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INTERVIEW:  Artistic Director Fabrice Lemire of Cirque du Soleil’s Arena Tour Varekai
By Henri A. Gutierrez

    Cirque du Soleil fans rejoice. The high flying acrobats and magical artistry that is the world-renown production Varekai will return to the Austin area on February 28th through
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March 2nd at the Cedar Park Center.
    The word Varekai (pronounced "ver·ay·'kie") means "wherever" in the Romany language of the gypsies - the universal wanderers. Written and directed by Dominic Champagne, the production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai. The production features an international cast of 50 performers and musicians from 18 different countries.
    Since it first premiered in Montreal in 2002, Varekai has visited more than 72 cities in 20 different countries around the world.  Cirque du Soleil - the Québec-based artistic entertainment organization - has taken Greek mythology to new heights with their interpretation and continuation of the story of Icarus.
    "It's really a point of view of what happened after Icarus flew too close to the sun and burned his wings," Fabrice Lemire, Artistic Director for Varekai told Austin On Stage Magazine. "He meets these creatures that bring him into this crazy world. It's the interpretational story about someone breaking their wings and finding a way to stand up and
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walk again."
     Lemire also describes the plot as what happens to a person when they enter a new society and community and what one does to adapt to a new world.
      "You adapt because people support you, because they welcome you. It's an observation of adaption and how you explore this new lifestyle," he noted.
    Lemire has been working for Cirque du Soleil for more than five years, and has been the artistic director for Varekai for a little more than a year, starting in November 2012.   Part of his duties for this particular Cirque show was to transform Varekai from a big top production that toured under Cirque's trademark blue-and-yellow tent theatre
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to an arena show.
      "My major role is to make the transition as smooth as possible, and at the same time protecting the content and the essence of the show," he said
     Audience members who have seen this particular Cirque du Soleil show when it visit Austin in 2005, and who expect to see the same performance again, will be treated to a slight variation of the original. Keeping the integrity of the original production while creating a new adapted show for a new type of venue was the challenge Lemire and crew had to create.
     "It's a different experience," he said.  "While you still want to recreate a world that was in the big top, it will be a new experience - even though audiences will recognize the story."
    The reason behind changing the format from tent to arena, according to Lemire, was to bring the story of Varekai to new audiences.
     "It was a way to transfer the show to basically target a new market. After performing in all these big cities, we can re-welcome audiences."
       "It's a huge leap; it's a major change," Lemire said. "A lot of times, to keep a show alive, you have to adapt."

Varekai runs February 26th through March 2nd at the Cedar Park Center, with performances at 7:30 pm on Wednesday through Friday, 4 pm and 7: 30 pm on Saturday, and 1:30 pm and 5 pm on Sunday.  Tickets are available now through www.TicketMaster.com, at the Cedar Park Center Box Office and by phone at 1-800-745-3000.  For more information, visit www.CedarParkCenter.com or www.CirqueDuSoleil.com.

(Photos courtesy Cirque du Soleil; photos by Rick Diamond; costumes by Eiko Ishioka)
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