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Love of circus wins local teen spot on Smirkus Big Top Tour

Brin Schoellkopf of Warren won a spot on the
25th anniversary Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour.
Photo courtesy of Circus Smirkus.

Fifteen-year-old Brin Schoellkopf of Warren is running off (again) to join the circus this summer. His skills as an acrobat, trampoline artist, high wire walker and juggler have won him a spot on the 25th anniversary Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour, the award-winning, international, traveling youth circus based in Greensboro, Vermont. From early July through mid-August, the troupe will travel to 15 venues throughout New England and New York and will perform nearly 70 shows. Circus Smirkus will be coming to the Essex Fairgrounds (July 5 to 7) and Montpelier (August 15 and 16). These shows sell out. Get tickets at circussmirkus.org.

Schoellkopf began studying gymnastics when he was 6 years old, says his mother, Beth Binns, an environmental consultant. She found Brig McCain, now of Central Vermont Gymnastics Academy in Waterbury, to coach him. McCain has been his coach ever since. Schoellkopf also went to Circus Smirkus summer camps for four years where he learned to juggle, wire walk and clown around.

The Schoellkopfs had been going to Circus Smirkus shows every summer since Schoellkopf’s older brother Carson was young, so the performer has attended the performances since birth.

“He just loved the energy and the performances, and when he was 4 he set his goal to join the tour,” says his father, Jeff Schoellkopf, an architect and partner in The Design Group of Warren. Brin Schoellkopf debuted with Circus Smirkus last summer and tried out again at live auditions in January of this year. He and 28 other performers ages 10 to 18 were selected for the 25th Anniversary Big Top Tour.

“When I heard the news that I was accepted on tour, I practically dropped the phone,” he said. “I was so excited.”

Life on the road promises to be both fun and exhausting, he added. As a “Smirko,” he will join his fellow troupers in doing such tasks as taking care of props, selling drinks and popcorn and working cooperatively with the tent crew, light and sound technicians, equipment riggers, costume designers, musicians and others who travel with the one-ring show.

The payoff, he said, is being surrounded by other teens from all parts of the country and the world that bring their love of circus to each performance. This year’s troupers hail from nine other states – California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington – as well as the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Other performers from Vermont include Maia Gawor-Sloane, 18, of Richmond; Noah Nielsen, 17, of Montpelier; Liam Gundlach, 15, of Thetford: siblings Sam, 16, and Sonya Gurwitt, 18, of Norwich; and Emily Wunderle, 11, of Rockingham. Emily’s father, Smirkus artistic director Troy Wunderle, and younger sister, 8-year-old “trouper-in-training” Ariana, also perform with Smirkus, bringing the total of Vermonters in the ring to nine. Troupers’ skills include juggling, wire walking, clowning, acrobatics, aerials and unicycling and acts involving the diabolo, trapeze, Chinese pole, trampoline, Spanish web and lyra.

Over the years, Circus Smirkus has become known for its theme-based and “story” shows. Themes have included Pirates, the Wild West and Superheroes, while stories have included original circus versions of Alice Through the Looking Glass and Pinocchio. This year’s tour continues the tradition of theme-based shows with “Topsy Turvy Time Travel: A Blast from the Past & Fun from the Future!”

When not twisting, turning and spinning, Schoellkopf is a student at Harwood Union where he will enter his sophomore year in September. As a ninth-grader, he made the school’s honor roll and loves to play basketball, soccer and tennis. He is also a big skier.

“I like school, especially art and sports,” he said. “But my real love is circus.”

For information and tickets, visit www.smirkus.org, call 1-877-SMIRKUS (1-877-764-7587) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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