Think young people aren’t newspaper readers? Don’t tell this to the 30 performers from ages 10 to 18 participating in this year’s Circus Smirkus tour.

When the Vermont-based youth circus rolls into Maine this week, the troupe will present “Front Page Follies: Big Top Big News!”

In addition to the show’s standard-issue acrobats and clowns, this summer’s newspaper-themed performance includes juggling paperboys and a wacky weatherman.

Performer John Stubbs even takes a newspaper to new heights. Stubbs, 16, who performs mainly as a clown, also participates in juggling and a tight-wire act.

“The most difficult thing I do is walk on the tight wire while reading a newspaper,” said Stubbs, of Atlanta.

With a different theme each summer, this year’s show was inspired by a Larry King interview watched by Circus Smirkus creative director Jesse Dryden. In the interview, King discussed the allure of old-school journalism that some fear may be lost in a world of Tweets and apps.

“He (Dryden) wanted to do a show that displays the romance of journalism,” said Alex Zaprudsky, communications and public relations intern for Circus Smirkus.

With an original score and specially made costumes, the show is set in the 1920s and populated by reporters, paper boys and flapper girls. The set and props have an Art Deco feel. Look for updates from the news desk mixed in with slapstick clowning and trapeze acts.

Zaprudsky characterizes the Circus Smirkus show as a combination of Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. “It’s all human acts, but they’re very bright and boisterous,” he said.

One such human act is done on a contraption called the Rola Bola.

According to Sonya Gurwitt, 17, of Norwich, Vt., the trick begins with one performer balancing on a board on top of a cylinder.

“He lifts me up so I’m standing on his thighs,” Gurwitt said. “Then I put my hands on his thighs. Then he switches his hands to my shoulders. Then I do a handstand.”

With feats like this one, Gurwitt said physical strength and flexibility are two of the most crucial traits in a Circus Smirkus performer.

“But there are also emotional skills that are important too,” she said. “We’re touring for seven weeks, two shows a day. You have to be willing to work hard, even when things don’t go your way.”

Proceeds from the Maine shows benefit the Kennebunkport Consolidated School PTA and the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport.

Circus Smirkus was founded 24 years ago by Rob Mermin, who wanted to share his love of the circus while cultivating aspiring young performers. Each summer, the circus tours throughout the Northeast, performing about 70 shows.

At each location, the crew raises a European-style tent that covers a 750-seat stadium and the one ring. As seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s a good idea to arrive early.

Be sure to bring a newspaper to keep you occupied before the show starts.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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