Saturday, April 30, 2011

Packing up, again

It's getting easier, sort of. At least, we're getting more accustomed to the pace and the process of packing up our lives. I like the fact that every few weeks, we have to sort through everything we own, deciding if it's immediately useful or not. Haven't worn that for a few months? Haven't played with that game recently? ...hand it over to goodwill.

It's been a good few days, anyway. The last several days on site are known by the school kids as "Watch Out For Trucks Days", as the site is just a constant swirl of forklifts and trailers and cases being moved about. They bring in extra technicians for tear-down and set-up of the sites - my understanding is that Cirque has teams of technicians that just float around the world, tearing down and setting up shows all over the place. Imagine that!

Other things that have brought joy to my week - fun English classes, and some progress with my Russian studies, including being able to decipher an invitation to go out for coffee with Marina - and tonight, signing up for a 5K run in Pittsburgh, finally saying to myself "I can do this again!" ...I didn't run for over 5 months, and starting up again has been fairly agonizing. But there is hope, and I am ready to work at it.

One more day left in Baltimore!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


What I didn't write about, on Monday, was how disappointed I was by the very few people from Cirque I was able to coax to visit the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.

My personal appeals met two camps of resistance: the "I just need down time, I want to do nothing but rest" group, and the "I have other plans to see another city / visit friends / have doctor's appointments" group. I did everything I could think of to make the trip easy and appealing, but my efforts were pretty fruitless. We were joined by just five other people (four from a single family). And while I loved showing those folks my school and my city, I was sad that it was such a small group.

Why was this so important to me? merits some thought. Once again I am sure there is an ego piece - I want to show off an achievement I am so proud of. But I think another factor is my craving to merge these two worlds that I love so deeply - the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and Cirque du Soleil. Right now they are like planets apart. And it's certainly easier to draw PSCA people to CDS than vice versa. But I have such high esteem for my new friends in Totem, for their professionalism and strength and utter beauty onstage, for their sweet, steady personalities offstage. I want them to validate my school with their approval and admiration. Which I know, in my logical brain, is ridiculous.

The few moments I had at PSCA, however, with the artists who did come, were very special to me. And perhaps, some day in the future, there will be another opportunity.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Our Baltimore double-dark

Double-dark this week, always feels like a holiday (no Totem shows on Monday OR Tuesday!) And both days have been beautiful, hot, sunny weather. So, on Monday, we brought some of our Totem friends to Philadelphia. Here are our kids with their friends Ilya and Yahor.

It was fun playing tour guide. And we actually visited some places I never go - the Betsy Ross House, Penn's Landing.

Today, Tuesday, was a more low-key day at home, though we did get the kids out for a bike ride. Ayla, though she's riding just fine, is still quite anxious and unhappy on her bike, and we may be trying to push her too quickly. The trail ride today wasn't long, and it was all paved, but it did have some hills, which were too much for her. She walked her bike a lot, and at one point lost control on a downhill; Greg lurched to catch her, and strained a muscle in his shoulder pretty badly. Not good, he's now icing it.

In the evening I went out to Book Club, which still putters along once every month or two. I'm the only member of the Book Club who's not working, and therefore has an abundance of time for reading. Everyone else on the Tour seems continually swamped and exhausted, and even the ones who show up to Book Club have trouble making time to read the books. ...Nonetheless, it's been a really nice way for me to get to know some other Tour members who are not artists - everyone else who comes is some kind of support staff (stage managers, technicians, box office, etc.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

This evening at the Cirque site we celebrated Russian Easter!
Enjoy this video .... the last 3 minutes are the Russian dance that Ayla and the other Totem children performed: the Matryoshka.


Saturday, April 23, 2011


What a mixed-bag of a day.
Learned how to make an origami crane.
Found out the names of the 5 new Chinese girls.
Enjoyed hanging out backstage at Totem with Jackie and Christine.
Got notices that we're being audited by the IRS.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Baltimore apartment

First, thank you everyone for your sweet and encouraging comments in response to my last blog post - some posted online, and some who just called or emailed me. You've given me a lot of heart, and reminders that we all face similar identity challenges.

And now, brought to you by the children, here's the video of our Baltimore apartment.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I'm having a crisis of confidence today. As Greg and I inch slowly closer to this next-contract-signing time (this summer), we talk a lot about various visions for the future. There are so many possibilities. But the one I've been dwelling on today is the idea of staying with Cirque for more years. And I'm feeling a little panicky at what this would mean for my life.

I look around at the other Cirque wives - in particular, the ones who've been doing this for 5, 10, or 20 years. (!) They are wonderful people, and I've been really enjoying getting to know them. But when it comes down to it - they are housewives. They do not have their own careers, and do not aspire to having any. They worry over the same things my "normal" parenting friends do; kids' illnesses, outgrown clothing, putting healthy meals on the table, and keeping their own sanity by finding projects and throwing birthday parties and baby showers. But they don't even have hobbies of their own. And they never hire babysitters. As far as I can tell, they are content to care for their children and travel around the world, taking life one day at a time.

Cirque du Soleil is such a good place for my family to be. Besides the prestige for Greg's career, we have a better income than we had before with both of us working, we have health insurance, we have free and excellent schooling for the children. I am able to stay home and watch over my little ones growing up, and we are able to see the world together as a family. These are not small things.

For Greg, the price he pays is a very demanding work schedule, and a lack of time/energy for his own creative projects. And for me, it looks like my price may be having my own career. Can I live with that? For how long can I live with that? may simply be a matter of ego. Which I have never been all that good at subduing in the past. stay tuned....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Philadelphia love

What a great couple of past days spent in Philadelphia. I saw two more outstanding performances of the Green Fairy Cabaret, watched flying trapeze, hung out with my sister-in-law and her family, had a nice dinner date with Robin, a valuable meeting with one of my Advisory Board members, a trip to the National Constitution Center, and a visit with the Sell family.

Whenever I'm in Philadelphia, I remember how much I love this city. I walk around basking in the streets and buildings and people and shops. The familiarity of it is addictively wonderful... I have so much of a past here, the city where my entire adult life has taken shape. Sharing it with my kids brings me a lot of joy! Here is City Hall on a beautiful blue-sky morning.

So far, the more I travel, the more I love and appreciate Philly.

A quote from a book I'm reading, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: "[Isn't] that the definition of home? Not where you're from, but where you're wanted?"

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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fun-filled days in Baltimore

We are, as always, keeping busy.

This weekend, we had the pleasure of a visit from our friends the Eddys - Greg and I have known John and Cindy for a ridiculous number of years, and their kids are now ages 11 and 9. The kids all played together, John and Cindy got to see Totem, and it was just great for all of us.

Then, on Sunday, I walked my kids across the street to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I didn't realize until the show started that we had actually seen this production before, last year. It was called "Funundrum" in Philadelphia, but here in Baltimore it was called the "200th Anniversary" show. Same show. Nevertheless we greatly enjoyed it, with its tributes to P.T. Barnum and circuses of the past. Our particular favorite acts were the Pirates of the Teeterboard (Mom and Baz) and the Egyptian Elephants (Ayla and Isa).

Sunday was a full day - we also fit in a baby shower for Kate, one of the tour wives, watched the Totem show from backstage and gave a tour to some groups of friends visiting from Philadelphia.

Today, Monday, we attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese for 5-year-old Dasha, daughter of one of the Russian bar acrobats. It was a kids paradise of arcade games, tokens and prize tickets, cake and candy. Whether our Russian friends had any idea what Chuck E. Cheese was singing about, who knows? But a good time was had by all.

I want to close with a photo I came across on Facebook this week. I think it's a beautiful image of the tent here in Baltimore, with all of its contrasting industrial-urban grit.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts

It's been a fun couple of days commuting back and forth to Philadelphia. On Thursday, Robin and I got all dressed up and attended the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Opening Gala. I think it was my first time attending one of these events as a guest, and not working! (as an event planner, or entertainer, etc.) And although I was dreading the whole prom-esque preparation for this thing, I have to admit, it was enjoyable, especially having quality time with this handsome tuxedoed man.

The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts is just as big and exciting as it was hyped-up to be, and I'm very proud to have circus arts (and PSCA) represented in the festival so wonderfully. As you can see in this photo, Niff (one of my advanced aerial coaches) is pictured all over the city! This is at 30th Street Station, and this image can be seen on taxis, bus shelters, billboards. The circus school is also being featured in news articles, television programs, and Internet blasts, daily. Our brilliant and tireless PR representative, Kory Aversa, has done an amazing job keeping circus arts front-and-center.

With this level of appreciation from the city of Philadelphia, I feel like one of my greatest dreams for the circus school is already being realized. I've often said that I wished circus would be acknowledged in the same way as theater, dance, and visual arts. And, at least in the context of this festival, it is, completely. We are on stage at the Kimmel Center. We are talked about by all of the biggest arts organizations in the city. We are not seen as carnival freaks. We are being given the respect of professional artists here, seemingly overnight.

I have many hopes over the coming weeks and months. I hope that our sponsored events, the Green Fairy Cabaret and Fly City, will be wildly successful. I hope that the audiences and the artists will have the time of their lives. And I hope that this is just the beginning...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More on Baltimore

So, not everyone on tour is enjoying this city as much as I am. I think people are just a bit freaked out; it's a big contrast from the cities we've visited so far, and a lot of the streets here look like this:

Sort of Germantown-esque with empty buildings and grungy street people. (I say that with all due love to Germantown). But really - this is why I'm most comfortable here, because this city has so many echoes of Philadelphia. Grandiose municipal buildings; stretches of tourist fluff; surprises around every corner.

The difference I see is that the posh area of the city is just much smaller here - it's only a few blocks, compared to the relatively expansive (and expanding) Center City Philadelphia.

Nonetheless I am happy and comfortable here, and so is Greg - we walked last night up to the Charles Street restaurant district, comparing notes.

Another day recently, I took the kids to the Maryland Science Center, right on the Harbor. Here they are enjoying the tornado exhibit. We have one of these ASTC memberships which feels miraculous, gaining us free admission to, seemingly, every science museum in the U.S. and Canada. The result of this, however, is that I am totally burning out on science museums. In the last 10 months, we've been to 5 different science museums in Montreal, Amsterdam, London, Charlotte and Baltimore. The ones in Montreal and London we visited numerous times. I'm sure Pittsburgh has a science museum. This is really overkill.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thank you Charlotteans!

I have to do a shout-out here to the numerous people from North Carolina who've sent me friendly, thoughtful, generous emails over the last few weeks. A few self-pitying blog posts from me, and North Carolinian kindness has just come out of the woodwork.

Although I haven't had time to answer everyone individually, I want to say a big thank you to all of you who shared your stories & your sympathy; you offered suggestions on places to see and people to visit, and gave your time to let me know this blog is being read and enjoyed. It reminds me that my original intention here, a little travelogue for my friends and family, has grown to include a much wider circle! And I'm so glad that my stories are providing some diversion, some entertainment, and letting me get to know people all over the world.

Cirque du Soleil enables many things. Bringing people together, and helping us all to see the joys and adventurous possibilities of life - these are some of the best. Thank you all for reading!

Friday, April 1, 2011


I am supposed to be in Bristol, England, right now.

It is my 15th circus-school reunion - Circomedia plans a big shindig every 5 years, and this one was to include alumni from all 25 years of the school's history, several shows, circus conferences etc. I was scheduled to fly from Dulles on Thursday evening, and return Monday morning.

It's only the second time I've ever done anything like this (the first being the 10-year reunion). So it was beginning to feel like a ritual - every 5 years, a weekend getaway from home and children, reconnecting with old friends.

When Greg and the kids dropped me off at the airport, I had an hour of anxious, exhilarating, confusing freedom. No oversized luggage, no little hands to hold, no one's time schedule to worry about but my own... it was an amazing feeling and I was deliriously excited about my weekend adventure.

Then they cancelled the flight. And since it was the last flight out that evening, everyone was bumped to flights the following day.

If I flew the next day, I'd arrive in the UK far too late - missing the main alumni reunion entirely. It made no sense to go, and I was forced to scrap the whole trip.

United Airlines was reasonably gracious, after I waited in line for two hours (!) They gave me a full refund when they heard my story, and put me in the Hilton for the night. Greg and the kids drove back down to D.C. this morning to pick me up. And, knowing I needed some alone time, Greg continued with his plan to bring the kids up to his parents' house. I'll re-join them tomorrow.

So I am here, in Baltimore, alone, recovering. Grieving, really, for the lost opportunity, and missing the friends who are gathering without me. It helps to have a quiet space, and to know that I can stay in bed all day if I want, or explore the city streets, or shop... and then tomorrow I will pick myself back up and get on with things.