|Company||Cirque du Soleil|
|Date of premiere||June 29, 2011|
Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada (residential starting October 25, 2012)
|Writer and director||François Girard|
|Creation director||Line Tremblay|
|Set and props designer||Stéphane Roy|
|Costume designer||Alan Hranitelj|
|Composer and musical director||Nick Littlemore|
|Lighting designer||Alain Lortie|
|Image content designer||Raymond St-Jean|
|Sound designer||Steven Dubuc|
|Acrobatic performance designer||Florence Pot|
|Rigging and acrobatic equipment designer||Danny Zen|
|Makeup designer||Eleni Uranis|
|Guest Creator and dramatist||Serge Lamothe|
|Preceded by||Totem (2010)|
|Succeeded by||Iris (2011)|
Zarkana is a Cirque du Soleil stage production written and directed by François Girard. It began as a touring show in 2011 and was converted to a permanent show in Las Vegas in late 2012. It premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 29, 2011, and later toured to the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow and the Madrid Arena in Madrid.
Following Zarkana's successful run in Moscow, it was announced that the show would start residency at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The show replaced the Cirque du Soleil resident production Viva Elvis, which closed in August 2012.
Zarkana is about a spirited journey through an abandoned theater where an extraordinary circus comes back to life. Populated by a motley collection of off-the-wall characters and incomparable acrobats, Zarkana is a visual vortex set in a twisted acrobatic fantasy universe where, little by little, chaos and craziness give way to a true celebration.
Zarkana is a quintessential Cirque du Soleil spectacular featuring an international cast of 70 world class acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, high wire and trapeze artists set on a grand stage at ARIA Resort & Casino.
To fully rehearse for Zarkana, Cirque du Soleil needed to find a facility large enough to accommodate a space similar in size to that of Radio City Music Hall. Lacking enough space at the Montréal headquarters, the company looked around North America for a suitable place. They chose the Amway Arena, located in Orlando, Florida. The crew moved into the facility on February 28, 2010, and stayed for a couple of months. Cirque du Soleil paid US$2,500 ($2,621 in 2014) a day plus expenses to rent the arena; around 200 Cirque employees were eating in Orlando and staying in hotels, and around 100 Floridians worked on the project part-time, creating a "great economic boost" for the city, according to Orlando venues executive Alan Johnson.
Set and Technical Information
The set consists of three hand-sculpted arches which represent two of the characters portrayed by the female singer. The first arch, which is also the largest, represents Kundalini, a snake woman whose world is populated by dozens of slithering snakes. It is decorated with more than 150 feet (46 m) of hand-painted resin “snakes” which started out as styrofoam sculptures that were used to create molds for the liquid resin. The second arch is utilized as a video screen and represents Mandragora, a plant creature whose vines have overtaken the abandoned theater with its plant-like "arms" that extend to nearly 100 feet (30 m) in length. T
The overall aesthetics of the set design were inspired by the Art Nouveau movement of the last century, Antoni Gaudí, and Gustav Klimt. The organic shapes in the set elements are inspired by the French glassmaker and jeweler René Lalique. Lalique's inspiration can be closely seen at the design extremities of the acrobatic equipment.
While the theater's aesthetics helps bring life to the theater, the sophisticated video content was created to define the integral role of storytelling. The goal was to project this strange parallel world through lifelike moving images on an enormous LED wall at the back of the set, while projections on the second of three arches react to the movements of the performers. The LEDs on the light wall, which measures 90 by 40 feet (27 m × 12 m) contains more than three million pixels. The second arch contains an LED screen composed of 118 separate panels. The Zarkana stage consists of a sliding platform that retracts like a huge drawer to allow for rapid set and equipment changes, and the lighting is designed to make these transitions practically unnoticeable, almost invisible.
Radio City Music Hall is a national landmark, and therefore cannot be altered in any way. Therefore the set and props all sit on top of the stage. Everything brought in must be self-supporting since nothing could be bolted in. This in and of itself made it more difficult for the safety and security designs of the acrobatic equipment.
Below are a few additional highlights from the set design.
- The cradle stations used in the flying trapeze rely entirely on "hanger tubes" for their rigidity. The structure of the high wire number installed on the floor of the theater’s orchestra pit is freestanding.
- The walls on either side of the stage are covered with a representation of a patchwork of 1 foot (0.30 m) ceramic tiles, each one different and hand-painted with gold leaf on a fabric that allows for transparency and onto which images can be projected. This design was inspired by works of Gustav Klimt and the Art Deco style.
- The video projection in the arch utilizes infrared cameras so that the projections can interact directly with the performers' movements. This can be seen in the high wire act where the video arch gradually becomes invaded by writhing snakes that pay close attention and react to the artists' movements. This is also utilized for interaction of the flames that shoot up from the stage, adding additional special effects in the projects.
- The Kabuki-style rope curtain is 60 by 33 feet (18 m × 10 m).
- The two Eagle’s-head bandstands that house the musicians on either side are 28 feet (8.5 m) tall and weigh more than 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) each.
- Zark: He is the principal character, a magician who has lost confidence in himself and his powers, initially played by the Canadian singer Garou, now played by Paul Bisson from Montreal. (The Zark character was cut in the 2014 revamping of the show).
- Lia: She perches high above the stage throughout the production taking on various incarnations from Mandragora to Kundalini (the snake woman), to Tarantula (the spider lady) before finally transforming into the beautiful rose woman that she is. She is played by Canadian singer Cassiopée.
- Movers (White Clowns): Ti-Boss, Chameleon Convict, The Ballerina, Rag Doll, Mardi Gras, Sleepy Clown, The Apprentice, Porter, Mad Scientist, Chinese Cook, Preacher, Dame Plume, The Bride, Hocus, and Pocus.
- The primary clowns include Hocus and Pocus.
- The Mad Scientist, assisted by his apprentice, is dedicated to outlandish experiments. For example, his pickle jar traps Sleepy Clown, and his cannon sends Pocus on a flight to another planet. There is also his quantum machine that is controlled by two artists.
- Ti-Boss is a "clown tamer" that cracks her whip to keep the mischievous clowns in line.
- The Ballerina demands the respect she deserves from her past dancing career even if her talents are a bit dusty.
- The Convict is like a chameleon that molds and disappears into the set. He's always in a state of panic worried he's being pursued or captured, and so he keeps his distance.
- Jovians: Extraterrestrial creatures from the planet Jovia.
- Oracle: Communicates with the past and future. She performs the sand painting act that recreates evens that happened in the show.
- 1. Antilia (Intro)
- 2. Zawraq (Grand Violant)
- 3. Eridanus (Ladder Duo)
- 4. Caph (Highwire)
- 5. Crysococca (Wheel of Death)
- 6. Kuma (Flag Manipulation)
- 7. Tarientar/The Archer (Interlude)
- 8. Gienah (Russian Bar)
- 9. Rae (Hand Balancing)
- 10. Tourago/Guiram (Interlude)
- 11. Jarseate (Juggling)
- 12. Asteraw (Banquine)
A talented group of artists and acrobats perform the acts which comprise Zarkana.
- Opening: After a hiatus of many years, clowns Hocus and Pocus, emerge in an abandoned theater wake up the Movers. Hocus and Pocus lead the reunion together with the Movers to bring to life an extraordinary circus. Hocus and Pocus bungle their way through acrobatic acts reminiscent of the golden age of circus and side shows.
- Juggling: The juggler makes a surprise entrance from a prop box and is assisted by a host of Movers. The juggler tap dances and juggles balls in the air on against long-forgotten props and set pieces to create rhythmic sounds.
- Ladder duo: The ladder duo exhibits a mastery of balance while climbing higher and higher to reach Sleepy Clown, who is trapped in the theater rafters more than 30 feet above the stage.
- Aerial Straps: Identical twin brothers attach themselves to straps and fly high into the air and over the seats of the theater, while accompanied by the melody of Mandragora.
- Flags: Flag artists manipulate over-sized, vibrantly colored flags to the beat of approaching drums.
- Russian bar: In a joyous reunion reminiscent of a day at the park, our Movers enchant with childlike enthusiasm as they take part in a celebration of Russian Bar artists.
- Highwire: Under the spell of Kundalini,and accompanied by a chorus of lithe fire breathers, high wire artists balance with control and precision as they speed across their wire performing highwire stunts – all while avoiding the ball of fire.
- Cyr wheels and Cerceaux: Chasing Pocus into a strange world seemingly on a planet far from home, the extraterrestrial Jovians perform stunts on giant wheels, while others fly through the air twisting through suspended aerial hoops.
- Sand painting: The Oracle interprets and summarizes the events that have been uncovered and those still to come as she creates temporary masterpieces made of sand.
- Flying Trapeze: Caught in the web and under the spell of Tarantula, flying acrobats crisscross high above the stage as they are launched off platforms and bars.
- Wheel of death: Testing the quantum machine, an experiment led by the Mad Scientist, leads to the unveiling of an outlandish dual caged apparatus with two artists who leap into place resulting in an act of high speed and daring movements, powered by pure physical strength.
- Hand Balancing: A solo artist takes center stage effortlessly balancing his weight with the fluidity of ballet and the strength of an athlete.
- Banquine: Human pyramids take the stage in an act of power and agility. As a group of acrobats defy gravity and space, they race across the stage with precise movements and choreography, using only their bodies to suspend and propel each other.
The look of the Zarkana characters are 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 for all 250 costumes are modern takes of the 1920s, the 1930s, and the Art Deco movement. Croatian designer Alan Hranitelj created the costumes for Zarkana, and 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.
One of the biggest challenges Alan’s team faced was to give a major emphasis to the traditional white of the 15 circus clowns (called the Movers) in costumes, and integrate it with the wider overall color spectrum of the show. He found it to be somewhat of a paradox to use so much white in the color palette taking into consideration the darkness of the show. In order to incorporate the white color of the white clowns with the rest of the show's color spectrum, the team incorporated hints of color into the clown's costumes which are distinctly related to one of the acts. The acts of the show, in fact, have each been assigned their own specific color helping solidify the look throughout the show.
The fabrics chosen for the show included polyester and neoprene. Sublimation was used on the fabrics to create the colors and prints designed for the show, which were developed by the innovators in the Cirque du Soleil costume workshop
Some of the highlights of the costume collection include these below.
- Tarantula’s spider legs are extensions to her costume that are attached to the mechanism that allows her to descend to the stage from the ceiling.
- Kundalini's costume is fireproof because she performs close to fire-eaters.
- The Oracle's costume was influenced by Russian/French deisgner Etré.
- "The 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 lead singer had her entire body, including the harness she wears throughout the show, scanned for a total of 225 precise measurements in order to produce a cast of her body. This was to reduce the time needed to have her in person for costume fittings.
Accidents and incidents
On November 1, 2013, a male acrobat while performing an act known as the "Wheel of Death", slipped and fell off the wheel during a performance. The performance was stopped and the artist was taken by ambulance to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in stable condition.
Zarkana began as a seasonal touring show, playing at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, and the Madrid Arena in Madrid. The show began previews on June 9, 2011, at Radio City Music Hall and premiered on June 29, 2011. In late 2012, the show was converted from a touring production into a permanent resident show at the Aria Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
The following colorboxes indicate the region of each performance:
Europe North America
Preview: New York City, NY - From 9 Jun 2011 to 26 Jun 2011
Moscow, RU - From 4 Feb 2012 to 8 Apr 2012
- "A Marvelous Exploration of the Truly Bizarre at Radio City Music Hall written and directed by François Girard". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
- "Zarkana - Cirque du Soleil's Surreal Acrobatic Spectacle written and directed by François Girard". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
- "Cirque du Soleil to Premiere a Major New Spectacle at Radio City Music Hall in Summer 2011". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
- "Cirque du Soleil and Kremlin Palace: A Brand New Show in Moscow". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2011-02-21. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
- "Zarkana in Spain". Broadway World. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
- "Acrobatic Spectable Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil to Establish Residency at Aria Resort & Casino Following Successful Worldwide Run. Show to Find Permanent Home in Las Vegas Starting October 2012". 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
- "Cirque du Soleil (Press Release)". 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- "Cirque du Soleil rehearsing inside old Amway Arena". Orlando Theater Blog. 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
- "Zarkana Set and Video Content" (PDF). Retrieved April 9, 2014.
- "Zarkana, Act and Characters" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Materials). Retrieved April 9, 2014.
- Cirque du Soleil (2011). Zarkana Souvenir Program. UPC 4 00005 12765 6.
- "Garou Incarnera Zark dans le Nouveau Spectacle Zarkana du Cirque du Soleil qui Prendra L'affice au Radio City Music Hall à New York". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
- "Alan Hranitelj, Biography". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- "Zarkana - Costumes". Cirque du Soleil (Press Material). Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- "Cirque du Soleil performer falls in 'Wheel of Death' during Las Vegas show". NBC News. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
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