My son and I drove out last Thursday evening to see a clown. He was a local boy who went off to clown college and stayed with Ringling Brothers circus for several years before coming home to Saxtons River. He still writes and trains clowns for Ringling, and Circus Smirkus, a Vermont-based show that tours the Northeast each summer. He didn’t perform for us, but ran a slide show of the work he has done with Circus Smirkus. In the essay he read to us, he described his aimlessness in high school. He was interested in so many things and so broadly gifted, he had no direction for his life. That resounded in my son, who knows that feeling very well.
Troy Wunderle (the clown) told how he went to art college for Graphic Design, but in his senior year realized he had developed only one interest out of many, and that he would not find the challenge and satisfaction in design alone. He decided to apply to clown college. Just as he was about to graduate with his Graphic Design degree, the school sent him a client, who needed work done immediately. When Troy called to explain why he needed an extra two weeks, he discovered the fellow at the other end of the line had also been to the Ringling clown college. He became Troy’s mentor.
Clown college led to a contract with Ringling Brothers, and later to work with Circus Smirkus. Later, he developed his own company, “Big Top Adventures”, which takes his special brand of entertainment to public, private, and public school events.
One of qualities that makes him unique is his heart. He writes a tender moment into each of his shows; he reaches out to the hard-to-reach wherever he goes. He is not just about entertainment. I could easily see a thoughtful, creative Christian choosing to be a clown, and to serve the Lord winsomely in this way, to His glory. After all, clowning is about communicating a story through a person. I see connections.
My bowler-hat wearing son dabbles with contact juggling and gymnastic feats, and has a flair for comedy, and could certainly develop skills that might gain him entry into the world of the circus. But even if he doesn’t go in that direction, we were both encouraged to see how God, in time, can place him exactly where he needs to be, for His purposes. That’s a comfort.
Thank you for this lovely essay. One minor correction: it’s Troy ( not Todd) Wunderle. And yes, “one of the qualities that makes him unique is his heart.”
Thank you so much for your response and correction! He made a big impression on us, and we are definitely coming to Smirkus this summer. Every year I considered it, but we were so disappointed once by the rinky-dink circus that comes by every summer I just didn’t do it.
Almost twenty years ago Troy was the subject of a few articles in the local paper, celebrating his entry into clown school. I have never forgotten the exuberance of the story. When I saw he was speaking at Main Street Arts, I knew his unusual life-path would appeal to my son, and we came out.
Glad we did.
My son went to the camp twice and wound up traveling and performing for two summers with Circus Smirkus. It was an amazing, enriching experience for him and helped him develop many abilities on many levels, including self confidence and creativity. The kids are intelligent, caring, community-oriented and cream of the crop. Highly recommended.