The Magic of Amaluna

A sneak peek of Amaluna

By Annabelle Marceno Pericin
Images by Matthew Brandalise

As you approach San Francisco’s AT&T Park, the iconic blue and yellow Big Top greets you first, and that means only one thing, Cirque du Soleil is in town! Amaluna, Cirque Du Soleil’s latest show sensation officially opened on November 13, and will be in town until January 12, 2014. I had an opportunity to get behind the curtain and talk to Amaluna’s key staff to see what makes Cirque’s latest production mystical and enchanting.

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Diane Paulus

Directed by Tony award-winning Broadway Director Diane Paulus, Amaluna is Paulus’ first collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. Influenced by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as well as other classical references, Amaluna is a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next. “Amaluna is less about feminism and more about reconnecting to our world in a different way”, Paulus explains.

Amaluna features the female power and tells a love story between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor. Their love is put to the test with demanding trials and daunting setbacks which must be overcome before mutual trust, faith and harmony can be achieved.

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Larry Edwards

As Head of Wardrobe, Larry Edwards oversees operations in the Artist Tent ensuring a smooth performance under the Big Top. Amaluna’s aesthetic has a beautiful and natural human silhouette, and can take up to an hour and a half to apply the artist’s makeup. Since they don’t have a salon during tours they work with an Aveda-certified salon in each city to make sure the artists get their cut and color done every six weeks for consistency. A native Australian, Edwards started working with Cirque du Soleil six years ago in Macao, China.  Edwards shares with us that Costume Designer Meredith Caron uses natural esthetics in the designs such as leather and stretchable denim. Leather is used a lot and Cirque pushes the boundary on how to use the material. “Cirque has designed leather that can be washed, hung to dry and worn the next day without losing its color,” explains Edwards. The time from design to actual wear is around six months. The life span of Cirque’s costumes is practically forever. “We still have costumes that are being used from 20 years ago and still look like new.”

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Company manager Jamie Reilly with GEV lifestyle editor Annabelle Pericin

What makes Cirque du Soleil such a well-oiled machine? Described as a “Village on Wheels,” Company Manager Jamie Reilly would be considered the “mayor” of the village which consists of 145 cast and crew members, and is in charge of Cirque du Soleil’s infrastructure which includes offices, a school, generators, and up to 65 trucks on tour. Logistics is crucial. There are three operational directors that report to her and Reilly also works closely with the production director. Reilly describes her job as, “Making sure that the visions and integrity of the show is respected and stays intact.” The tour relies on and works closely with local suppliers and Reilly projects that San Francisco will bring in close to $13 million dollars of revenue with the show being in town besides locally hiring 200-300 support staff. Amaluna brings Reilly back to North America after 10 years since Varakai opened in San Francisco in 2003. She has toured with 19 different Cirque productions over three continents.

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Annabelle chats with artistic director Mark Pawsey

Once Amaluna was brought to the Big Top, Artistic Director Mark Pawsey’s job is to have the artists convey Diane Paulus’ vision in their performance. This is Pawsey’s sixth show and he’s been with Cirque for 15 years after leaving Phantom of the Opera in London. Pawsey strongly believes in Cirque’s mission statement “to provoke” and having people think outside of their comfort zone. He states, “What people are feeling, where they are in their life is going to have an impact on how they react to the show. How they can be transported to someplace else based on emotion is very simplistic. Cirque has a powerful way of transporting the audience to very emotional places.” Pawsey believes as a creative person you have to listen to your audience. The audience is both the artist and the guest that comes and pays for the show. “You have to find the way to get the best out of everybody.” With 46 international artists, Pawsey makes sure he finds a way to communicate with them and it’s his job to figure out what they need. When it comes to the paying audience he makes sure he can take a step back and see what the show needs. “They influence the change; you need to be able to listen to the environment. It’s the growth of the show and how it keeps evolving.”

Amaluna runs through Jan. 12, 2014 under the Cirque du Soleil Big Top,

AT&T Park Parking Lot, 74 Mission Rock St San Francisco;

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, one intermission

Tickets: $45-$270, 800-450-1480, www.cirquedusoleil.com