Monday, July 20, 2009


I knew a little bit about the background of Cirque Du Soleil having seen the Bravo special where they take you behind the scenes and go into quite a bit of detail on how the shows are put together including: the extensive training facilitates; costume design process; development of the acts; lighting; staging, etc, etc, etc.

In the case of Cirque Du Soleil the list etcetera's are really extensive... mind numbing actually. This is especially true after you've actually gone to a show and have seen the infrastructure to physically produce the show.

I'm blogging about this, because at times when working on a design project the list of things that need to occur, and completed in a certain order seems overwhelming. Just to produce a flyer may take a small team of folks all with distinct skills and tasks. I can't imagine the totality of tasks, logistics, and decisions that went into producing Kooza.

The insurance and liability considerations alone are beyond me. OK, sure the performers could be hurt. That goes without saying. But the audience is at risk also, and knowingly so was the amazing thing to me. At one comedic interlude with clowns running all over the audience, all of a sudden one of the chairs in the audience lifted a poor unsuspecting women 10 yards into the air! It was a hydraulic chair and it kept going up and down as the audience screamed with laughter watching the poor women's reactions to being repeatedly thrust into the air.

OK, maybe she was a plant and it was all planned, but it certainly didn't look like it. But that is only one of the audience dangers of the show. At one point a performer stacked chairs nearly two stories high and then balanced himself on top of them all. Yea, he could fall, but what about all those chairs? If they all came tumbling down they would have scattered across the stage and into the audience. Those where heavily constructed chairs and would put a-world-of-hurt on someone if hit by one.

Having not been to a circus since childhood what impressed me in this age of flat screens is how three dimensional the show was. Even theatrical productions seem only two dimensional since they occur on a stage that goes from left to right, that is, not in the round like Kooza . I found myself looking up at the high wire acts, behind me at the audience participation, as well as left and right to keep an eye on those clowns. I even looked under my chair to insure that it wasn't hydraulic!

No need in discussing the lighting, costumes, special effects, the live band, moving stages etc, etc. I think anyone remotely familiar with the arts can think through those details.

The art and design aspects were top notch of course. What impressed me was the sum of the parts, the whole experience. With the 30 minute intermission you had time to enjoy a couple of beers and have a snack while walking around the outside of the tents. I was extremely impressed with the permanence built into this short run event. No simple stakes in the ground holding up this massive complex of tents. They actually had thick metal cables hooked to concrete foundations forming the main support structure. Additionally, a series of 1 inch metal cables spaced every five feet were near the tents and circled the whole perimeter. These were attached to 2 inch thick steel stakes that were somehow drilled through the asphalt and who knows how deep into the ground.

I expected a good show and it was better than I thought it might be. I can be easily bored with contortionists and high wire acts. There was an act or two that I wasn't impressed with, but you could always use that time to look around at how they orchestrated the flow of acts, blending from one into the next for an uninterrupted sense of magic. There was a team of pulley boys stationed right in the audience who rose and lowered equipment from one act to another in concert with the lights shifting your attention towards the oncoming act, and away from the darkened equipment as it was being tucked away into the ceiling.

The artistry I expected. What impressed me just as much was the supporting infrastructure and operational coordination exposed to your inspection. That is, if you saw beyond the theatrical tricks which guided your attention to center stage... or the clowns off stage as the case may be while the pulley boys did their own sort of magic.

Kooza! Truly a multidimensional Tour de Force.

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