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Letter from a Trouper: Lola Picayo

Editor’s note: This post was written by Lola Picayo, 5th year trouper. 

Smirkus has taught me more in the past five years than I ever imagined I’d learn in a tent. More than just incredible circus skills and performance ability, I’ve learned how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, hold my own in unfamiliar spaces and truly revel in being myself. Smirkus has given me my best friend, a network of familiar faces across the Northeast, and a confidence and faith in myself I’m not sure I would’ve found had I not been accepted on tour in 2014.

Lola Picayo (left) and Maedya Kojis in the anchor act in Anchors Away For Atlantis (2014). Photo by Robert Sanson

My first year on tour was the summer before I entered high school, and I sometimes wonder if I would’ve had the confidence to hold onto the eccentric and smiley part of myself if I hadn’t learned to love it so deeply at Smirkus. I was introduced to a group of teenagers who showed me the dedication, work ethic, kindness and energy that it takes to be a Smirko, something I’ve tried to embody both in and outside of the ring.

In 2014 I was cast in a duo aerial-anchor act with then second-year-trouper, Maedya Kojis, who, for the past five years, I’ve been lucky enough to call my best friend. We were immediately forced to trust each other for our act and from there our relationship developed exponentially. Now we fly to visit each other as often as we can, facetime almost daily and wear matching necklaces just to remind us of the time and place our friendship formed. Smirkus is a space where I found people similar to me, who enjoy being upside down and making people smile. It taught me to love and take care of myself, respect every part of the elaborate system it takes to put on a show, and how to live for the summer free from the qualms of high school.  

I’m sad to say that this will be my final tour with Smirkus, although I’m certain I will take what I’ve learned in and around the Chapiteau with me for the rest of my life. Now it’s my turn to be the senior trouper who sets an example for the new, passes down the bizarre traditions, and tells stories from past tours I didn’t experience. I will be forever indebted to Smirkus for giving me my best friend, summers of joy and innumerable pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and I know it’s a place I will always hold dear to me.

-Lola Picayo

Lola Hula Hooping in 2017, photo by Erica Miller

Lola Hula Hooping in 2017, photo by Erica Miller