Stage director for a circus? Franco believes that the circus and the theater
play on the same registers of perception and emotion to a very large extent. "I
don't see why art has to be divided up into small compartments, each with its own
label. What we do is essentially a circus show in the sense that the emphasis is on
the acts themselves," he adds. "Strictly speaking, there is no scenario. What I try
to do is to establish relations between the characters and create moments of
intensity. Each act is treated as a separate entity."
Franco Dragone works primarily with the "Theatre Campus" in Belgium, but what
hasn't prevented him from designing three shows in a row for the Cirque du Soleil.
Now 34, Italian-born but Belgian by choice, he studied at the Belgian Royal
Conservatory before working as an actor; producer and teacher in both amateur and
professional theater. But he really learned the ropes at the "Theater Campus,"
which put on a number of shows with non-actors. In 1982, the National Circus School
invited him to come to Montreal and organize a workshop program on commedia dell'arte.
He supervised the production of the school's year-end shows in 1983 and 1984, and
finally became the young Cirque du Soleil's producer in 1985. "The 1987 show is more
acrobatic," he explains. "The general concept is to present a number of familiar,
every-day characters who invent their own circus persona. As the show unfolds, the
characters begin to glimpse their special inner light, which ultimately shines through
in a burst of color."
When Guy Caron talks with his characteristic enthusiasm, both halves of his rather
comic mustache bob in symmetry; a hilarious and hind-hearted storyteller, he is never
at a loss for an image. "I'm a catalyst," he says. "I polarize energy like a magnet
and when I reverse the charge, the energy explodes in every direction, and people just
let loose!" The 37-year old artistic director is unquestionably the "heart" of the
company. He is also the founder of the National Circus School and Canada's foremost
specialist of the circus. Guy Caron, who is equally at home wearing the hat of artistic
director, actor, clown or scriptwriter, learned almost everything he knows as a street
performer. He did theater workshop in the early 1970's then went to Hungary to perfect
his techniques at the Budapest Circus School. He’s also criss-crossed the province as
a clown with the “Chatouille and Chocolat" team. Guy Caron is an explorer in constant
search of new ideas and images; he’s always wanted to create a unique circus, one that,
"combines theatrical and traditional techniques and is inspired by the oriental
troupes," he says. "There is no reason why the circus can't change with the times."
By exploring various thoughts and feelings freely, through reading, discussion,
drawing, and free-form writing, the creators arrive at an organizing idea, or set
of organizing ideas. This provides a hook onto which the rest of the creative process
is loosely hung. In the case of Le Cirque Reinvente, that hook came in the form of a
character called the Monkey King. "Le Cirque Reinvente was inspired by a show by
Cirque Grusse in Paris called Paris-Peking," remembers Caron. "It was about Marco
Polo's voyages, and in the second part, Marco Polo meets the Monkey King. It was no
good: there was no connection between the characters. The Monkey King didn't really
fit. But there was a commedia dell'arte element that I thought we should incorporate.
At the National Circus School, I had a studen called Marc Proulx, who was good at
commedia dell'arte and kung fu, and he was absorbed by everything Chinese. And I
thought, 'this is the man! This is the King of Fools!' I showed the character to
Franco, and he said, 'My God! We've got it!'"
You could say that Luc LaFortune is a juggler, but not the kind you'll ever see in
the ring. As the circus' lighting and special effects man, he juggles with light,
shadow and color and never misses an opportunity to play visual tricks and arouse the
audience's curiosity. Now 28, Luc joined the Cirque in 1984 after studying at
Concordia University in Montreal and working as a lighting engineer in television,
variety shows and the theater. "In the circus," he maintains, "you have to remember
three basic rules: the audience has to be able to see everything that's going on, you
have to avoid blinding the performer or performers, and the general effect must serve
the act and be pleasing to the eye. I do a lot of backlighting and saturated color,
and I love to mix colors! During the year I try to attend as many shows as possible to
come up with lighting effects that might be effective in the circus.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained!"