Twenty years ago when I went to see Cirque du Soleil in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, I made the mistake of expecting a circus. Last night at Thompson-Boling Arena, my expectation was a night of artistic dance. I got that, along with some amazing acrobats and a clown thrown in as a bonus. The show playing in Knoxville this week is Quidam. Before I left home, my wife pointed out that I would probably like it now that I’ve enjoyed a few local ballet productions.
My plus-one was my SMOMOtv co-host Avi Vieira. Earlier in the day, Avi recorded some backstage interviews with the performers that will be broadcast over the next few days. After the show, Taz Cable used his fancy new camera to record a brief wrap-up segment by Avi and me. In it, we mentioned that SMOMOtv is giving away a pair of tickets to Saturday’s show via Twitter.
The show I saw in 1992 was Saltimbanco. My plus-one that night was a television producer named Jamie Parsley. I remember that she was chosen from the audience to participate in one of the acts. My favorite scenes in Quidam also involved audience participants. A character called The Clown is one of the few performers without clown-like makeup. Using many elements of mime, he went on a date with a woman from the audience. Two chairs represented his car. In the second act, he had four volunteers act out a silent movie while he pretended to film them. My appreciation for mime has grown thanks to my experience as a member of the improv troupe Einstein Simplified.
During intermission, many of the people around me were looking at their smartphones. I spotted Eric Foxx from WBIR sitting two rows ahead of me. I joked to him that all the people were looking up Quidam on Wikipedia in an effort to learn what the show was about. A woman sitting in the row between Foxxy and me overheard my comment and really did look it up on Wikipedia. She let me read the entry over her shoulder. It helped. The character I thought was a zombie, was Boum-Boum, who “is lifeless, as though his body lives on only because his soul refuses to leave it.” Some of the other characters looked like zombies too.
One of my comments in the wrap-up for SMOMOtv was that Quidam was like a surrealist painting that had come to life. The title character is a headless man with an umbrella. I also kept thinking that John the ringmaster wore a suit like Pee-wee Herman and had a spike of hair like Ed Grimley.