KENNEBUNKPORT — “Two minutes, smirkos!” shouted the sequin-bejeweled artistic director in a backstage tent at the Kennebunkport Rockin’ Horse Stables on Monday.

Collin Miclon, 17, applied white powder to his face, accentuating his naturally bright red hair. He painted his eyebrows black, applied rouge to his cheeks and added the finishing touch: a customized red clown nose.

Miclon, a Buckfield native, is the only Mainer touring with the “smirkos” this summer.

“Welcome to Circus Smirkus!” he exclaimed as he was rolled onstage on a platform resembling a news broadcaster’s desk. The theme for this year’s circus is “Frontpage Follies: Big Top Big News!” a tribute to old-time journalism.

Circus Smirkus, a 23-year-old Vermont-based nonprofit circus, features 29 children, ages 10-18, from around the country. The troupe tours the Northeast for the summer, doing 70 shows and drawing more than 40,000 spectators.

Monday’s show kicked off the Maine performances – in Kennebunkport on Monday and today, and in Freeport on Thursday and Friday.

Under a big blue- and yellow-striped tent with green stars, Miclon’s welcome rang out as a rainbow of colorful clown reporters, jugglers and acrobats burst onto the stage. They danced, tumbled through jump ropes and formed a human pyramid.

“It all comes down to what the human body can do and what the heart and soul can do,” said circus coordinator Trace Salter as she watched Circus Smirkus girls swirling from the tendrils of a newspaper-print fabric carousel, one girl upside-down 20 feet in the air.

“These kids create an atmosphere with their passion, energy and talent,” Salter said. “It’s intoxicating to be in a tent of 750 joyous people.”

Miclon says the art of clowning and circus performing is being attuned to the audience and altering a performance to get the most laughs or gasps.

“Circus connects people on a primal and emotional level,” Miclon said.

He got huge laughs Monday as he and another clown stood on stage with typewriter props around their necks in an expressive standoff, exchanging presumably insulting manuscripts and reacting in horror.

Miclon has been performing since he was 4 years old, in Maine’s hotbed of alternative performing arts. He grew up visiting the Celebration Barn in South Paris and watching his older brother Shane in Circus Smirkus. His father, Mike Miclon, is the artistic and executive director of the Oddfellow Theater in Buckfield.

“These kids eat, drink and sleep performance,” Salter said. “Back when I was growing up, you had to find a person to train you. Now, with Smirkus, there’s a built-in mentorship and training program. Such coaching is so much more meaningful when it’s your own peers.”

Smirkus, Salter said, is a microcosm of a show like Barnum & Bailey or Cirque du Soleil.

“These kids are not prima donnas. They’re setting up and breaking down the tent, selling popcorn at intermission,” Salter said. “They work hard and mature, and they’re ready. Every major circus in the world has graduates from Circus Smirkus.”

Reporters, paper boys and flapper girls perform, doing trampoline aerials, tossing newspaper-covered juggling pins, hula-hooping and doing slapstick and trapeze acts.

In Maine, Circus Smirkus shows bring out 6,000 people to sold-out tents every year, said Salter. “People keep coming back because the show and the talent keeps evolving.”

The crowd in Kennebunkport burst into laughter as Miclon dangled the typewritten manuscript in front of another clown like a matador luring a bull.

Miclon said he was glad to be back in Maine: “I’ve sort of missed the scenery, the atmosphere. The people.”

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “You forget about any stress and troubles when you get into that ring. And you hope the audience does, too.”

 

Staff Writer Colleen Stewart can be contacted at 791-6355 or at: [email protected]