LUZIA By Cirque du Soleil is Coming! Meet Mark Shaub & Kelly McDonald:

I have been a fan of Cirque du Soleil for as long as I can remember. Every time I go to Vegas, I try and fit in a show and have seen almost all of them. Every time a Cirque touring show makes its way to Marymoor Park out in Redmond, I’ve made sure to catch a show as early as I can.

The Big Top is returning to Marymoor next month to bring us LUZIA, and by all accounts, this one is looking to be one of my favorite shows yet!

LUZIA is a combination of two Spanish words, “luz” (light) and “lluvia” (rain.) Freely inspired by Mexico, LUZIA is a poetic and acrobatic ode to the rich, vibrant culture of a country whose wealth stems from an extraordinary mix of influences and creative collisions - a land that inspires awe with its breathtaking landscapes and architectural wonders, buoyed by the indomitable spirit of its people.

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I had the chance to team up with two other bloggers for a group interview of two of the creatives working to bring LUZIA’s magic to life, artistic director Mark Shaub and artist Kelly McDonald (who’s a UW grad and native of Seattle and now appearing in the Adagio act of LUZIA!) In a few short minutes, we were able to pick their brains about their creative process and learned a lot about just how much work goes into production! Here are a few highlights:

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On the creative process:

Mark: It’s an ongoing process. We make small improvements to the transitions and music as the show progresses. As we add new people, that’s a fresh skill set and approach to work into the acts, allowing them to be themselves. We always try to remember, “What’s the original intention?” of each scene and make sure to honor that intent.

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On maintaining a rigorous schedule:

Mark: With such a heavy schedule, fatigue will happen. We have coaches and physiotherapists who work regularly with the team.

Kelly: The stage is so motivating; it gives us the adrenaline and the stamina to do what we do night after night. In between shows, I make sure to eat healthy meals. Since we’re traveling, there’s always a new environment to run or work out in (and perform in), which is really motivating as well. When you work with a group of artists, you build off of each other’s energy - working together to make everything sync, tweaking to make it look perfect and effortless.

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On stepping out of the comfort zone:

Kelly: Leaving gymnastics was stepping out of my comfort zone. (Kelly was a Junior Olympic National Champion in all-around, floor, and balance beam before retiring from the sport in 2006!) In the circus world, everyone is very nice - so there’s a culture that’s open to failure, feedback, and improvement. It’s okay to mess up; to try something new.

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On working towards perfection:

Mark: The stage is full of highly skilled people working towards perfection, in a character-based sense versus a technical one.

Kelly: It’s a lot about art. We live on the stage and give to the audience, who are coming from different places in their day and in their life. In between is where the magic happens; we can tweak and work towards perfection. We’re also human - if we mess up, the music and production are designed so that we can redo a trick if it makes sense to.

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On bringing shows like LUZIA to life:

(Co-writer and director) Daniele Finzi Pasca spent ten years in Mexico. He pitched LUZIA, and it went into over a year of development and research - set, costume, acrobatics all sketched out. From there, the storyline and brand are created. About six months out, the artists came in and designed their scenes in the show. Three to four months out, lighting and scenery are designed. The whole process took about two years.

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Thank you, Mark, Kelly, and the Cirque team for your time! Seattle, make sure to get your tickets for LUZIA ASAP. The first wave of performances have sold out, but additional performances have been added. Head to cirquedusoleil.com for performance times and to buy tickets.