Cirque Corner  



[ You are here: Grand Chapiteau | Creations | Zarkana | Personages ]







Ladder Duo/Solo
Aerial Straps
Russian Bar
High Wire
Cyr Wheel &

Sand Painting
Flying Trapeze
Wheel of Death
Hand Balancing

Rola Bola
Icarian Games
Chair Balancing
Aerial Silk
Aerial Hoop

Rope Duet




Costumes & Characters
    "We envisioned an Art Deco theme for the Zarkana costumes. There is a lot inspired by Erte and Paul Poiret, and that is the most beautiful period. I love the clothes and the costumes!" - Alan Hranitelj, Costume Designer

The characters in Zarkana inhabit a surreal world inspired by the American circus sideshows that flourished in the 1930s and the spirit of the golden age of Coney Island. The overall visual aesthetic of their costumes – 250 in all – is a modern take on the look of the 1920s, the 1930s and the Art Deco movement. In addition to his own vast experience, intuition and knowledge, Alan Hranitelj drew inspiration from various sources and artists of that era, including Catalan artist Joan Miró and Russian/French designer Erté. These references provided a departure point for his far-ranging and resolutely modernist approach to the look of the show’s characters. "Erte was a great illustrator and I love the costumes he did," notes Hranitelj. "They are so different from costumes today. We are more serious, they had more fun: We have fun during the process but those costumes were really fun... The crazy 20's.” The result is a contemporary version of the 20th-century Art Deco aesthetic.

In working on Zarkana, Hranitelj describes a two-year process, one year for sketches and research, the second year for production of the costumes. "I like to speak with the actual artists and performers, to see how they think... how they see the character, and pull their ideas into the costumes. Sometimes I have to change things... sometimes a perfect match."

For the acrobats, Hranitelj found the process similar to designing for ballet as dancers also need space and fabrics that move, as there are clowns and acrobats that hang upside down with the help of different-sized harnesses. The costumes were also designed in collaboration with the set and lighting designer to make sure the audience could see the performers. "Each scene had a specific color for the costumes to contrast with the lighting and video," Hranitelj explains.

One of the biggest challenges Alan’s team faced was to give a major emphasis to the traditional white of circus clowns in the costumes of the 15-artist house troupe – called "Movers" – and to integrate it with the wider overall color spectrum of the show. The Movers are not in fact completely dressed in white. Their costumes incorporate a hint of color associated with one of the show’s numbers, each of which has been assigned a distinct color. As each number plays out, the color associated with the subsequent number is subtly signaled by its nuanced presence on their costumes, creating an almost imperceptible bond that runs throughout the whole show.

Flowers are also important to the overall color scheme and design motifs of the costumes, and the reds and pinks of roses play a particularly significant symbolic role in the show, representing the love and passion between Zark and Lia - the only characters dressed predominantly in red. "Red... pure love! The red of the roses, at the end when Zark and Lia get together," exclaims Hranitelj. “Her dress is like a rose!" A lot of work went into her costume, he also notes. "A lot of love, with seven different variations of red and different kinds of silk... from crepe de chine to satin, all mixed together." There are rose patterns on Zark’s hat and the printed images of roses on his cape have been enlarged more than 200 times. Zark’s roses blend thematically with the projections at the show’s finale, when thousands of roses fill the stage. There is also a suggestion of red in the costumes of the artists who perform the Banquine number, because they are the characters who reunite the lovers.

"Zarkana has a happy ending, with the red such a strong color, it's a beautiful look, with red roses and white clowns at the end, even roses on the video and on Zark's top hat and his cape, so it is all connected,” says Hranitelj.


Zark & Lia
    Zarkana follows the adventures of Zark, a magician who has lost the love of his life (Lia). With her has gone his magical powers; his search to regain her takes him to the abandoned theatre where he was successful several years earlier. His friends the White Clowns come out of hiding to try and help him put a show together, but nothing works the way he wants. Now he must traverse through a weird underworld populated by strange creatures to find her. For without her, there can be no magic.
The Mutant Ladies
    The Mutant Ladies are four women – The Pickled Lady, Mandragora, Kundalini and Tarantula – who each in their own way try to seduce Zark.

    • The Pickled Lady is the result of one of the Mad Scientist's experiments that went wrong: Helped by ladder specialists, Sleepy Child opened the lid of the Pickle Jar into which she had dropped her teddy bear. To the dismay of the Mad Scientist, she fell in too and turned into a creature with six arms.
    • Mandragora is the incarnation of the ivy that has spread throughout the theatre. When Zark turns her down she pulls back, closing her medallion forever. She borrows her visual identity from the pistil - the reproductive organ - of the mysterious and magical mandrake plant, long associated with erotic love and physical desire.
    • Kundalini is a snake woman. The most sensual of the Mutant Ladies, she in turn tries to seduce Zark, using all her charms. She meshes religious symbolism with her sinuous serpentine character and costume. (Because she performs close to fire, her costume had to be made fireproof.)
    • Tarantula is the spider woman in her web. More determined than her predecessors, she will be the last to try to win the heart of Zark. Her costume suggests all of the perceived danger in her arachnid identity. Her spider legs are extensions to her costume that are attached to the mechanism that allows her to descend to the stage from the ceiling.
The White Clowns
    Fifteen White Clowns are part of a small gallery of eclectic characters that populate the world of Zarkana, including: Ti-Boss, Chameleon Convict, The Ballerina, Rag Doll, Mardi Gras, Sleepy Clown, Le Pierrot, The Apprentice, Porter, Chinese Cook, Preacher, Dame Plume, and The Bride.
The Mad Scientist
    The Mad Scientist, assisted by his apprentice, is dedicated to outlandish experiments. His pickle jar traps Sleepy Clown, his cannon sends Pocus on a flight to another planet. And then there’s his quantum machine...
    TI-BOSS, a veritable "clown tamer,” cracks her whip, keeping our mischievous clowns in line.
The Jovians
    The Jovians are the extraterrestrial creatures who live on the planet Jovia. The costumes of the extraterrestrial Jovians were originally inspired by a fictitious tribe that lived off the bounty of the sea. When they went fishing, they wore costumes that made them look like fish to fool their prey. The Jovians’ costumes are made of double-laminated Lycra and decorated with bubbles that represent the foam excreted by the fish.
The Oracle
    The costume of the Oracle, a mystical character played by a sand painting specialist, was directly inspired by Erté, the Russian/French artist and designer who created evening gowns made with exotic fabrics from India. She is who communicates with the past and the future.
The Ballerina
    The Ballerina commands the respect she deserved from her career in days long past although her dancing talents have waned causing our bitter ballerina to stir up some trouble.
The Convict
    The Convict is a chameleon, melding and disappearing into the set. Always in a state of panic, feeling pursued and afraid of being captured, he keeps his distance.



{Pickled Lady}




{Mad Scientst}

{Hocus & Pocus}



{The Oracle}

{White Clowns}

{The Ballerina}

{The Convict}

Cirque Corner