“It was one of my main goals,” Speck said of returning Circus Smirkus to the Newburyport area in 2012. “Honestly, from a cultural standpoint, I missed it so much. It takes a lot of work to bring the circus here each year. They run an extremely tight ship, and they rely on organizations like ours to do the groundwork and to get the field, the advertisers, the signs up and the tickets sold. It’s a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. So we have to put a lot of energy into making sure the event is a success. But at the end of all that work last year, getting to be able to sit under the big top next to the circus ring for the first time in 11 years and to be able to see all of these young people and very old people with very young smiles on their faces, I was overwhelmed.”
The relationship between the two companies became symbiotic enough that two Theater in the Open alums would go on to join circuses of their own. Ariel Ebacher is currently touring Great Britain with a Welsh circus, and Dylan Fuller got into professional clowning.
The Vermont-based international youth circus is a true traveling show, spending the summer moving up and down the Northeast.
“They come in Thursday evening, set up shop, do their two shows Friday and Saturday and by Sunday morning, they are gone with the wind,” Speck said.
The one-ring big top event also features 29 performers, ages 11 to 18.
“Much like Olympic gymnasts, they are going to be young because that’s the only age where you can pull this stuff off at,” Speck said of the circus performers. “So these kids are performing at an extremely high level in terms of quality. Then you have the experience of children in the audience getting to see people their own age performing these amazing acts.”