Friday, April 15, 2011

The Green Fairy Cabaret

It's time to tell the story of the hottest show in Philadelphia this weekend, the Green Fairy Cabaret.

The cabaret came into being over what seemed like an impossibly long period of time. About 18 months ago, my PR representative at the time, Pam Rogow, heard about the emerging Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. She was convinced that this was going to be BIG, and despite my initial reluctance to get excited about it, she set the ball rolling for a whirlwind of brainstorming, proposals, and collaborative efforts with the team running the Festival at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. It wasn't until we were well-immersed in the project that I began to realize how right she was - that the opportunity to present circus artistry on a large scale, to the entire city, in a prestigious environment, was truly in our hands. We began to get focused.

Pam and I managed to shape the representation of Circus Arts in the festival (which, up until that point, had never been considered a real genre in these kinds of events, at least here in Philadelphia) with the participation of three primary organizations - the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts (us!), Fly School Circus Arts (flying trapeze classes by Mary Kelly Rayel) and Grounded Aerial (aerial dance for the opening Gala). Our level of management was variable - with Grounded Aerial, we simply set up some initial meetings for them, and that was that. With Fly School, I was more closely involved in brokering the contract, and determined that the project should be entitled Fly City, co-sponsored by FSCA and PSCA. And last of all was the Green Fairy Cabaret, which we would create entirely ourselves.

At the time that all of these plans were taking shape, I did not know exactly where I would be in 2011. Greg was busy negotiating his Cirque du Soleil contract, but I simply had to move forwards with this, and hope it would all work out.

Luck came my way in the form of Robin Marcotte, an individual talented enough to balance the books at the circus school as our new Managing Director, and create, cast, and direct a production of this magnitude. It is his artistic vision, and skill as a director and administrator, that is on display now in the Rooftop Garden at the Kimmel Center.

What a journey it's been! From setting the concept (the Green Fairy! Absinthe! The artistic inspiration of the early 1900s in Paris!), to navigating the union-labor rules of the Kimmel Center; to auditioning musical actors and finding one willing and able to write a unique script; to giving artists new projects, and helping steer them along the way, in finding their own expressions. All of it, truly new territory for the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.

Last night was Opening Night. Seeing it all actually happen, after such a ridiculously long time planning it, was surreal. And, in the end, extremely gratifying. The shows are all sold out. Every performance has a good number of old friends and loved ones scattered throughout the audience. And the performances themselves? ...well, they are just everything we'd hoped for. There are spectacular aerial acts, there is juggling and acrobatics and daredevilry and comedy. There is our charismatic and marvelously talented emcee, John Jarboe, an original musical score by Eric Michaels, and beautiful new costumes made by Thom Sirkot.

When all was done, we enjoyed a post-show party at Time restaurant, which included absinthe at the bar. Of course we all had to have a taste. Seeing absinthe prepared is a big part of the fun, with its special glassware, slotted spoon, and dripping the liquor over a sugar cube. The taste? Distinctly black licorice. We finished our glasses, but weren't clamoring for more afterwards! And the hallucinogenic visions? Well, by the time we headed out at 1:30am, I think any visions were purely from exhaustion.

A fantastic evening, and the show will continue with five more performances through April 17th.

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