It’s something few, if any, expect to attend in their lifetime: a clown’s funeral.
Yet beginning Wednesday, residents from across metro Atlanta will flock to Duluth’s Infinite Energy Arena for just that — the basis of Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, Corteo.
Corteo, which means “cortege” in Italian — a joyous procession and a festive parade imagined by a clown — will run from Aug. 29 through Sept. 2 at the arena, bringing more than 50 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors from around the world to Gwinnett.
The show centers on a clown dreaming of his own funeral, which takes place in a carnival atmosphere, said Maxwell Batista, the show’s publicist.
But Corteo is anything but sad.
“You get to see his friends and all the people he used to travel around the world with and you get to see all the amazing skills they have,” Batista said. “But then you ask, this is a show about death — it is a funeral. Yes, it is a funeral, but it’s not a sad show. It is a celebration of life.”
Corteo is set up much like a film, Batista said, where the clown sees flashbacks of his life.
“Think about it when you’re watching a movie and someone is about to die,” he said. “They have flashbacks of everything that’s happened in their life, and this is what you’re going to see on stage. You are going to see this clown remembering all the greatest moments he had in his life, since he was a child and would play on his bed, pretending for it to be a trampoline, and then we are also going to see the great love he has in his life.”
Cirque du Soleil, which is known for its gymnasts, acrobats, music, costumes and props, promises much of its classic favorites in Corteo, though unlike in past shows, this performance takes a different approach to props, decorations and the audience’s experience, Batista said.
“Corteo is one of the most unique Cirque du Soleil shows, starting because of the way it’s set up,” he said. “We have the stage right in the middle of the arena and we have people on both sides, different from any other show where we have people sitting on all three sides of the stage.”
In Corteo, the audience faces one another so they can see every angle of the actors and acrobats on stage, while also being able to see their fellow show-goers’ reactions to the events unfolding in front of them.
“Besides that, in this show, you see humans, so it’s easy for you to connect with the performance,” Batista said. “You don’t see creatures, you don’t see animals on stage — you see humans, and it’s light makeup, so it allows you to see their faces better. The costumes are inspired by the end of the 19th century, and because this show goes through the life of this clown, people will have a mix of feelings, from excitement, nostalgia — it’s a very emotional show.”
Though Corteo incorporates a number of new elements, Batista said at its heart, it is still a Cirque du Soleil show, meaning it contains many of the classic elements one expects to see — acrobatics, tricks — in the circus’ performance.
“They still see the (essence) of Cirque du Soleil, with the acrobatics and amazing set design,” Batista said. “With a cast of 50 different performers from 18 nationalities, it’s a very mixed group, and there are a lot of aerial acts. This show, Corteo, is a tribute to the traditional circus, so you see in this show one of the acrobats going up on a ladder and he’s holding nothing. You think, ‘there must be a cable there attached to him’ but then he starts moving and you realize there’s nothing there holding him — he just has a great balance on this ladder.”
Despite being a tribute to a traditional circus performance, Corteo uses everyday items in its acts.
“The chandelier, the bed — (it’s) things that we usually have in the house but that are usually used in a different way,” Batista said. “People will see the (traditional) acrobatics, but we explore it in a different way with a variety of items people don’t expect to be used. We have the traditional acts like hula hoops and acrobatic ladder, but the trampolines are actually going to be the bed and we have new ways of doing tricks.”
Batista said that while he didn’t want to give away too much about the show, especially the newer acts, Corteo has something for everyone.
“From the beginning to the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult,” he said. “You’ll be able to follow the story and there are many elements you will be able to connect to.”