Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 17, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA


  • Combining acrobatic performance with the art of clowning, Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA will be performed under a big top in Glendale from June 8 – July 15. Michael Smith, the artistic director of KOOZA, talks about this production that returns to the roots of Cirque du Soleil.
Guests:
  • Michael Smith - Artistic Director of KOOZA
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: art, artbeat, cirque, du, soleil, kooza, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL IS STARTING A NEW FOUR-CITY AMERICAN TOUR HERE IN PHOENIX NEXT MONTH WITH A SHOW THAT RUNS FROM JUNE 8th THROUGH JULY 15th. THE PERFORMANCES WILL BE HELD IN A MASSIVE, AIR CONDITIONED BIG TOP IN A PARKING LOT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX STADIUM IN GLENDALE. JOINING US NOW IS MICHAEL SMITH. HE'S THE SHOW'S ARTISTIC DIRECTOR. IT IS GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Michael Smith: THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME.

Ted Simons: THE PERFORMANCE IS TITLED "KOOZA." WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Michael Smith: IT COMES FROM A SANSKRIT WORD, KOOZA, WHICH MEANS A BOX OR A TREASURE TROVE. SO IT'S THE IDEA THAT WHEN YOU TO GO A BOX, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S GOING TO BE INSIDE IT. THERE'S NOTHING ON IT.

Ted Simons: CIRCUS IN A BOX.

Michael Smith: IT'S CIRCUS IN A BOX.

Ted Simons: AND I READ IN THE RELEASE ABOUT THE SHOW IT COMBINES ACROBATICS WITH THE ART OF CLOWNING. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Michael Smith: IT'S TRADITIONAL CIRCUS. THE WHOLE THING OF SEND IN THE CLOWNS. IT'S KIND OF THAT. THE CLOWNS TAKE THE AUDIENCE ON ONE JOURNEY. THE ACROBATICS TAKE THE AUDIENCE ON ANOTHER JOURNEY.

Ted Simons: THAT'S THE KEY TO CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, ISN'T IT?

Michael Smith: YES, IT IS. I THINK IN "KOOZA" IT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CLOWNS AND THE ACROBATICS IS MORE MARKED THAN IS IN SOME OF THE OTHER SHOWS.

Ted Simons: WHY IS THAT?

Michael Smith: BECAUSE IT WAS A MANDATE FROM GUY, OUR FOUNDER, THAT HE WANTED TO RETURN MORE TO THE ROOTS OF CIRCUS. BACK IN 1984, WHEN THEY STARTED, THEY WANTED TO REINVENT CIRCUS AND THEY DID. AND EVERY SHOW THAT WAS DONE WAS SOMETHING DIFFERENT, NEW, PUSHING THE BARRIERS, PUSHING WHAT PEOPLE EXPECTED. BUT THE THEN HE STARTED FROM CIRCUS. NOW WHEN IT WAS THE SHOW WAS WEBCAST CREATED THERE WAS A CONFIDENCE IN THE COMPANY, YES, WE CAN DO TRADITIONAL CIRCUS AND DO IT BETTER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE.

Ted Simons: WHEN IT COMES TO TRADITIONAL CIRCUS MUCH OF WHAT YOU GO TO THE CIRCUS FOR IS TO BE ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT, TERRIFIED.

Michael Smith: YES, IT IS.

Ted Simons: WHEN YOU HAVE A PERFORMANCE CALLED "THE WHEEL OF DEATH," I GUESS THAT'S PRETTY TERRIFYING. WHAT IS THE WHEEL OF DEATH?

Michael Smith: A TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE. I'M STILL STRUGGLING TO SIT THROUGH, I HAVE ONLY BEEN WITH THE SHOW A MONTH. IT IS ACTUALLY TWO WHEELS THAT -- WHAT'S VERY DANGEROUS IS THE FACT THAT THE TRUST THAT IT HAS TO EXIST BETWEEN THE TWO ARTISTS, THEIR LIVES DEPEND ON THAT TRUST. IT'S ABOUT BALANCE AND IT'S ABOUT TRUSTING THE OTHER THAT HE IS NOT GOING TO GO TOO FAST BUT THEY ARE SPINNING ROUND AN INCREDIBLE VELOCITY ON A WHEEL AT 20 METERS HIGH AND JUMPING IN THE AIR. ON A MOVING OBJECT.

Ted Simons: THAT'S, LOOK AT THAT. THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS! HOW DO YOU TUNED PEOPLE 20 DO THIS SORT OF THING?

Michael Smith: IT'S A VERY SMALL NICHE OF PEOPLE THAT DO THAT. THAT ARE HAPPY TO RISK THEIR LIFE DOING IT.

Ted Simons: ARE THESE PEOPLE RECRUITED? ARE THESE PEOPLE, DO THEY COME TO THE CIRCUS? HOW DOES THAT WORK?

Michael Smith: A BIT OF BOTH. IN THEIR CASE BECAUSE IT'S A VERY, VERY SPECIFIC DISCIPLINE, WE HAVE CONTACT WITH EVERYBODY WHO DOES THAT. WE KNOW EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD WHO DOES THAT. OBVIOUSLY, WE GO FOR THE BEST ONES.

Ted Simons: I WAS GOING TO SAY. WHEN YOU ARE GOOD AT SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THERE ARE PROBABLY NOT TOO MANY OPTION THE OUT THERE.

Michael Smith: NO, NO.

Ted Simons: YOU MENTIONED CIRQUE DU SOLEIL RETURNING TO ITS ROOTS, TO ITS CIRCUS KIND OF ROOTS. WHAT ARE CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S ROOTS?

Michael Smith: INTERESTING. THE COMPANY WAS FORMED BACK IN 1984. WITH LIKE A GROUP OF 12 DELINQUENT STREET MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS. AND THEY STILL HAVE AN IMPACT. THEY ARE STILL INVOLVED IN THE COMPANY. THEY WANTED TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. AND THEY LOVE ACROBATICS. THEY LOVE CIRCUS. BUT HOW TO MAKE THAT TANGIBLE INCLUDES A BIGGER AUDIENCE, I DON'T THINK THE ORIGINAL INTENTION WAS ABOUT MAKING MONEY. IT WAS ABOUT HOW DO WE SPREAD THIS ART FORM AND HOW DO WE REINVENT THIS ART FORM TO GET TO A BIG ARE AUDIENCE THAT CAN ENJOY IT?

Ted Simons: FOR SOMETHING LIKE "KOOZA," IT LOOKS LIKE THERE'S A NARRATIVE, LIKE SOMETHING OF A STORY THAT GOES BEHIND THE ACTION. YOU ARE SHAKING YOUR HEAD. THERE'S NO NARRATIVE?

Michael Smith: NO. THERE'S ONLY ONE SHOW THAT WE HAVE WHICH IS IN VEGAS, KA, THAT HAS A STORY, THAT HAS A NARRATIVE. WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM MUSICAL THEATER IN THAT. WHEN A CHARACTER IS CREATE CREATED, IT'S CREATED WITH WHAT THAT PARTICULAR ARTIST CAN COME UP WITH AND PROPOSE TO THE DIRECTOR. WHAT THE DIRECTOR CAN DIG OUT OF THAT PERSON. THAT CHARACTER DEVELOPS THE CONCEPT ALONG THOSE LINES AND IT'S ABOUT -- IN PEOPLE COME TO SEE A SHOW AND THEY DON'T FEEL THEY UNDERSTOOD THE STORY THEY HAVEN'T MISSED ANYTHING. WE NEED THOSE TOOLS IN ORDER TO CREATE A WORLD, A UNIVERSE THAT INVITES PEOPLE IN TO SHARE IT. THE IDEA THAT AN AUDIENCE JUST SITS PASSIVE IN THE BIG TOP DOESN'T WORK. THE AUDIENCE IS KIND OF IN A SEMI CIRCLE AROUND US. EVERYTHING SHOULD FEEL INCLUDED. EVERYTHING WE DO IS TO BRING TRUTH TO A CHARACTER IN A PERFORMANCE SO WE BRING THE AUDIENCE WITH US.

Ted Simons: BUT YOU SAY THERE'S NO NOT REALLY A NARRATIVE INVOLVED. CERTAINLY I THINK THERE'S LIKE A TRICKSTER CHARACTER IN THIS.

Michael Smith: THERE IS.

Ted Simons: THEY DO THINGS. THEY GO PLACES. THEY ENCOUNTER OTHERS, DON'T THEY?

Michael Smith: YES, THEY DO. BUT IT'S BASED ON A CONCEPT RATHER THAN A NARRATIVE. SO THE CONCEPT IS THAT THE DUALITIES EXISTS IN EVERY HUMAN BEING. SO THE TRICKSTER, I WOULD SAY, I THINK IT'S A NICE NAME FOR A MANIPULATOR, HIS OPPOSITE IS THE INNOCENT CHARACTER. SO TOGETHER THE TRICKSTER INVITES THE INNOCENT CHARACTER INTO THIS WORLD OF KOOZA WHERE ALONG THE WAY, HE BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS AND, AS IN LIFE, UNDERSTANDS THAT CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS HAVE CERTAIN CONDITIONS.

Ted Simons: THAT SOUNDS LIKE A "ROCKY HORROR" KIND OF THING.

Michael Smith: IT'S NOT "ROCKY HORROR" AT ALL! IT'S ABOUT WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP LIMITED? IS IT CONDITIONAL? IS IT UNCONDITIONAL?

Ted Simons: HOW DO YOU GET THAT ACROSS WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE RUNNING AND JUMPING AND DOING THINGS I CAN'T POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND?

Michael Smith: BECAUSE THAT'S INCIDENTAL TO THE CONCEPT AND THE EMOTIONAL JOURNEY THE AUDIENCE IS GOING ON. WHAT ADDS TO THE FEAR AND WONDER THAT THE CIRCUS IS IS THIS EMOTIONAL CONNECTION THAT CERTAIN CHARACTERS HAVE AND THE CLOWNS HAVE WITH THE AUDIENCE BECAUSE IT TAKES ITS TO ANOTHER DIMENSION. SO I THINK THAT THE LEVEL OF ENJOYMENT AND COMMITMENT IS GREATER FOR THE AUDIENCE.

Ted Simons: DOES THAT MEAN, "KOOZA" HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A FEW YEARS.

Michael Smith: SINCE 2007.

Ted Simons: HAS "KOOZA" CHANGED SINCE?

Michael Smith: ABSOLUTELY. THE CONCEPT STAYS THE SAME. THE RUNNING ORDER OF THE SHOW STAYS THE SAME. THAT WAS THE DIRECTOR'S INITIAL VISION. WHEN I NEED TO CHANGE A CHARACTER, IF I AM CASTING YOU, WE WILL TALK THROUGH THE OUTLINE OF THE CHARACTER. YOU WILL PROPOSE THINGS, I WOULD PUSH YOU TO EXPLORE DIFFERENT THINGS. INSTEAD OF DOING A COPY AND PASTE OF WHAT EXISTED, WE TAKE WHAT EXISTED AND MAKE IT YOURS AS WELL. SO IF YOU HAVE OWNERSHIP, AGAIN, IT'S ABOUT FINDING TRUTH IN THE CHARACTER THAT INVOLVES AN AUDIENCE.

Ted Simons: IF THE LAST GUY WHO WAS WEARING THE SKELETON SUIT WAS DOING A CERTAIN NUMBER OF, I DON'T KNOW, TRICKS BUT ACROBATICS.

Michael Smith: TRICKS WORKS.

Ted Simons:AND I COME IN AND I SAY, LISTEN, I CAN DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I CAN DO THIS. ALL OF A SUDDEN THIS NOW BECOMES A GROWTH, A CHANGE IN THE SHOW?

Michael Smith: YES, ABSOLUTELY. THERE'S AN ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT. THERE'S AN ACROBATIC DEVELOPMENT. THE SHOW ACROBATICALLY IS A HIGHER LEVEL IN 2012 THAN IT WAS IN 2007.

Ted Simons: INTERESTING. PEOPLE KNOW CIRQUE DU SOLEIL. THIS IS A VERY, VERY WELL-KNOWN COMPANY. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOLKS, WHEN THEY LEAVE THIS PERFORMANCE, WHEN THEY LEAVE THE BIG TOP, WHICH IS ITSELF A STORY, WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO THINK ABOUT, TO FEEL?

Michael Smith: I WOULD LIKE EVERYBODY TO HAVE BEEN IMPACTED BY THE SHOW IN WHATEVER WAY IS RELEVANT TO THEM. BECAUSE IT'S NOT A NARRATIVE, BECAUSE IT'S NOT A STORY, EACH PERSON'S OPENNESS TO INTERPRET WHAT THE CHARACTER IS DOING IS UP FOR DISCUSSION.

Ted Simons: YES.

Michael Smith: AND SOMETIMES I GO INTO THE LOBBY WHEN PEOPLE ARE COMING OUT BECAUSE I LIKE TO HEAR WHAT IS BEING DISCUSSED, THE FACT THAT IT CREATES A DISCUSSION ABOUT HUMAN BEHAVIOR, ABOUT HUMAN EMOTIONS, I THINK THAT'S A WONDERFUL THING.

Ted Simons: ALL RIGHT. GOOD LUCK WITH THE SHOW.

Michael Smith: THANK YOU.

Ted Simons: GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

Ted Simons: AND THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

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