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Entertainment Highlights: Circus Smirkus In Town

A Taste of Circus Life For Young Performers

When he was young, Troy Wunderle did everything. He grew up on a farm, and learned farm skills , but also dabbled in languages, played sports, coached and entertained.

Now, in his 18th year with Circus Smirkus and seventh as its artistic director, Wunderle, once again, gets to do everything.

Besides playing the titular character in this summer’s show, Oz Incorporated, which will be in Hanover through the weekend, Wunderle builds props, does graphic design work, writes schedules and more for Smirkus. This business, he said, was one of the few he found where he could pretty much do it all.

“All these random interests all became one entity in the circus,” said Wunderle, who has worked with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, for which he is currently director of clowning.

Wunderle also leads a troupe of kids and young adults, this year numbering 26 strong from ages 9 to 18, on a summer tour of New England, and performs multiple shows at 15 venues. The Hanover shows will be at the Fullington Farm Field on Lyme Road, a four-day stop in the Upper Valley before the troupe heads off to Montpelier and then, finally, Greensboro,Vt., where Smirkus is based. Those shows will end a tour that started June 29.

“They’re completely surrounded by this experience,” Wunderle said of the young troupe. “They go out on the road. This is all-encompassing. They experience a tour through and through.”

As time goes by — Circus Smirkus is 26 this year — Wunderle said, touring is the newest experience for the troupe. That is to say: As far as circus arts go, the kids have gotten good. As Circus Smirkus has made a larger name for itself, the audition tapes sent in by prospective troupers have gotten better and better. One of this year’s tapes, Wunderle said, showed an applicant juggling eight balls.

Wunderle and his creative director, Jesse Dryden, received about 40 tapes for this year. A shortlisted group of applicants were invited to audition in person and also hang around Smirkus members and other auditioners, so Wunderle could see how they interact in social situations as well as circus situations. The idea was to make sure they can handle the emotional rigors of a summer-long tour. The final troupe is selected within a week, and meets up in Vermont in June to begin preparing.

Oz Incorporated is an anachronistic twist on the classic story, subbing for the false wizard that is Oz with Wunderle’s unskilled CEO of the same name. The Tin Man works in the fictional company’s sales department. The Lion works in accounting. The Wicked Witch works in public relations.

But as quirky as the show is, it’s just a part of the overall experience the youth receive by touring, Wunderle said. The kids are also charged with setting up props, putting together the ring, cleaning the tent, doing dishes and often, after performances, venturing into the community to perform smaller-scale shows.

“It’s nonstop,” he said. “One of the things I’m thrilled about Smirkus is it does give these kids a chance to taste real circus life.”

Circus Smirkus’ “Oz Incorporated” will be at the Fullington Farm Field on Lyme Road in Hanover from tonight to Sunday. Shows are tonight at 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets range from $17 to $20, and can be purchased at www.smirkus.org.

Best Bets

Brady and The Electric Only Child Experience is Nathan Brady Crain, a Randolph-based singer-songwriter who plays a solo form of American music, using looping stations to pile tracks atop one another. Those tracks include guitar, naturally, but also percussion, bass and vocal harmonies. It’s an interesting twist on a style of music that is relatively common in the area. Crain will be performing at White River Junction’s Lyman Point Park on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

∎ Camerata New England, a chamber music ensemble that sends out groups of various sizes to perform in towns throughout the region, will be offering an octet performance tonight at the First Baptist Church in New London. The octet — which, with two cellos, two violas and four violins is akin to a pair of quartets — will play pieces by Mendelssohn, Bruch and Astor Piazzola, all of which were written for eight players. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $5 for students, and are available at www.summermusicassociates.com.

Music

Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction will bring in two shows full of accomplished musicians for the weekend. On Friday, blues guitarist Ana Popovic will hit the venue. That show will start at 8 p.m., and tickets are $27. The next night, New Riders of the Purple Sage, a 1970s spinoff of The Grateful Dead that took on a life of its own, will play. Their best-known song is Panama Red. The show is at 7 p.m., and tickets are $25.

∎ Famed Upper Valley five-piece band Dr. Burma will perform at Fairlee’s Lake Morey Inn at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

∎ L. Dougher/A. McMahon will play the blues as part of Windsor’s Concerts on the Common Series, on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

∎ Enfield-based trio Gumbo Loco, which infuses its folk with styles such as Cajun music, will perform on the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30 p.m.

∎ The Sensible Shoes Trio will perform today at the Lebanon Farmer’s Market from 4:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., and then outside of Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Readings

A pair of poets will kick off the first of three Thursday readings at the Strafford Town House tonight. Jennifer Militello will read from her new collection, Body Thesaurus, and former New Hampshire poet laureate Cynthia Huntington will read from her new book, Terra Nova. The readings begin at 7 p.m., with a bring-your-own-food picnic an hour beforehand. Admission is free, and donations, which go toward the Strafford library’s new book fund, are invited.

Theatre

∎ Charlestown’s River Theater Company will premiere its production of the timeless children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, this weekend. The play stars local adults, teens and children, and will offer performances tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Theater in Charlestown. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $4 for children ages 6 through 12. Those under 5 get in free. Tickets will be available at the theater a half-hour before each performance.

∎ The Children’s Theater will wrap up its summer series next week, including its final performance of the season in the Upper Valley. The troupe, which is based in Lincoln, N.H., will bring its version of Hansel & Gretel to Claremont and Plainfield on Monday. The first show, at the Claremont Opera House, is at 10 a.m. ($6 at the door) and the second is at the Plainfield Town Hall at 1 p.m. ($7 at the door, and $25 for a four-pack). The shows are about a half-hour long, and are targeted for ages 3 and up.

∎ The New York Theatre Workshop will present readings of the third and fourth of its six works-in-progress at the Hopkins Center in Hanover on Saturday. The first, a multimedia solo performance named Urban Renewal, was created and will be performed by Kyle De Camp. It’s at 5 p.m. The second, Sunrise, which is written by Ido Bornstein and directed by Shlomo Plessner and follows a TV commercial set designer, is at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $6.50 to $13, and can be purchased from www.hop.dartmouth.edu.

∎ The New London Barn Playhouse presents Les Miserables through Aug. 18. The schedule includes shows at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $18.50 to $33, depending on date and time. For all show times, including upcoming midweek performances, and to purchase tickets, go to www.nlbarn.org.

Film

The Hop and Dartmouth College will show several films this weekend that are not currently all over the big screens. At 7 p.m. Friday, the Hop will screen Joss Whedon’s recent Much Ado About Nothing adaptation. The next night at 7 it will show the Holocaust drama Lore. On Sunday at 4 p.m., the Dartmouth Film Society will screen Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. For times and tickets, which range from $5 to $8, go to www.hop.dartmouth.edu.

Bar and
Club Circuit

∎ Upper Valley hard rock trio Common Man will play at the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon on Friday. Music begins at 9 p.m.

∎ Progressive bluegrass group Strawberry Farm Band will make its Salt hill Hanover debut on Saturday. The show is 21 and over, and begins at 9 p.m.

∎ Brian Warren will perform at Quechee’s River Stones Tavern on Friday at 8 p.m.

∎ John Sigafoos & Friends will perform at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock tonight at 8 p.m.

Upper Valley
Open Mics

∎ Salt hill Pub in Hanover runs an open mic, hosted by Chad Gibbs, on Mondays at 9 p.m.

∎ At Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.

∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock. It’s on Mondays, starting at 8:30 p.m.

∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit hosts an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.

∎ The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic on Wednesdays, beginning at 8 p.m.

∎ Gregory Brown hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Email notices to Highlights@vnews.com.