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Trouper Close-Ups: Ben Kaufman, Sam Landa, and Ariana Wunderle

Trouper Close-Ups: Ben Kaufman, Sam Landa, and Ariana Wunderle

Ben Kaufman

A senior this year, Ben Kaufman is 18 years old and is from Brattleboro, VT.  This is his 3rd year as a Trouper, and is so excited to be on tour once again.  When he was younger, Ben was interested in gymnastics, theatre, and dance.  He says “he needed to find something that combined all of those in a non-competitive way.”  He started out at the New England Center for Circus Arts with his first discipline, jump rope.  Ben then attended Circus Smirkus Summer Camps for four years.  Now, Ben does anything from handstands, to hula hoops, to tight wire.  He says Circus Smirkus has taught him “what a performer can be. Being a Smirko, you are not just a performer.  There is so much more that we do.”  He loves the traditions, history, and stories behind Smirkus.  Being a Smirko, each Trouper becomes part of the Circus Smirkus story.  He replied, “Exactly.  You get to make your own mark.”

Ben performing as Beethoven (Photo by Robert Sanson)


Sam Landa

Sam Landa is 17 years old and is a senior from Washington, DC.  He first got involved with circus by going to Circus Smirkus Summer Camps in 2013.  He then saw the Big Top Tour for the first time, and fell in love.  He started training and auditioning for the Big Top Tour, and got accepted in 2015, making him a 3rd year Trouper this year.  Additionally, he attended École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, Canada.  He will continue his circus education by attending college there in the Fall.  Straps is his favorite act that he performs in this years tour, but he says his specialty is dance trapeze.  His favorite part about being on tour is, “being able to be constantly surrounded by friends and support.”


Sam performing in the fabric routine (Photo by Tamra Biedrzycki)


Ariana Wunderle

Ariana Wunderle is 13 years old, and is from Chester, VT.  This is her 4th year as a Trouper, although she started performing in the ring at age 2.  She is the daughter of Sara and Troy Wunderle, Circus Smirkus’ Operations Director and Artistic Director, respectively.  Troy is a clown, as is Ariana.  When I asked her about having a clown as a dad she responded, “I think it is pretty cool…My dad says he has a directors side and a father side”  She added that her parents allow her to make her own decisions, and never force her to do circus.  Along with being a clown, Ariana also participates in the wire act in this year’s show.  Growing up, Ariana always admired the wire walkers.  Performing wire in the shows started out small, she remembers.  But now, in this years tour, she performs on pointe on the wire.  When asked what her favorite part of performing is, Ariana was quick to answer.  “What makes me really happy is I get to bring everyone in the audience into my world, our world, Smirkus’ world!  We allow them to see a different perspective of life.  They feel the magic that we feel.”

Circus Smirkus Clowns

Eva Lou and Ariana clowning around  (Photo by Tamra Biedrzycki)

To join Ben, Sam, and Ariana on the 30th Anniversary Big Top Tour, get your tickets here!