bronyn, Cassie, LilyRuth, Sophie and I were all at New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA). We showed all of our skills and who we are with the Smirkus Family. LilyRuth and I did our duo act in front of everyone, and before we realized it, the whole weekend was over.

Leaving the audition was bitter-sweet, I didn’t know if I would see anyone soon from auditions, but I knew that if I got in, then I’d get to spend my whole summer with them.

Now, I look forward to being in several acts using my juggling, contortion and aerial skills. I’ve amped up training in order to prepare for the circus-filled summer and to put my best foot forward. Typically I train at least sixteen hours a week, working on everything under the sun: juggling, unicycle, aerials, acrobatics, wire, partner acrobatics, contortion, clowning, trampoline, and some hula hooping.

In the future, I see myself going to a professional circus school like Circadium or École Nationale de Cirque (ENC). I’m sure my passion for circus, dance, and performance arts will never go away, and I hope professionally I can perform circus all across the world and pass along circus to as many people possible.

Getting to share this experience with my partner and best friend, LilyRuth, makes me forever grateful. We have performed at the International Jugglers’ Association, American Youth Circus Organization and many other gigs before but nothing compares to the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour. I know our friendship will strengthen even more and that we also get to share our passion for circus with other people that love to do what we do.

This past year has proven to me that even if it sounds cliche, if you persist, stay positive, and don’t give up, you can do anything.

Scott Raison