Meet the Directors

Meet the Directors


Step into a world of whimsy and wonder, as Circus Smirkus celebrates playfulness, discovery, and childlike curiosity with the 2024 Big Top Tour: The Imaginarium. A magical toy shop comes to life with tumbling teddy bears, high-flying marionettes, and a very mischievous Jack-in-the-Box, in this awe-inspiring and laughter-filled production.

This year’s show will be co-directed by Smirkus alum, clown, and director Joshua Shack, and Julie Jenkins, former Smirkus coach and show director (2003 & 2004) and Co-founder and Artistic Director of the Chicago-based Midnight Circus.

About Josh
Joshua Shack decided to become a clown when he was just three years old. At age nine, he began performing his solo show at many local events, and was a Circus Smirkus trouper from 2000-2003, after two summers at Smirkus Camp. He then toured nationally as a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

He is a co-creator and performer of The Piccolini Trio and directed their critically acclaimed stage show Circus in a Trunk. Other directing credits include Out of Orbit at The Theater at Saint Peter’s in New York City; Nothing but Nonsense, a variety musical comedy at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI; and 18 productions for Theater in the Open in Newburyport, MA.

He is a teaching artist-in-residence for Circus Smirkus, and has served in a dozen different roles with the company, including Production Manager, Director of Programming and Associate Artistic Director.

Josh is over the moon and deeply honored to be the first Smirkus alum to direct the Big Top Tour show, and is very excited to be collaborating with Julie – who directed him two decades ago – along with a tremendously talented troupe, and excellent coaches and creative team!

About Julie
Julie Jenkins is the Artistic Director of Chicago’s Midnight Circus which she co-founded with her partner in life and work, Jeffrey Jenkins. Their inspiration for creating Midnight Circus was ignited in Greensboro, VT in 1995 when they were fortunate to collaborate with Circus Smirkus founder Rob Mermin to create and tour a show under the first Big Top Tour tent named ‘Old Blue’.

Midnight Circus has been creating world-class, accessible, ground breaking circus in their magical purple and blue big top for nearly two decades. Highlights include, touring across Chicago and reaching 20,000+ people each year, being named Chicago’s “Best Annual Family Event” by Time Out Chicago Magazine, performing at The Kennedy Center as part of their Look Both Ways Festival, and being the first American Company to play the prestigious MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE, where they packed the tent, and were celebrated for their skill, unique style and ability to transcend age, race and socio-economic barriers to entertain and inspire. Through their ticket revenue, Midnight Circus has raised close to 2 million dollars for nonprofit arts organizations and community groups in Chicago and were just awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Friends of the Park, the highly acclaimed organization that advocates and protects all of Chicago’s park systems.

Prior to joining the circus, Julie graduated from the University of Illinois with a BFA in Acting. Upon graduation, she was selected to study Shakespeare with The National Theatre of Great Britain. As an actress, Julie has created, consulted, choreographed, and performed with some of Chicago’s most recognized theaters including: Chicago Shakespeare, Teatro Vista, Famous Door, The National Jewish Theater, Collaboraction, and The Goodman Theatre.

Outside of the circus ring, Julie continues acting and coaching for film and television, and enjoys spending time with her husband Jeff, kids, Max and Samantha, and their 3 rescued Pit Bulls, and circus performers in their own right, Rickie, Bobbie and Rosie Rae.

Julie is thrilled to be returning to Smirkus, and looking forward to sharing her decades of circus and theatrical experience to reach and inspire the next generation of Smirkos.