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The Circus Barn, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Camps, Performing Arts, Performing Arts Schools, Sports

Mission: The mission of Circus Smirkus is to promote the skills, culture, and traditions of the traveling circus and to inspire youth to engage in life enhancing adventures in the circus arts. Smirkus’s vision for the future includes national and international recognition as an organization that offers the highest quality performance and education programs in the traditional circus arts, with an emphasis on providing the opportunity for young people to live up to their potential and transform their lives through participation in circus.

Geographic areas served: Northeastern United States

Programs: In-School Residencies, Smirkus Summer Camp, The Big Top Tour

Community Stories

19 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our experience with Rick and Circus Smirkus was outstanding. Rick was able work with a multi-age group and keep all the students invested in the circus experience. All of the students thoroughly enjoyed the program and the teachers were able incorporate the circus theme in all subject areas. It was a individual confidence builder, developed the students large and fine motor skills as well as team cooperation. I highly recommend Rick and the Circus Smirkus program. Coleen Healy Director Southshire Community School

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have had TWO Circus Smirkus residencies at our school in five years -- if that doesn't speak volumes about the quality of this program, I don't know what does! Circus Smirkus takes students to a whole new level of learning. We find that our students are actually more focussed in their classes during a two week residency in which they practice for up to 50 minutes every day. Teachers were at first worried about lost class time, but quickly discovered the time they had was more productive AND the opportunities for integrating circus arts into most areas of the curriculum were unlimited. The thrill of watching a child persevere at a skill until they are able to perform it in front of an enthusiastic audience is unmatched. I could go on for pages with accolades for this organization. We will book them again to work with our students!

7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I first went with my daughter, thinking it would be a cute kids' show. I was blown away by the professional-quality talent, staging, lighting, music. There were plenty of kids in the audience, but even more adults. What makes Smirkus different from other shows is the joyous spirit of the teenaged performers. They just lift you up, make you happy, make you laugh, make you hold your breath. They're doing this for love, and they do it so well it changes your whole outlook on the world. My daughter's in college now, but I never miss Smirkus when it comes to town.

8

Client Served

Rating: 5

Circus Smirkus is a reason to restore anyone's faith in humanity. Their Big Top Tour comes to Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine and provides inspiration and beautiful entertainment to the greater Portland community. We welcome children--in-need from organizations like Make-a-Wish and take Smirkus Troupers to the local children's hospital, thus taking the joy of the Circus far beyond the ring. Smirkus is a fantastic organization and we absolutely love working with them to bring such amazing talent and good will into our community.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My son went to Smirkus Camp twice and then became a performer with the Smirkus Summer Tour for 2 years. In that short time he grew from being quiet, reticent, and a bit insecure to someone who radiated on stage with full confidence and strength of character, and his skills improved 300%. I had no ambitions for my son to be a performer, but I will say that I could not have chosen a better place for him in his teen years. He was surrounded by caring, creative and loving human beings in the troupe and the staff. He found a family that encouraged him and gave him numerous opportunities to grow, succeed and participate fully and responsibly in all areas- performing, creating, and all the behind-the-scenes work. He went from a single parent family to having numerous supportive "parents," mentors and peers. I never had any experience with the circus or any interest either, but that quickly changed as I became an eager, enthusiastic circus mom, thanks to the people who make up this organization and the excitement that was generated the minute I entered the scene.

4

Board Member

Rating: 5

My daughter attended Smirkus camp for three years and performed with the Big Top Tour for five years. We saw her develop from a shy little girl to a poised, talented young woman. She also gained many life skills, as troupers are engaged in many behind-the-scenes chores. Smirkus gives these kids tremendous opportunities and prepares them for life. But beyond those who participate, Smirkus also brings joy to the tens of thousands of people who see the Big Top Tour, go to camp (as camper or staff), or participate in a wonderfully educational and exciting school residency. It is a not for profit organization that instills strong values and engages people in its important mission. The staff and volunteers are incredibly dedicated and hard working and are passionate about the organization and its mission. It's often said that Smirkus is magical, and it's true!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Two years ago I went to Smirkus Summer Camp just for fun. Within the first few minutes I already felt like I was surrounded by a family. The campers and the staff were so supportive, and they helped me build the confidence that led me to audition for the Big Top Tour last year. I had no idea what to expect when I was accepted as a 2009 trouper, but I was amazed by the experience I had. Not only did I learn new skills, I learned to work as a team and work through challenging conditions. The best part was sharing our show with the public and seeing them walk away from our big top with huge smiles on their faces. I came away from this summer a stronger, harder working person. The people I travelled with are my second family, they picked me up when I was down and brought out the best in me.

3

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been invovled with Circus Smirkus as a parent of a camper who then became a trouper and stayed with it for some ten years. I then joined the board and have been with the board for almost eight years. So from 1993 to the present, I have been involved in some way or another. I have had the great pleasure to see many troupers grow in oh so many ways and watch Smirkus emerge as a real leader in the youth circus field.

4

Former staff

Rating: 5

I went to Smirkus Camp for two summers, and then auditioned for, and was accepted to the Big Top Tour. I toured for four summers. Circus has been my dream and passion since I was three years old, and Smirkus has not only provided me with the opportunity and resources to pursue circus as a career, but, as for so many others, gave me life skills applicable to anything I would want to achieve. Smirkus creates an adventure that is life changing and life enhancing, and is quite indescribable to those who haven't experienced it, but undeniable to those who have. I have gone on to work as a professional clown and continue to work with Circus Smirkus, in many roles, including counselor and production manager, mentoring the current troupe, supporting the artistic integrity of the show, and proudly helping to continue to provide magical entertainment for audiences of all ages.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Circus Smirkus is rollicking good fun. Here, talented teenage performers safely push the boundaries of their own potential to the delight of audiences who are swept along with the foot-stomping exhilaration of simply watching them. It’s zany, hilarious and absurd; a brightly colored dream where anything and everything can come true.

7

Donor

Rating: 5

Circus Smirkus provides an environment for young people to become better at both team work and leadership, responsibility -for both oneself and others- creativity and self expression. It fosters empathy, passion, commitment and self discipline. This is done through the circus arts- from juggling to acrobatics, clowning to trapeze, aerials to tightrope walking. It is not difficult to understand how the lessons learned by working in a tight-knit group towards a common goal over a period of ten weeks stand the participants in good stead as they evolve through their teenage years and become young adults. As a parent I feel immensely proud of my child's achievements-both physical and developmental- thanks to Circus Smirkus, as well as grateful that he found this gem of an experience. Don't be deceived by the title 'youth' circus. It is incredibly professional and of an exceptionally high standard. Guests from all over the World have echoed this as well as numerous newspaper articles and television reports. Although running away to the circus is an affordable affair, running the circus is not. That the kids sleep in ancient, but clean trailers is part of the charm. That families can afford the ticket price is paramount. However transportation and putting on shows with the safety of both participants and the audience IS expensive.

7

Board Member

Rating: 5

I first experienced Circus Smirkus 11 years ago as a prent taking my young daughter to a Big Top tour show. The whole family was blown away! The kids who were performing showed such incredible energy and joy! My daughter said then and there, "Dad, I want to do that!" Soon after, she began attending Circus Smirkus summer camps. My wife and I were very pleased and impressed by the high standards for fitness and nutrition at the camps as well as the great pleasure and satisfaction our daughter derived from attending them. A few years ago, she decided to try out to become a Big Top Tour Trouper. Her experience on tour for the last two summers has been just plain wonderful and I have continued to be impressed by the fact that the joy and exuberance I noted 11 years ago is still a feature of each performance. I volunteered at just about every show I could manage to attend. I witnessed the wide-eyed wonder of the kids in the audience, the smiling parents, and the hard work by everyone associated with the show. I was impressed to learn that, not only does the Tour act as a fund-raiser for a variety of local non-profit sponsors, but the Troupers even give short impromptu shows at various locations their route - for example Paul Newman's "Hole in the Wall Gang" camp for kids with cancer and other serious illnesses. Last summer, I was asked to join the Board of Directors, and although I realized it would be a serious time commitment on my part, I did not hesitate to say yes. As a Board member, my view of the organization broadened and I could see the other ways Circus Smirkus touches people's lives. One of the programs visits schools throughout the northeast for short "residencies," where the kids are taught some simple circus skills as a way of encouraging fitness. The more I have seen of Circus Smirkus, the more imprssed I have become. It is a jewel of an organization!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Circus Smirkus makes magic. It's that simple. Each summer audiences fall in love with the wonder, joy, & artistry of the circus arts through Smirkus' award-winning Big Top Tour, performed primarily by talented children and teens. In addition to its tour, Smirkus brings the circus arts to thousands of children annually through school residencies and summer camp programs. My son was first introduced to Circus Smirkus by attending annual performances of the Big Top Tour. Years later, a Smirkus school residency resulted in his learning to diabolo and juggle - with a passion! As a ninth grader, he attended the Smirkus Advanced Camp, and one year later he was on tour as an official "trouper". The Smirkus experience has been a remarkable journey of transformation. Whether through residency, camp, or tour, Smirkus teaches kids to extend the boundaries of what they thought possible, and to love the unique form of art that is circus.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Circus Smirkus is absolutely amazing. Before seeing it, many people think it is just a kids' show. They are incredibly surprised withing minutes of the show starting. All the performers are professional caliber, but they have the enthusiasm and enjoyment that many professionals lack. If a performer does not have a smile on their face, it is because they are a clown who just got a pie in the face. Often after a show audience members will tell say "Oh, that was just as good as Cirque du Soleil" Many others say that Smirkus is better.

1

Former Volunteer

Rating: 5

I grew up attending Circus Smirkus Camp (5 summers) and then performing on the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour (4 summers). It is impossible for me to describe the infinate number of ways in which Smirkus shaped my life- every summer with Smirkus taught with me new lessons, gave me new strength and confidence, and added to my ever-growing circus family. Nothing compares to the pure joy and passion that young performers are able to share in the Smirkus ring and I know that the organization not only has a lasting impact on the kids who participate, but their families, the audiences that come to the shows, and so many others. Smirkus is an incredible organization and I feel so lucky to have it in my life.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am the parent of a child who went to Circus Smirkus summer camp for three years and then was encouraged to audition for the tour. She was accepted and what had been a fun pursuit for her turned into a passion. She toured for 2 years until she became too old. It happened that for her, this led to a professional circus career, though what she gained from the experience would be useful in any profession. What I saw as a parent was this: my child was stretched and challenged to work really hard to pursue her dream of making it to auditions and to be accepted to the tour. She developed a confidence I did not know she had. I witnessed her relating to the audience as a whole, interacting with individual fans young and old, and working hard with her fellow troupers, who became like family to her. I saw a sense of responsibility and teamwork in her and in the entire troupe that I did not think was possible in a group of young people. During the teenage years, human beings tend to be extremely self-centered and can be pretty inconsiderate of others. But I saw a group of young people who worked as hard on the show as a whole as they did to develop their own skills. It requires sometimes putting aside one's own desires for the good of the show. Those accepted to tour are all talented. They have incredible discipline in their individual training, but there are also many group acts and ensemble pieces, requiring endless rehearsal within the larger context of the troupe. Every day they have to work together not only in the ring, but behind the scenes. This includes many daily chores such as meal clean-up, picking up trash in the bleachers, etc, and also working with the ring crew. They have to keep themselves and each other safe and they have to help each other. Sometimes they literally hold each other's lives in their hands. This requires a degree of trust and honesty that most people do not have to face in the workplace. The directors and coaches are extraordinary. Although they bring out the personal best in each young person's skills, they set a high standard for professionalism and maturity for the troupe as a whole. They demand the best in character, behavior and attitude from each trouper. They treat the troupers with respect and are respected in return. My child spent her summers in this wholesome, challenging environment learning important life lessons and growing confident and mature. Oh, and they put on a heck of a great show!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am the parent of a "smirko", and I think that circus smirkus has provided an incredible growth opportunity for my daughter, who was a shy kid when she started with them, and after 2 touring summers, has become much more confident, outspoken, and community minded. The people behind the scenes are dedicated individuals, who bring the joy of circus to both the performers and audiences. I lthink smirkus is an outstanding organization!

5

Former staff

Rating: 5

I've been involved with Circus Smirkus for the past 8 years. First as a camper, then a trouper, and now as an alumni. The organization has shaped me into person that I am today. Circus Smirkus is a close knit community of kind and passionate people who share a common goal of making the best show possible. Smirkus is more than any kid could ever ask for.

7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My daugher, Aerial, was involved with Circus Smirkus over a 5 year period including camps and the touring company. As a family this experience has been a HUGE part of our lives all year round. Even though camp was for a week or two at a time and Aerial's tour experience was a 10 week period over the summer for 3 seasons ... she lived Circus Smirkus all year. It positively affected her school work and her home life. She knew that if she was all good in school that we as her folks would let her live her dream in the summer. She did more chores around the house. We owe it to the Smirkus staff for giving the kids a voice in decisions and the fact that as a whole they all depended on one another on the road ... staff and trouper alike. Aerial is now in Circus College in Quebec Canada and is following her dream. She knows what is like to train hard ... do multiple shows in a day, meet and greet audiences, face the joy of a wonderful performance and learned to accept a not-so-good show with grace and dignity. Respect ... a lot of respect on circus Smirkus amongst all. Although Aerial is off the show now as she aged out, We will continue to be involved and fly up for shows in the summer as our child gained SO MUCH from the experience. As did we! Truly, Sean Emery Meg Emery