Michel Laprise brings humanity to ‘Kurios’ mechanics

COURTESY MARTIN GIRARD

COURTESY MARTIN GIRARD

For those who are curious about “Kurios-Cabinet of Curiosities” but have not yet taken in Cirque du Soleil’s latest endeavor, there still are a few weeks to experience one of the best-received Cirque tours in recent memory; the show runs through Jan. 18 under the big tent near AT&T Park.

This 30th anniversary production delivers the Canadian company’s trademark high standards of performance artistry and imaginative design. It also boasts a vigorously beating heart and a passionate soul thanks to French-Canadian writer-director Michel Laprise.

“We wanted to do something warm,” says Laprise. “The colors had to be warm. The costumes. The whole thing. It had to be welcoming. Don’t put in too many machines. We have this amazing violin player. I want to hear him.”

A barely contained ball of energy, Laprise speaks in short, kinetic sentences or fragments, as if completing a thought might keep him from getting to the next one. “What I like is when you have something that comes with its little own story. Another element has its own little story. Bring them together and it’s a story that never existed before. Quite a metaphor for a show.”

Laprise has been part of Cirque since 2000. The former actor and Madonna collaborator has infused “Kurios” with a delightfully off-kilter steampunk sensibility, where one thing does indeed lead to an unexpected other.

He sees steampunk as holding “nostalgia of an indefinite past and excitement of the future.” While researching the genre he became fascinated with the industrial revolution and with technology of the 1800s such as electricity and recorded sound. “Somebody could record his voice and then die and the voice was eternal,” Laprise says with a sense of wonder more applicable to the latest gadget than a century-old achievement.

Still, no matter how advanced the technology, Laprise insists, “I don’t want just to impress people. Everybody can do that now. We have this pressure to do ‘wow’ effects and we love to do it. At the same time we have to be very human, super human. It has to be emotional. It has to touch people.”

He attributes the production’s success to a collaborative effort around a shared vision.

“We worked so hard together but also listen to each other. It’s not me coming, ‘Oh, I want to do this.’ First I listen to the artists. ‘OK. What’s your history? Oh, you play accordion? Interesting. OK. You’re Polish?’ Everything goes in there. It was a constant communication with them, and falling in love. This is a real family and I think that you can read that on the stage.”

IF YOU GO

Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities

Presented by Cirque du Soleil

Where: Big Top, Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard, S.F.

When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. most Fridays-Saturdays, 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 18

Tickets: $53 to $135

Contact: (800) 450-1480, www.cirquedusoleil.com

artsCirque du Soleil ]Kurios – Cabinet of CuriositiesMichel Laprise

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