Three-ring performance art

The billboards may seem a little disturbing: A headless figure in a dark trench coat, holding an umbrella against a threatening sky. What does it mean? Is it supposed to represent something? These questions come to mind, and then one word jumps out at the driver as he or she flies by on US 19: Quidam.

While the word may not be part of everyday vernacular, it accurately characterizes the feelings evoked by the advertisement. Quidam is a Latin word meaning passer-by, someone who doesn’t get noticed. And next month, Cirque du Soleil, the international sensation, will bring this idea to life under a specially designed blue and yellow tent in the parking lot of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Serge Roy, artistic director for Quidam, describes the journey of the show as, “Coming out of anonymity, like coming out of the subway in New York.”

Roy has been with Cirque since its inception in 1984. He was a performer with its second show, simply titled Cirque du Soleil, and has had a hand in almost every show since. He is lean and thin with a thick French Canadian accent, and only his gray hair belies his age. He has an easy smile and a sense of humor that is evident from the first handshake. But what Roy really stresses is his love and passion Cirque du Soleil’s work..

“We create tableaus and images for people to create their own story,” Roy said of Quidam. “There are 2,500 ideas of what is going on.”

Roy said his favorite part is when Cirque is able to have the audience drop out of their daily life and get them into the different world Cirque offers.

“If … when the show ends, there is a split second when they (the audience) don’t want to clap, it’s because they’re not ready to clap. They have to swallow the emotions, and then they can start applauding,” he said.

It is this suspension of reality that has helped to define Cirque du Soleil as an experience like no other. From La Nouba in Orlando to O and Mystere in Las Vegas, every Cirque performance offers audiences a fresh look at life and reality. With Quidam, the overall impetus was “to do something different than what they did before,” Roy said. Create a show that was closer to reality.

With this in mind, Quidam marks many firsts for the Montreal-based company. While all Cirque shows combine circus acts with story, music, lighting and setting, Quidam brings a new sense of emotion to the troupe.

“Quidam is super rich in terms of where it comes from,” Roy said. “For the first time with Quidam, we have a male singer with a little girl singing, and it creates a very special color in the show. For the first time, we are using a kid as a singer in our show.”

Also, the shape of the venue makes Quidam unique, Roy said.

“The set designer came up with a crazy idea.” Roy illustrates this story with hands waving and gestures of what the carrier actually does. “Why don’t we build a great carrier thing that will go over the stage, over the public and bring them (the performers) onstage? And we did it, you know?”

Roy said the carrier helps the audience redefine its notions of a stage.

“It becomes very surrealistic for people. Instead of using the stage on that one level, it is creating beautiful images; sometimes it is lit, it looks like a bridge, it gives you the feeling of being in, I don’t know, Brooklyn,” he said.

Plus, the carrier is practical. In order to incorporate all the apparatus are used in certain acts in Cirque. The carrier also allows the performers and set designers to have the equipment already prepared. This allows the show to flow in a seamless matter; as one act finishes, the next rises from backstage to onstage.

Cirque du Soleil will come to St. Petersburg as the last stop on its North American tour. While many Floridians may question the choice of St. Petersburg, Anita Nelving, publicist for Cirque says the choice was easy.

“It’s a combination of availability and population and new markets,” Nelving said. “All the elements came together, and that’s why we’re here.”

For anyone who has ever seen a Cirque show, the reasons to come are self-explanatory. However, $60 tickets may seem a little much for the average college student. When asked why students should pay the money to come see Quidam, Roy said, “I (would) want to know that the money I spend is worth it. Put it on something that is gonna fulfill you, is gonna feed you.”

Nelving agreed.

“It is a new experience. And it’s quite an emotional show; it could change the way you think.”

“I still get letters from people who are experiencing the circus for the first time, and they say you’ve changed my life,” Roy said. “That doesn’t happen that often, where you see something like that.” that.”