In Latest Show, Cirque Mechanics Brings Modern Circus “Under Canvas” - StageLync

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In Latest Show, Cirque Mechanics Brings Modern Circus “Under Canvas”

Across the USA, circus practitioners work to ensure the traditions of great American circus thrive into the modern day. Chief among those traditions is the circus tent. In their newest show, “Under Canvas,” the Las Vegas-based company Cirque Mechanics honors circus’ legacy by bringing their unique brand of theatrical circus into their very own big top.

Cirque Mechanics show in Mesa, Arizona. An acrobat in old-fashioned swim costume balances on a mechanical wheel apparatusFor over 15 years, Cirque Mechanics has captured the imaginations of American audiences by always striving to build something new. They’ve brought their touring shows across the country and to the stages of performing arts centers and theaters, where they’ve showcased novel and complex machines. Now the same path is leading them to Bell Bank Park in Mesa, Arizona, where they’ll take part in something else: the premiere of their brand-new tent show “Under Canvas.”

With the recent purchase of an orange-and-grey carpa de circo from family-owned Mexican tent company Lonas Hidalgo, Cirque Mechanics has embraced the same tradition as many of its American circus fellows.

To that end, they have built a show that blends together quirks of circuses old and new. In “Under Canvas,” audiences follow a wacky bike shop mechanic as he interacts with cyclists and bikes. Accompanied by high-flying trampoline artists, aerialists, trick cyclists, and contortionists, he repairs more than broken pieces—he creates wondrous machines and inspires the cyclist in all of us to become circus mechanics. Cirque Mechanics’ trademark apparatuses—innovative strolling pedal-driven machines— will be there to help deliver the experience to audiences sitting in the farthest reaches of the tent.

Cirque Mechanics acrobat, a female cyr wheel performer in a dark leotard

For more insight, we caught up with Cirque Mechanics co-founder Aida Lashua and asked a few questions about the show’s development—and the company’s choice to try an old-and-new direction.

Andrea Honis (AH): What triggered your decision to move your show from the stage to under the big top?
Aida Lashua (AL): We produced a successful and well-received outdoor show during the pandemic. That experience taught us a great deal about how to best mount our shows in different environments and gave us the confidence to further explore the big top concept and turn it into a reality. Plus, Chris is a passionate circus fan and has always dreamt of owning his very own big top show!

Cirque Mechanics female acrobats hang on a bicycle-like circus apparatus. One acrobat carries the other in the arc of her bent kneeAH: Is this an artistic choice, or was it more like an audience development decision?
AL: Both. There is an allure and intimacy to a show experienced inside a big top not found in a traditional theater setting. The performance is mounted in the round and the audience is closer in proximity to the action. Plus the tent allows us the freedom to explore different markets, different demographics, and present our shows during the summer months— in essence, extending the conventional theater touring season.

AH: What kind of audience are you aiming to reach under the big top, and how is this new audience different from your previous one?
AL: We hope to reach audiences that crave the theater show experience, along with the lore and traditions of the one-ring-style circus.

AH: Can performing arts centers, presenters, and producers book your tent show? What special requirements would a venue need in order to present it?
AL: The tent will allow us to collaborate with partners in both business and the arts to present high-level theatrical circus entertainment to audiences anywhere the tent can be set up.

Cirque Mechanics performers hang off, or pose inside, of a metal truss. On the stage wall behind them are some of Chris Lashua-designed circus bikes and unique circus apparatuses.

AH: Will this be Cirque Mechanics’ first experience performing in a tent?
AL: No. We actually mounted one of our shows under a small big top for a private event in Germany. Plus we have produced cabaret shows under the big top at the Vegas International Variety Act Festival. But this will be our very first time performing under our own signature orange and gray circus tent.

Cirque Mechanics is a proud founding member of the American Circus Association (ACA), working to promote the circus arts and legacy. One of their inspirations for “Under Canvas” comes in support of the ACA’s mission and work to help circus thrive, to help cement its place as a vital component of America’s cultural fabric.

“Under Canvas” is produced by Aida and Chris Lashua, Written by Steven Ragatz, with Direction by Chris Lashua, Co-Direction and Choreography by Aloysia Gavre, Set Design by Sean Riley, Lighting Design by Anthony Powers and Joe D’Emilio, Costume Design by Lisa Ragatz, Production Direction by Janeen Johnson, and Music composed by Michael Picton.

For ticket information, visit Cirque Mechanics’ website.

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