Hello world! My name is Rena, and I am an aerialist and contortionist with Cirque Us this year. If you were able to catch StarStruck last summer, perhaps you will remember me as Mars (i.e. the one in red with the epic fight scene). I am very happy and excited to work with Cirque Us for a second season, although when I think about exactly why, it is for markedly different reasons than last year.
So, what has changed since last summer? What has happened in the last year? I suppose quite a bit. Immediately after bidding farewell to the Cosmic Circus cast in mid-July, I left for a 7-week rehearsal period in Hamburg, Germany to begin working with AIDA Cruises, an entity of Costa and Carnival. From there, I embarked on their ship AIDAmar for a 6-month performance contract. Over the course of my time abroad, I was lucky enough to see 13 different countries, taught myself to read small amounts of Russian, and binged a lot of Netflix (I may be the very last person to have finally watched Stranger Things, but at least I’m caught up for Season 3). I was also blessed with an amazing ensemble who became not only my friends but also my family, and a lot of my fondest memories are of us doing nothing in particular, but together. Ship-life taught me many valuable life lessons, but of all the things life at sea could have taught me, the most eye-opening was how grateful I should be, and am, for the life I have here on land in America, especially with my circus family.
There is a really tender moment near the end of the film Juno where Ellen Page’s character is at the doorway of her house after a key plot twist in the story, and she says “I never realize how much I like being home unless I’ve been somewhere really different for a while.” That line has always struck a chord with me, but it has felt especially relevant as I’ve acclimated back to life on land, life back in Brattleboro, Vermont, and life back in training. Additionally, I think that the sentiment of this line, of appreciating home and what it means to come home after being away for some time, gets at why I am so happy to come back to Cirque Us for a second season. StarStruck was a string of “firsts”; first contract, first tour, first homestays, etc. AIDA was a whole other series of “firsts”- first time working abroad, first time working with Ukrainian trainers, first time living on a boat- but these two experiences when put back-to-back could not have been more jarringly dissimilar. Both were undeniably exciting and stressful and overwhelming in their own ways, but as far as comparisons go it would be like trying to draw similarities between a kangaroo and a gold fish. After living and working in the surreality of a cruise ship for half a year the familiarity of working with Cirque Us again is refreshing, even if the show itself is new.
There are many things about returning to Cirque Us which excite me, but the one which excites me most is the creation period. In my own artistic process, my favorite span of time is when I am just able to experiment and make stuff. I love the lightbulb moments of discovery, the satisfaction of finding solutions to challenges, and the ownership I feel over the work. Creation inspires me to think harder and bigger, and the benefit of creating with Cirque Us is that it pushes you to do exactly that. From Day 1 it is a race against time to transform the themes, concepts and characters we brainstorm throughout the winter from abstract ideas into a very real, tangible show. It can be exhausting, frustrating and humbling to work so intimately and collectively every day for 3 weeks, but I also think that it’s that closeness, fostered both at work and at rest, that gives Cirque Us so much of its character. During the creation of StarStruck, I did not really know what to expect from working collaboratively within a 10-person cast, and I had no idea how intense the time crunch would be on creation. What excites me so much about creating RagTag is that I not only am lucky enough to work with 5 other incredible artists, but I am also able to bring more of myself to the metaphorical table. With the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained over the last year, I feel more prepared and able to face the challenges of a whole new creation phase, whatever they may be.
As the first day of rehearsals quickly approaches (28 days!), the premiere of RagTag isn’t much further ahead on the horizon. We hope to see you there!
Tickets for RagTag: A Circus in Stitches go on Sale May 15th. Please visit http://www.TheCirqueUs.com for show dates and locations!