The inspiration for his question probably came about because the group is opening a show, their Tent Show, at the Santa Monica Pier. The venue and the show itself are absolutely unique in a manner that has become the signature of the organization.
It takes 11 days to set up the mobile “city”, which is completely self-sufficient for all utilities and services except for water. There is a kitchen, school, practice area as well as a box office and performance arena. If I hadn’t my Navy experience on aircraft carriers, I would be hard pressed to believe that the travelling 100 workers (augmented by another 100 local hire) and performers could lead a normal business and social life in each of the cities they travel to.
Guy Lalibertﱢe and Daniel Gauthier founded the group in 1984, supported by a generous grant from the Canadian government. Shortly thereafter, Lalibertﱢe hired Guy Caron from the national Circus School to structure it as a “proper circus”, albeit one without animal performers.
In 1984 the troupe played at the Santa Monica Pier and my optometrist friend, Scott Anderson followed the garish bus with the French signing to the pier to watch the show. He remembers that there were only a few [people in the audience, but the show, even in those early days was uniquely interesting.
I first saw the group in 1996, when the American Dental Association met in Las Vegas. The resident show was and remains Mystﱢere, which was mesmerizing.
The group now has 19 shows performing in 271 cities on every continent except Antarctica. One of the more interesting aspects of the shows is the music. The original scores accent the acrobatic aspects of the performers and enhance the theatrical elements of the performances. The music also serves to bring the audience into the performance, capturing the attention in ways that otherwise would be impossible.
With the exception of the Las Vegas show Love, which features remixes of The Beatles songs; all music is commissioned to match the theme of the show. There are more than 30 albums available, each unique in theme and content.
The combination of travelling shows as well as resident performances has allowed for continual variety and innovation. Additionally, the multi-cultural aspects of the performers and the themes serve to cross boundaries in ways that only theater can.
We rarely see such an original idea continue to be innovation and successful. If you have not experienced this phenomenon, treat yourself at your next opportunity.
In my next post I intend to reflect on the recent Oscar Awards. Hope to have you join me.