ACT­ING OUT

Gay direc­tor Laprise on di­ver­sity in new Cirque du Soleil show ‘Ku­rios’

GA Voice - - Lgbt At­lanta Arts Re­views En­ter­tani­ment - By JIM FARMER

Michael Laprise worked for nine years in dif­fer­ent roles in the the­ater, but for the last 16 years he has found a comfy home with Cirque du Soleil. The openly gay writer and direc­tor of Cirque’s new pro­duc­tion “Ku­rios,” cur­rently play­ing in the ATL, is some­thing of a de­par­ture for the com­pany.

The 35th Cirque pro­duc­tion, “Ku­rios” pre­miered in 2014 and has been called the strong­est Cirque show in years. Laprise wanted to have char­ac­ters that peo­ple could re­late to.

“I wanted to have props - real chairs, ta­bles. I also wanted to bring the au­di­ence closer to the cast. Lit­tle things like that,” said Laprise.

He was pre­cise in his di­rec­tion but also wanted to be re­cep­tive to ideas from his cast. “It’s a per­sonal show for the artists. I cel­e­brate who they are,” he said.

Laprise is aware that Cirque has a strong LGBT fol­low­ing and is proud of that. “We have nice look­ing guys on­stage,” he laughs. “But I also think it’s be­cause we have such great di­ver­sity, a great feel­ing of need­ing each other. In our shows it is okay to be dif­fer­ent. It’s okay to have hair like that, to be a clown; it’s okay to be that size. We are all in it to­gether.”

A vi­tal el­e­ment in the show is a breath­tak­ing mo­ment that didn’t in­volve ac­ro­bats. One is “Comic Act,” in which a young man in­vites a girl to his apart­ment – and she has to face his cat and other an­i­mals, all played by the same ac­tor. Yet the show has its patented ac­ro­bat­ics as well.

Although he loves all the acts, one he is par­tial to – and one that was im­mensely chal­leng­ing on a num­ber of lev­els - is “Acro Net.” In it, artists leap into the air us­ing a very wide net, and are caught and then flipped back up. The act is kind of a metaphor. “It re­ally speaks about the val­ues of the show,” said Laprise. “With each other’s help, we can help some­one go higher than he could ever go by him­self. It’s im­por­tant to be there for each other.”

The first time Laprise saw Cirque was as a teen with his fa­ther. He heard the show’s mu­sic and went closer to ex­am­ine where it was com­ing from. At that time, Cirque was a smaller com­pany with lit­tle se­cu­rity. He was able to lift the can­vas and what he saw brought him to tears.

“I was from a small town, where ev­ery­one was white, mid­dle class, wear­ing the same shoes. There were no blacks, no Asians, and it was very bor­ing.” He saw all sorts of peo­ple and re­al­ized that it was pos­si­ble to be in a world that cel­e­brates di­ver­sity.

There is a rain­bow ref­er­ence in “Ku­rios” specif­i­cally speak­ing to the LGBT com­mu­nity. He joked about that to his cast and crew. “By the way guys, when we hit Moscow in a few years, this will still be in the show.”

Laprise vis­its ev­ery city where “Ku­rios” plays, some­times more than once. He had a great time in At­lanta on open­ing night and is look­ing for­ward to com­ing back again to cel­e­brate the show’s sec­ond an­niver­sary. “I love At­lanta,” he said. “I re­ally love the vibe down there.”

Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Ku­rios’ runs through May 8 at The Grand Chapiteau at At­lantic Sta­tion. (Pub­lic­ity photo)

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