Circus Smirkus flies into Cheshire Fairgrounds


BRATTLEBORO — Ben Kaufman made it through the initial hurdles of preparing for a summer-long circus tour.

Kaufman joined Smirkus Circus on June 4, when they met in Greensboro. There, he said, all the acts were put together and the show was built. The tour began on June 25.

"It's a quick period to make a professional level show," Kaufman said. "It's hard to stay really motivated through it."

In Greensboro, the weather was less than inspiring. It was rainy and cold so it was challenge to keep his spirits up, Kaufman said. He had to remember he was creating something he was going to love.

"The final product makes it all worth it without a doubt," said Kaufman.

This summer marks the second Circus Smirkus tour for Kaufman, 17, who trains in the advanced youth program at New England Center for Circus Arts and specializes in handstands. He's also a senior at Brattleboro Union High School and plans to apply for circus schools after graduation. He hopes to turn it into a profession.

Having a show near his hometown allows for his friends to come check it out. Also, he can sleep in his own bed.

The Monadnock Waldorf School has invited the award-winning Circus Smirkus crew to perform at the Cheshire Fairgrounds on Monday, July 11, and Tuesday, July 12. Each day will feature a showing of the group's "Up, HUP and Away: The Invention of Flight."

"It's a fundraiser for us," said Cydney Smith, a parent at the Monadnock Waldorf School. "We get a certain percentage of the ticket sales."

Tickets are available at Toadstool Books in Keene and Peterborough, N.H., and Beadniks in Brattleboro. They also can be purchased at the show. Children under 2 get in free. Tickets are $21.50 for people 13 and older, $17.50 for children aged 7 to 13 and $14.50 for kids between the ages of 2 and 6.

The Vermont-based Smirkus Circus is an international youth circus, currently on its 2016 Big Top Tour. The group will put on 66 shows this summer with 30 circus stars aged 11 to 18. Five area circus artists training at the New England Center for Circus Arts are part of the show that will travel to Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and upstate New York.

The Circus Smirkus performers clap their hands, jump with their legs and arms out exclaiming the phrase "HUP," explained Smith.

"It's part of their audience engagement I guess," she said. "What's so cool about Circus Smirkus is that 30 kids come from all over the country to train. It's a very competitive process getting into Circus Smirkus."

Oftentimes, Smith said, kids who tour with the group end up training in an adult program for professionals. Several artists have gone on to perform with Cirque du Solei and Big Apple Circus. Smith called the upcoming show an opportunity for people to see these performers as teenagers before they go on to have a career in the field.

Monadnock Waldorf School has a circus program although "much smaller" than Circus Smirkus, said Smith. But the school's program shares the same mission and spirit of Circus Smirkus in hoping to create "masterful opportunities for youth."

"That's how the whole partnership started," she said. "Two like-minded organizations getting together to encourage youths to step into a bigger vision for themselves."

The art form made sense for Kaufman to delve into roughly 10 years ago.

"At the time I was acting, dancing and doing gymnastics," he said. "I wanted something that combined all three of those and circus. I also loved performing. It was a good way to express myself."

Troy Wunderle, artistic director for the show, recently experienced the death of his father. The event helped inspired the theme, Kaufman said, as Wunderle's father, a teacher, showed Wunderle "wacky inventions" created with the intent to fly.

"It's very important to him. There's some very touching moments in this show that shine through and make it a little different from other years," said Kaufman. "It's a lot of fun and very high energy."

Contact Chris Mays at or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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