Outside the Zarkana Theater.
Guy Laliberté was born in Québec City in 1959. An accordionist, stilt-walker and fire-eater, he founded Québec's first internationally-renowned circus with the support of a small group of accomplices. A bold visionary, Guy Laliberté recognized and cultivated the talents of the street performers from the Fête Foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul and created Cirque du Soleil in 1984.
When Gilles Ste-Croix first told his parents he wanted to go into show business they said, “Anything but that!” Ste-Croix grew up in rural Québec, but he was determined not to stay there. He became a hippie and a nomad, living in communes and making the obligatory ‘60s pilgrimage to the West Coast where he audited some drama classes. Ste-Croix participated in the founding of Cirque du Soleil after organizing the Fête Foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul in 1980.
One of Quebec's most respected creators, François Girard navigates easily from one medium to another and has, over the years, acquired an enviable international status. A music lover, he has carved out a unique reputation for writing and directing works imbued with great musicality in productions in which music plays a major role. Zarkana is François Girard's second engagement as Writer and Director with Cirque du Soleil, following the Tokyo-based show ZED.
Line Tremblay first fell in love with Cirque du Soleil in 1984, drawn by its freewheeling spirit, a spirit she says has never gone away. Before joining Cirque du Soleil, Line developed a passion for working in the world of film and television, notably as an Assistant Director at Radio-Canada, where she worked closely with designers and creators. In 1992, she joined Franco Dragone, assisting him in the creation and direction of the Cirque du Soleil shows Mystère, Alegría, Quidam, “O” and La Nouba.
A graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Stéphane Roy has worked as both a set designer and artistic director on over 100 productions in Montreal and abroad. While mainly active in theatre and dance, he has also worked in film, television, advertising and variety shows. Given that professional background, plus an architect father, a mother active in theatre and a unique social and artistic approach to performance space, it was perhaps inevitable that Stéphane would gravitate toward Cirque du Soleil, a relationship that began with the creation of Dralion, and continued with Varekai, Zumanity, KOOZA and now, Zarkana.
Alan Hranitelj attended the School for the Visual Arts in his hometown of Zagreb, Croatia, and has been living in Slovenia since1985, when he went to Ljubljana to design the makeup for a production of the play Baptism Under Triglav. Between1987 and 2010, Alan designed the costumes for about 200 projects, notably for solo and group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana (1991), the Municipal Gallery, Ljubljana (1991-1995) and the European Cultural Capital 96 event in Copenhagen (1996). In 2000 his work was featured in a movement-theatre performance and fashion show at the Millennium Dome, London. He has designed the costumes for many classical and modern theatre and opera productions directed by such prominent Slovenian directors as Vito Taufer, Mateja Koležnik, Diego de Brea, Matjaž Berger and Meta Hočevar. Zarkana is his first endeavor in the world of Cirque du Soleil.
The overall aesthetics were inspired by the Art Nouveau movement of the last century, as well as the works of Gaudí and Klimt, while many of the organic shapes in the set elements are a nod to the master French glassmaker and jeweler René Lalique. More perceptive observers will notice these influences in the design of the acrobatic equipment – especially in the lines at their extremities.
The complex video content of the show was developed with a cinematic approach and plays an integral role in the storytelling. The goal was to bring maximum credibility to this strange parallel world through lifelike moving images on an enormous LED wall at the rear of the set, and projections on the second of three arches that react to the movements of the performers.
There are more than three million pixels of LEDs on the 90ft by 40ft light wall upstage and the LED arch made of of 118 separate panels. This setup allows for the larger-than-life cinematic tableaux that lend the surreal world of Zarkana a heightened sense of reality.
The cradle stations used in the flying trapeze act do not employ steel cables to keep them in position. They rely entirely on "hanger tubes" for their rigidity. The structure of the high wire number installed on the floor of the theatre’s orchestra pit is freestanding, without any anchor points.
The two Eagle’s-head bandstands that house the musicians on either side of the stage are 28ft tall and weigh more than 9,000 pounds each.
The characters in Zarkana inhabit a surreal world inspired by the American circus sideshows that flourished in the 1930s and the spirit of the golden age of Coney Island. The overall visual aesthetic of their costumes – 250 in all – is a modern take on the look of the 1920s, the 1930s and the Art Deco movement.
To create the costumes for Zarkana’s quirky crew of oddball characters and acrobats, Alan worked with a wide range of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, and neoprene, and specialized color printing techniques such as sublimation, many of which were developed by the innovators in the Cirque du Soleil costume workshop.
Tarantula, the spider-woman mutant’s costume suggests all of the perceived danger in her arachnid identity. Her spider legs are extensions to her costume that are attached to the mechanism that allows her to descend to the stage from the ceiling.
The costumes of the extraterrestrial Jovians were originally inspired by a fictitious tribe that lived off the bounty of the sea. When they went fishing, they wore costumes that made them look like fish to fool their prey. The Jovians’ costumes are made of double-laminated Lycra and decorated with bubbles that represent the foam excreted by the fish.