Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Ways of Cirque du Soleil ... My "Interview" That Went ssssss Into the Montreal Mist

Reader advistory: For all I know, they operate on another planet, and have their mail routed by space ship.

At the outset, let me put this into global context, kids: I am on record as naming three seminal forces in circus performance art during the last century: Anatoly Lunacharsky, a close friend of Lenin’s who, following the Russian revolution of 1917, elevated Soviet circus art to new heights; John Ringling North, who did the same for three rings in 1938; and Guy Laliberte of Quebec (when he is visiting earth), the ultimate mastermind behind the modern-day phenomenon known as Cirque du Soleil. So ...

November 25, 2004: I send both a letter and e-mail to Mr. Laliberte , seeking an interview and offering a number of options including meeting him in Los Angeles at a future time when he might be there.

Guy Laliberte does not reply.

March 22, 2005: I e-mail him once again, this time asking if he might respond to a few questions, one being “Have you EVER seen a circus without animals before starting up your own show or during your first formative years in operation?” I am hoping, without putting the words in his mouth, that he might mention the time, circa 1986, when, according to Larry Pisoni, he saw Pisoni’s Pickle Family Circus in the Los Angeles area and after the show went back to compliment the company. This would have drawn a strong aesthetic connection between the Pickles and Cirque. I also raise the option of his having a spokesperson speak with me.

April 7, 2005: I send an e-mail to vice president of Creation Giles Ste-Croix, essentially requesting the interview that I am so far unable to secure from his boss. I express a strong interest in at least speaking with him by telephone for 10-15 minutes.

No reply.

May 28, 2005: I e-mail Mr. Laliberte a third time. Here I am afraid, rhetorically speaking, I throw caution to the wind, resorting to both praise and satire in a futile effort to capture his attention (Sometimes, this approach works; so far, it has not landed me in jail). No luck.

Still not a peep from planet Cirque.

June 15, 2005: I write a letter to Mr. Ste-Croix, referencing my e-mail. I suggest a tape-recorded telephone interview or my e-mailing him a set of questions, believing this would be the easiest way for him to reply.

June 27, 2005: THEY RESPOND. Lyne DesRoches, Marketing Project Manager, e-mails me six questions, one being “how big will be Cirque du Soleil part in the book (10% 20%)?” Not since my efforts to quote some Stephen Sondheim lyrics in my earlier book, Broadway Musicals: A Hundred Year History, have I been asked for such intrusive, potentially controlling information. Even then, I reply as best that I can without in any way promising them any amount of a percentage of coverage. Nobody other than publishers and editors have any say in the development of my work.

November 3, 2005, one year after first approaching them and when my manuscript is now nearly ready to be sent out, I receive an e-mail from Karine Hachey, Office of the Vice President of Marketing:

“My colleague Lyne DesRoches has transferred your request to me. In regards to your interview request, I am pleased to inform you that Mr. Giles Ste-Croix, Vice President, Creation, will be available to answer your questions. Chantal Cote, our senior publicist, will contact you in order to arrange the interview.”

November 29, 2005: Needing to move things along, I send Ms. Hachey a thank you reply (via NASA), seeking either to meet with Mr. Ste-Croix in S.F. or L.A, at the same time including 10 questions for an easy reply. I have just seen the less than exhilarating Corteo, and so I take the opportunity to shape some of my questions around it. For example: “In Corteo, you are moving into a more theatrical-fantasia direction where circus acts are even more secondary in importance. Was this a conscious decision on the part of Mr. Laliberte and/or his Italian director?”

In the positive, I ask, “What are the chances, in your opinion, that the Cirque form of circus will, in years to come, be duplicated by more and more American circuses, in essence becoming a new standard by which all circuses are judged?”

I hasten to end with, “In closing, with all due respect, I must tell you that if you are unable to address these questions in weeks rather than months, your response might be too late for any interpolations into my evolving text.”

December 6, 2005: Only seven days later, Chantal Cole, Corporate Public Relations, e-mails me:

“My colleague Karine Hachey forwarded your email to me. Thank you for sending some questions intended for Giles Ste-Croix. I’m afriad Mr. Ste-Croix will not be in a position to answer your questions. When you first approached us back in June this summer (not so, it was back in November, 2004), you requested an interview with Giles Ste-Croix to discuss the modern-day circus scene and have his perspective on how circus arts evolved in general over the years. (Again, wrong – also, about his “days with Cirque du Soleil”) In those questions below, we see more a focus on Corteo and your personal appreciation of its content, which we evaluate as a review of the show and not as an overall interest in circus arts which is legitimate but does not reflect the initial proposal.”

My “personal appreciation”? ONLY could Cirque du Soleil have resorted to such euphemistic blather. Perhaps they had help from the Vice President of Creation on that one.

End of Story.


henry edgar said...

david -- it's strange how setting up interviews works, as i'm sure you realize dating back to your own days as a press agent. one day you get everything you need, another you don't get anything. i had heard similar stories to yours and when i requested an interview this past fall, was amazed to find the most positive response to a circus interview request since the allen bloom/rodney hughey days with ringling. cirque could not have been nicer and they were very cooperative as opposed to today's ringling press department. i love circuses -- and cirque -- too much to ever be a real critic, though i've written a few reviews that really blasted a few shows and few things upset me more than some of the circus fan reviews babbling about how great the latest hula hoop sensation is, or how much better this year's show is than any show ringling has ever put together in the past. that said, i still enjoy writing a few circus features each year, mostly interviews. i'm sorry to hear about your experience. but at least for the moment, my cirque experience has been the opposite and i've been very happy with my own treatment. (it may have something to do with california vs new york. in my days covering movies/television/broadway theatre, i found new york press people much easier to work with than la people, with the exception of the tv networks, who were always most cooperative on both coasts)

Showbiz David said...

Good going for you, Henry. Yes, you never know. A number of people down through the years have said no to my interview requests -- that is, they have simply not responded at all. (I'll blog it up some time over tea) Cirque's slow tango was bizarre to the max. Have a good week!...

Alan Cabal said...

Guy LaLiberte cannot descend from the empyrean to dialogue with a mere mortal! He has planets to tend to and worlds to create! He is, after all, no mere CEO, but THE GUIDE...

I tried talking to God once, but I couldn't get past the voicemail.