After 6 months in Las Vegas working for Cirque du Soleil, playing Gladys Presley in the new “Viva Elvis” show, Cirque decided (two weeks before previews) to let the actors go. Even the actor playing Elvis was cut out of the show. Yes, that’s right, the Elvis show has no Elvis. I know what you are thinking-what are these circus people doing? I have been thinking the same thing…
I was trained in theatre arts most of my life, earning a BA in theatre from CSUN and ultimately an MFA in directing from the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music. Theatre training is a very specific thing, and most professional and college theatres have sort of a code of ethics that they follow. This code of ethics allows us all to move from theatre to theatre able to work smoothly, effortlessly, without much conflict. Well, needless to say, the circus does not follow any of these codes. For example, instead of developing a show on paper with writers and dramaturges like we do in the theatre, they throw everything up on stage, see what works, and cut what doesn’t. Unfortunately, when you work that way, there are a lot of casualties.
I was just one of those casualties, there were many others. Suffice it to say, hardly nothing remains from the original show that we rehearsed for six months in Canada and Vegas. Key creative people were let go, artists were cut, and millions of dollars in sets and costumes were thrown out. According to the producers of the show, the “higher ups” were afraid that having scenes and monologues in the show felt too much like a play, which could make the audience “think and feel”. This is not a formula that they believe will sell in Vegas.
To date, none of their other shows have stories, which is the formula that works best for them. And…there is no need to fix what isn’t broken right? In fact, the LA Times recent review of “Kooza” encourages Cirque to return to their roots. Writer David Ng states “ If there's anything surprising about the show, it's that it represents a return to simplicity for Cirque. Those who are familiar with the company's mega-productions in Las Vegas and elsewhere will no doubt feel the absence of high-tech waterworks and other stage effects. But in the case of "Kooza," less is more -- a lot more.” Could this review have added to the Cirque’s fear to finally try something new?
I’ve been back in Los Angeles for two weeks now, and it all feels like a dream. Lewis Carroll once said “In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die; Ever drifting down the stream--Lingering in the golden gleam--Life, what is it but a dream?” Indeed.
Written by Che’Rae Adams for NOHOARTSDISTRICT.COM Nov 2009