The world renowned traveling circus, Cirque du Soleil, is setting up at the Ford Park in Beaumont, TX for just seven performances. The show is called “Varekai,” which means "wherever" in the Romany language of the gypsies, and is pronounced Vera-Kai. The show pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to the infinite passion of those whose quest takes them along a path that leads to “Varekai.”
The production begins with a man falling from the sky, a version of “Icarus” in which he travels and learns about the world through the imaginings of Cirque du Soleil. On his journey, a protector emerges and that’s where trapeze performer, Kerren McKeeman, sets up her role in one of the most imaginative circus productions in the world.
Kerren has been performing in circuses of one kind or another since she was a child. Her background and experience make her more than just an asset to the Cirque show. She imparts her wisdom as we discuss what it takes to be a performer in tip top shape, and her role in the show “Varekai.”
Allie Hanley: What’s your role in the show?
Kerren McKeeman: I’m a Trapeze artist in the show and I work on a single point trapeze. I am one of the characters in the show. We all play a specific role in the story of “Icarus” and basically the show is a version of what happened to “Icarus” after he fell from the sky. He lands in an enchanted and magical forest around a volcano filled with magical creatures. He has a journey and that’s where we all come into play.
“Icarus” finds himself unable to walk as he arrives because of is fall. He immediately meets a caterpillar creature that he is intrigued by and they begin a relationship. I am basically her protector. The two of them start a very juvenile flirtation and when I see her getting taken by him, my characters feels like she is not quite ready yet. So it’s my role to come in and protect her and make sure she is ready and that she has grown-up. People will see what happens at the end of the show. That’s my role on the female side of things; -me and my fellow spiders protect her from the outside world.
Allie: Cirque is known for lavish costumes. Tell me about yours.
Kerren: My costume is gold colored, and I have this very intricate head-piece that is sort of like a mane. And I come down from the sky, so in some sense it represents the sun. My costume is elegant yet fierce. So there is a creature-like demons sense I represent.
Allie: You’ve worked on the simply amazing show “O” in Vegas at The Bellagio, and now you are on the road traveling with “Varekai.” Can you tell me some of the differences between being on the road versus in a set city?
Kerran: We travel every week, so you are certainly on the move, and it’s not relaxing. It’s very exciting but Saturday night for us doesn’t mean going out. It means packing and making sure that your suitcase isn’t over weight, and everything is out of the drawers, and that your hotel is paid; And then when you get to cite on Sunday you pack up everything, -your shoes, your make-up, gear, so you are on a pretty tight schedule. However, it’s exciting because we get to see lots of great places. It’s a fantastic experience to travel the world.
Allie: You have an extensive background working in the circus, you started with the Midnight Circus, worked in Las Vegas, etc. Are you happy with the work or do you want to extend to something else in theatre?
Kerren: Well I feel pretty lucky that I have experienced so many different types of circus work. Even the resident show “O” in Vegas, and then to traveling with a big top “Verakai,” and “Midnight Circus,” and “Troupe Vertigo,” and “Cirque Mechanics” which are smaller circuses in the United States, but there is something valuable and rewarding with all of them. But one thing about this job is that it is not predictable, and as an independent contractor you can’t quite predict the future in that sense.
Allie: As a trapeze artist, it’s got to be one of the most dangerous roles in the circus. Have you ever had to deal with a major injury?
Kerren: We all deal with major aches and pains, I luckily have not dealt with an injury that has taken me out of the show. I really like to take preventative measures and restorative exercises to stay in shape.
Allie: What kind of regiment does it take to stay at performance level?
Kerren: Well it’s pretty much a 24 / 7 job, and it matters what you eat, how much you sleep, and since we are changing time-zones and sleeping in new environments you might have light that comes in the window, or a loud neighbor, or the hotel doesn’t have a hot shower. So all these things you might depend on to get a good night’s sleep or to relax, and to take care of your body. So you can’t always depend on that’s pretty important.
Allie: Tell me about your younger years and how that prepared you to be part of the circus today?
Kerren: I did a little gymnastics and a little dance but I was actually introduced to circus at school at the age of 11. My gym teacher, Jackie Davis, started a juggling club and she introduced us to circus, group work and performing. From there I joined a youth circus based in Vermont and toured New England every summer. From there I had a pretty solid base and at the age of 14 I started touring with them every summer so that gave me a pretty good experience of the circus life-style on stage and the back stage including training with many different coaches.
Allie: These tours can be grueling, what are you looking to do when it’s finishes or you guys go in break?
Kerren: Well it’s always nice to just relax and have a good massage and let the body relax and recover.
I’d also like to visit my sister in Germany, but as a performer it’s usually last minute and wherever I go it’s always an adventure!
Allie: Sort of like “Varekai,” – always an adventure.
Varekai has astounded over 8 million people across the world since it first premiered in Montreal 12 years ago. Since then the show has visited more than 72 cities in 20 different countries around the world.
Cirque Du Soleil Presents Varekai in Beaumont, TX
(March 5-9, 2014):
Wednesday, March 5 at 7:30pm
Thursday, March 6 at 7:30pm
Friday, March 7 at 7:30pm
Saturday, March 8 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, March 9 at 1:30pm and 5:00pm
Ticket Information (Premium, Category 1 , 2 & 3):
Adults: From $35 to $100
Children (12 & under): From $28 to $81
Military, Seniors, Students: From $31.50 to $85.50
Buy tickets here:
Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world - a world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai.
From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story of Varekai begins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world populated by fantastical creatures, this young man sets off on an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered.
For more information:
Twitter www.twitter.com/cirque #varekai
You Tube: www.youtube.com/cirquedusoleil
Google + www.google.com/+CirqueduSoleil