When the Unfamiliar Becomes Everyday Life
Editor’s Note: This post was written by 2nd year trouper Grant Bishop, from Los Angeles, CA
In my head, New England and Smirkus are one and the same.
My first time stepping onto East Coast soil was my trip to participate in the Circus Smirkus live auditions in 2020, and ever since then New England has been a home for me in many ways. Growing up in Los Angeles, I had little to no knowledge of a Northeastern lifestyle and was pretty content with my day to day surrounded by palm trees, ocean breezes, and the excitement of the city.
However, the moment I arrived at Lives and was welcomed by all the fellow auditionees, my worries of whether I would fit in in rural Vermont completely left my brain. Even if I had to deal with swarms of bugs, mud, and unpredictable weather, I would bear it all to be able to tour with the amazing people I met. My acceptance to the troupe and consequently the warm welcome I received by returning troupers solidified my enthusiasm for this entirely new experience, and I couldn’t wait to join them in the summer.
When the pandemic meant that the 2020 Big Top Tour had to be cancelled, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to return to the new environment that I had only just begun exploring. How could I go a year without seeing all of my new friends and living in an entirely different world that I had only had a taste of?
That was when I was offered the opportunity to attend Circus Smirkus Camp, which was operating under a COVID prevention model in order to provide a bubble to train in maskless and COVID-free, I jumped at the chance. I would get to join the Smirkus world, spend time with Smirkos, and live in Vermont for five weeks. In addition to the Smirkus aspect, being able to escape the reality that was the pandemic and just experience circus without any distractions from the outside world was such a relief, and something I didn’t know I needed until I arrived.
Training at Smirkus Camp only emphasized my excitement to join the Tour the next year, and really gave me the motivation I needed to continue improving and learning over the school year. I couldn’t wait to continue training some of the new skills I gained at camp (such as Russian Bar and Hand to Hand) that I knew I would be able to really improve in when Tour began. When the tour was cancelled for another year, I was again disappointed, but simultaneously intrigued by the prospect of a training intensive in place of the Big Top Tour. I would still get the training I was hoping for, surrounded by some of my favorite people and the Vermont wilderness.
Since arriving at the Circus Smirkus Headquarters, I was reminded of a few things about the Vermont lifestyle that I had forgotten in my year of living at home. I specifically remember being surprised by how the rain just… comes down suddenly. A few of the other troupers made fun of me for commenting on it, but I was just so astounded with the pure amount of rain coming down seemingly out of nowhere. I’m used to a slow drizzle leading up to a larger downpour, not the skies opening up and dumping buckets upon buckets onto my head.
Also, at night the silence is filled not by sirens and general city hubbub, but with crickets and wilderness ambience. I found it hard to sleep at first, but after about a week here I have come to love it. That sentiment actually applies to a lot of my first encounters with New England: wholly unfamiliar but quickly a staple of everyday life.