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This season marks the third time Guest Director Steve Smith has collaborated with the Big Apple Circus, and his remarkable energy and optimism is never more evident than in Walden, New York, where the cast and crew come together to assemble the show, Play On! Smith, a seasoned director, performer and physical comedy instructor, is tasked with assembling acts under the umbrella theme of music, and he collaborates with various artists to shorten and tighten their performances. But early in the season, a trapeze act fails to gel and must be cut from the show after the Big Apple Circus is already on the road. Smith must quickly shuffle talent, rethink several acts, and add a new trapeze act—the Flying Cortes—to keep the Play On! season on track.
"I started out as a clown, but one of the reasons that I went back to acting school is that you have to be a good actor, too. Being a good clown is more than slipping on banana peels."
What is your biggest obstacle, professionally?
"Probably despair. We all have to hope that it will work out, and the other side of that coin is despair. I've seen it. People become caustic and cruel, so it's up to me to lay the ground work, to keep that spark of inspiration together."
What was your most memorable moment from the Play On! season?
"For me, it was the dress rehearsal at Lincoln Center. There's something magical about that night: The show is in pretty good shape, the house is packed with friends and family; it's got that energy, that circus magic."
After landing a contract to direct a circus season, how do you begin the preparations?
"Our pre-production work begins twelve to fourteen months out, and we decide if we're going to hang (the show) on a theme. We go into Walden with a game plan in order. Still, it's four very intensive weeks."
Meet Steve Smith
The Big Apple's guest director takes his work seriously -- but not himself. He talks about why he still loves the circus.