By JIM VOREL - H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR — When most people think of the circus, they’re likely associating the term with many different forms of entertainment. Circus, after all, has always been about the gathering of many great acts under one roof or tent.
Circurious, a traveling show from Cirque-tacular Entertainment, takes this concept to the extreme, declaring itself a living tribute to the past 100 years of American entertainment in every form.
“It starts way back in 1913 with Houdini and Buffalo Bill and continues up to the modern day in vaudeville style,” said producer Tad Emptage of the show, which arrives at Decatur’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center Saturday evening. “You’re going to see the circus performers interpret symbols of entertainment that anyone would know. For example, there’s a 1970s disco tribute with a human disco ball. There’s something for everyone born anywhere in that century.”
The acts include aerialists and acrobats, but other talents one might not normally associate with circus, such as singing and dancing. This is a type of show distinctly different from the modern circus put on by a company such as Cirque du Soleil, less about an artistic storyline and more about the talents on display.
“For a company like Cirque du Soleil, they strive to not have you meet the individual performers, because what you’re seeing is an engrossing fantasy,” Emptage said. “That’s the exact opposite of what we do. We don’t create a concept and find skills to fit it, we take people with remarkable skills and do a show based around their abilities.”
This puts the most central focus on each individual performer, which is where Emptage believes it should be. Like a stage show, everyone is credited and named, and all the performers are also content-producers.
“It’s much more theatrical how it’s presented,” Emptage said. “You still see the incredible physical skills, but it’s less about the spectacle and more about the performers themselves. It’s about the interaction between those performers and the audience, who get to see circus up close.”
Of course, that kind of show requires some truly exceptional performers. Emptage counts himself as lucky to be around such men and women who have worked and trained to achieve things that most people could never reach.
“They are people who live at the extreme edges of human capability, which makes them fascinating to be around,” he said. “They have to have complete confidence and trust in both themselves and their fellow cast members every time they perform.”
Although the theme of the show is historical in nature, in some ways, the producer feels that circus is among the most appropriate forms of entertainment in the 21st century. In an age of instantaneous information access and unlimited entertainment options, the variety presented by a show like “Circurious” is all the more necessary.
“In today’s culture, everything is so short-format and our attention spans are so small,” he said. “What makes circus performance amazing is that you’re often condensing 20 years of training into your five-minute performance.”