If you are like me (I know I am), you are endlessly fascinated by Cirque du Soleil. I am always excited to see what each new show has in store, what surprising, wondrous experiences will be presented. Cirque du Soleil excels in artistic entertainment with seemingly unbridled creativity. Safety-harnessed creativity, naturally, but unbridled. In fact, the only apparent constraints appear to be safety and the physical limitations of the big-top. KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is no exception: imagine there was a divergent timeline in the early 1900’s that led to a steampunk technology based alternate reality. What might that look like? Oftentimes, in film and television, the steampunk aesthetic is seen in post-apocalyptic settings. In KURIOS, the alternate reality’s industrial revolution simply veered down a magical steampunk path, with wonderful results.
If possible, I tend to see special performances like these twice: once to simply enjoy the ride, to let the artistry, staging, lighting, direction, vision, and music all freely manipulate me — they own me! The second time, I like to watch for the things I missed the first time, when I was looking where they intended for me to look. What are the other characters doing on stage off to the side of the main event, how are the set & apparatus changes integrated, any glimpses behind the curtain, so to speak. I marvel at the lighting (photographers always notice the lighting). I most often squirm, inwardly, wishing I could use my camera.
In a very special twist on my traditional second viewing this time, I was actually attending with an official media pass (hooray, #teamVIVA!) and the rare permission to photograph a live performance! Once I knew it was really going to to happen, I began making gear choices and experimenting (okay, first I was fist pumping “YESSSSSSSS!” and telling my wife, friends in a loud-ish voice or via ALL CAPS emails, and then I was making gear decisions). I knew I would be shooting from the back of the audience: in some cases, that could be problematic. In a Cirque du Soleil touring big top show, though, the back row is only about fifty feet from the stage, and the stadium style seating ensures a terrific view from any location.
I arrived very early, unwilling to risk being late to such an opportunity. When the appointed time arrived, I went to the gate where I was greeted and welcomed by Amélie Robitaille, the publicist touring with this show. It is worth noting at this point that ‘welcoming’ is the norm for Cirque du Soleil, whether as a member of the audience (they may welcome you right up onto the stage!) or as a photographer with a media pass. In fact, practically everyone on staff there was made aware of my attendance well in advance: since photographing with professional equipment is not allowed, Amélie wanted them all to know that I was ‘legit’ which is yet another way to make a photographer feel welcomed. Amélie took me to my assigned seat: back (top) row, center. I was free to stand (as long as I did not block the view of the control booth) and move from side to side some. She provided me with the ideal location. She informed me about the few restrictions: no flash photography, naturally, and one particular element of the performance that I was not permitted to photograph: the surprise for the audiences must be preserved. I’ll never tell. I’ll just tell you that you should definitely see the show….
So, this short post is a bit of an appetizer: I’ll share a few of my favorite moments from the show, followed over the coming days with a series of posts that go into more depth on acts, characters, logistics, and behind the scenes. Yes, I said behind the scenes. As if getting to photograph a live performance was not already a dream come true, I was also welcomed back another day to visit the backstage artist’s tent, interview the heads of Props and of Wardrobe, see the props, set pieces, costumes, watch as performers rehearsed. It is all too much to fit into one post, so stay tuned for this fun series.
Here are some favorite moments from my time at Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities
See the show: