Circus Artistry Arrives to The Old Globe through "Passengers"

With the French-Canadian Troupe Les 7 doigts de la main (The Seven Fingers) 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Andrew Sumner and Beto Freitas, with the cast of Passengers at American Conservatory Theater. Photo by Kevin Berne.
I was blown away when I saw Les 7 Doigts for the first time around 2011 in Los Angeles, at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre. As I enjoyed the performance, there was a sort of a Cirque du Soleil-ish reference and in spite of this, they are different. It is because of the elevated, artistic quality brought to the circus that makes their art unique. 

I have admired the theatres in San Diego trying new models in their seasons in order to innovate and continue to survive. The Old Globe has been presenting touring productions for a while now and Passengers came into the mix as a cool palate cleanser between productions. 

A 100-minute train ride with no intermission full of daring acrobatics, contortions, saults, break dance, and tumbles as well as music, haze and a little bit of mystery/suspense. Conceived and directed by Shana Carroll the artistic troupe formed by Méliejade T. Bouchard, Kaisha D-W, Beto Freitas, Eduardo De Azevedo Grillo, Marco Ingaramo, Santiago Rivera Laugerud, Nella Niva, Mandi Orozco, and Andrew Sumner bring the audience into the trip with the different numbers that go by with their own rhythm and dose of stress each time when a contortion bends a little too far, or someone in the air is twisting as they are almost landing on the floor. I believe there is also a metaphoric quality to Passengers where it could also mean a window to life going by with all the people that come in and out of it along the pertaining adventures. 

Kaisha Desselines-Wright and Dina Sok in Passengers at American Conservatory Theater.
Photo by Kevin Berne.

In the circus, there is a rule that when the number fails, meaning a dropped ball during a juggle or a flip that is not made, it has to be done again immediately without announcement or notoriety. It has to be done and it has to land. The opening night performance tended to that rule giving more adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment in the room. That can also be parallel to life: trial, and error, try again until the learning is there and the result is met.
Even though Passengers is presented at The Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, Old Globe Theatre, it is still an intimate space for the challenging numbers being done which provides a beautiful quality of being close and feeling it all with alerted senses both with the artists performing and reacting in unison with the audience, the energy becomes powerful and even coddling. Another wonderful attribute is seeing the artists prepare the wires, wheels, and contraptions needed to perform the stunts. As soon as I saw ropes going up and a sort of a swing I thought: "Oh my God, not a trapeze", and because of the space and height of the theatre, it could not be a full-on trapeze but still, using both the swing and human bodies as the catcher and the one who swings, the number was absolutely mindblowing and perfectly executed. Circus artistry is huge in Latinamerica and I loved seeing cast members from Guatemala and Brazil in Passengers. All of the numbers are fantastic, Méliejade T. Bouchard performs a hula-hoop stunt that is impressive as it is creative, Mandi Orozco contorts all over the space, and my anxiety at one point was full throttle. 

Passengers is a show that has a dash of every artistic fairy dust (or should I say magnesia to stay on brand?) that brings the audience to attest to the ability, strength, and beauty of the human body as well as the creativity of the mind and the distress of a performance that can even be life-threatening with grace and aesthetic.

I applaud The Old Globe for bringing this variety that breaks the mold of the traditional theatre season and hopefully will too, bring new diverse audiences to experience the magic.

Passengers is currently performing until July 30th. There will be Post Show Forums with the cast on Tuesday, July 25, and Wednesday, July 26. For performance times and dates please click here

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