Friends! We have a week left of school and 8 days until our final showcase, and I’m kinda freaking out! It’s been a little over a year since I was accepted into this program, and 9 months since I moved to Philly. Looking back on this year, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I’ll write a sappy end-of-year post after the show. For now, I wanted to share with you the creation process the final showcase! This particular process was unlike any the future Circadium classes will experience, mainly because of the fact that it was the first one. Throughout the process, the staff worked with us to see what we needed and modify the schedule weekly based on how the process was going. This lent to a slightly hectic and fragmented process, with each week varying drastically, but for better or worse, that’s part of the first-year-of-a-new-program package.
We started the creation process at the beginning of April, when we were told we had a month to pull together any pieces we’d performed during Friday presentations to present to the staff. The final showcase could only include works we’d already done, partly so we wouldn’t have to create 10+ new pieces, and partly because the coaches wanted the showcase to truly be a demonstration of what we’d learned this year. They also gave us the restriction that all pieces had to be group pieces; in the first year showcase, solos would not be allowed, as the program in itself is ensemble-based. With those parameters in mind, we reviewed all the presentations we’d done throughout the year, and came up with a list we wanted to consider. In addition, a few of us worked to create new pieces to present on Friday presentations that we could then present at the end of the month to be considered for the show. I was curious to see how many presentations we’d all done, so I counted. We’d done 26 weeks of Friday presentations, and with 10 of the 26 being solo acts, collectively we’d performed 137 pieces, and had 52 group pieces to choose from.
On April 27th, a day dubbed “The Lion’s Den,” the nine of us presented 15 pieces. This presentation day was named after Cirque du Soleil’s run-throughs during the final stages of rehearsal each time they launch a new show. This is a day where Cirque’s owner, Guy Laliberté, along with the creators and performers of other Cirque shows, gather to provide feedback to the new show, and essentially throw everyone involved to the Lion’s Den.
The week before our Lion’s Den, most of us were at school till nearly closing, rehearsing multiple pieces after classes ended at 5:30pm. That was probably the most stressful week out of this whole process, as we had to work on 15 pieces simultaneously outside of class hours. On that Friday, a panel of most of our coaches came, dressed to the nines, to provide feedback. We went into this day with the belief that the coaches were going to choose which pieces would be in the final show.. To our surprise, after we finished over 3 hours of presenting and feedback, they gave that responsibility to us. They made it clear that while they were there to provide feedback and give opinions, we could take or leave any advice they gave. This was our show, and we were going to be the ones to craft it in its entirety.
There was some frustration with not having had that knowledge prior to presenting, because as a class we felt a lot of stress going into The Lion’s Den. However, I actually appreciated the fact that we didn’t know. It meant we all went into the day having worked our asses off, and though we would have felt less pressure that week had we known the coaches weren’t going to cut pieces, I don’t think I personally would have put as much time into the acts as I did, and I’m very glad I did.
That day started a series of weekly Friday show presentations. Following the Lion’s Den, we shortened the list of acts down to 11, and the following week was spent working on those in the evenings. I valued being able to make the decision on which pieces were in the show as a class, because I believe there was less resentment during the process than might have been present otherwise. The group as a whole not only decided which acts weren’t worth pursuing further, but worked to ensure the whole class was fairly represented.
Following that week, coaches transitioned the school day from classes to act rehearsal. Time was broken down by act and coach rather than by circus discipline, and each act was given 4 coached hours to continue developing our pieces. We also created our first attempt at a show order and transitions, using open canvas theatre work and short scenes we’d developed earlier in the year, and some kind of costume design. That week, we performed our first run through of the show to an audience of our coaches and a few outside observers. Despite whatever frustration we felt, we technically had a show.
This past week with two weeks to go, the schedule was much less structured, but act rehearsal during the day remained a priority. The class’s focus was on developing the show as a whole as opposed to refining individual acts. Our rehearsal time with coaches was used to work on modifying the show order, creating an opening number, and creating smooth, well-written transitions that either used any set changes in the transition, or distracted the audience from them. We ran the show again that Friday with even more of an outside audience.
With a week of classes left, our director Shana sat down with us to design next week’s schedule. We settled on a mix between the previous two weeks, with the schedule broken out for 2-3 acts at a time and coaches available to give feedback, but we could shift the schedule and choose whether or not to work with a coach. This entire process has been a huge learning experience for everyone, and I say that not because it was bad and that’s what you say to throw a positive spin on it. Throughout my career, I hope to be involved in many show creations, whether in professional companies who have their creation process down, or with fellow artists who come together to create something. Having been the first class to go through this process with a staff who was learning as we went definitely had it’s challenges. For the most part, I can’t currently pinpoint what aspects I’ve learned the most from and what aspects were just a waste of time and needless frustration. However I’ve valued the experience of creating the show in the way we did. The point of this showcase was not to create the most polished show ever, but to showcase the first year of a three-year program, and to go through the process of creating a show on our own. There were (and still will be in the next week) so many moments of pure frustration at the lack of direction throughout this process, but learning by doing comes with it’s own benefits. While I wouldn’t say no to slightly more guidance, I’m actually very happy the first year show isn’t directed, and feel like I learned more than I'm able to acknowledge at the moment.
With that being said, I am so excited for the show to go up next week! If you're interested in tickets, click the picture below! Till then :)