It’s a photographer’s dream here at Haven Lounge tonight, where everyone is in show business and ready to flash that perfectly glamorous pose at precisely the right moment.
They’re all here in support of their friends and fellow performers at Miami’s beautifully bizarre performance troupe, Circ X, in their quest to raise matching funds for a grant recently received from the Knight Arts Challenge. Circ X received this grant to fund their upcoming production of Miami’s first resident Cabaret at the Fillmore Theater at the Jackie Gleason.
As images and video of Circ X’s past decade of performances flash around Haven’s huge wrap-around LED screen immersing the crowd in a larger-than-life audio/visual environment, Circ X founder Diana Andrew-Lozano talks to us over cocktails about her troupe’s past, and most importantly, their future plans …
What was your inspiration to create Circ X?
“My whole life I’ve been involved in theater, the performing arts, and I was always interested in the visceral part of nightclub performance because you had the permission to really go out and express yourself. However, I really disliked the non-refinement of the performance that came out of that. And being a conservatory-trained performer I was like, what happens when you combine both of those elements together, meaning the visceral, raw energy of the nightclub world and the refined and technically trained discipline of a theater professional. And when you combine those two, that was like what I wanted to create—that’s the inspiration.”
What do you mean by “non-refined” … do you mean like when a club simply tells a girl to “get up there and dance?”
“Exactly … I used to do light set-ups at a nightclub and I’d get very, very angry at seeing a perfectly good performance space wasted on a girl wiggling in a bikini … I was like, this is bullshit, I want to see something more interesting than that. I’m not against sexuality—I understand that sex sells, but do something that’s more interesting, more provocative, more of a production, more of a stage presence.”
“I was running lights at a club down in Weston—I was the light girl—and they had these silly go-go dancers, and I was like, you know what, I’m going to go out after they’re done and I’m going to just dance how I want to dance to the music … and it became this weird, interpretive dance theater kind of craziness, and the owner came up to me and he was like ‘Hey, if I give you a thousand dollars a week can you get a bunch of your friends together and put something together for us?’ And I said, give me at least three months to put it together because this was my dream. So, I paid the performers a hundred dollars each, and the rest of it I invested in costumes—not paying myself for a long time. And from there it evolved into what it is today.”
What style were your first costumes?
“I’d be lying if I said I was influenced by Cirque du Soleil. Growing-up I always hated clowns, hated circus, hated all of that. Then I saw Cirque and I saw the way the character actors came out and how they made fun of themselves, it was a very different approach, and I was like, OMG, I can totally do this, I can see myself acting in this way. And I just fell in love, I fell in love with the whole nuevo-Cirque approach to it where it combined elements of Corporeal mime, dance theater, street theater, raw nightclub performance, and harnessed it all and like BAM, in this explosion of creativity—and that’s what I’m interested in.”
Does the “X” in Circ X have any special meaning?
“Not only the ‘X,’ but every single letter has meaning. It comes from the Latin ‘circa,’ meaning ‘around’ or ‘about.’ The ‘X’ is just like in algebra meaning any variable. So we’re a theatrical company around anything, but ‘Circ X’ also sounds like ‘circus’ which is a lot of what we do, And with the ‘X’ it does have the adult connotation, so it’s an ambiguous name that covers all those realms.”
Specifically, what will the Knight Arts grant be used for?
“Last year we had the opportunity to celebrate our 10-year anniversary at The Fillmore Theater at the Jackie Gleason, and we produced a three hour spectacular with all the cabaret shows we’ve done for the past ten years. The place was packed, and we were like, wow, people are really hungry for this kind of entertainment. So now we want to do a resident cabaret, not a three hour show, but maybe a forty minute show with a twenty minute intermission. The other aspect of it was, I wanted to make it affordable for the general public to come, so instead spending $15 dollars on a movie, they come to see our show with live performers. The idea is that you have the opportunity to see live performers at a very affordable rate, and that’s where the grant comes in. Live theater is magical. When you’re watching something happen live before your eyes, it’s kind of like you’re making love to the audience in a way. That one-on-one connection, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
“The Knight Foundation is a matching grant type of situation, we have $25,000 for this year and $25,000 for next year, but to get that we have to raise the other $25,000, which is why I’m here doing this fundraiser.”
What if you only raise, say, $15,000?
“Then I will get $15,000 from them, and I’ll have to deal with making a $30,000 dollar production, which is still doable, it just means I might have to do less shows that I originally planned. It’s not all-or-nothing, you do what you can—and we’ve done a lot with a lot less. I’m just super-thrilled to have the opportunity to something on this scale.”
Are the performances set now?
“All the shows we’ve done for the past decade, to be honest with you, they’re tried and true, they’re great for nightclubs, but we’re really tired of them. The idea is that we want to do something fresh, and really do burlesque, meaning it’s not about the striptease, it’s not about sexy girls doing a silly chair-dance choreography, it’s really about topics that are happening today and ‘burlesquing’ them which means to make fun of. It’s similar to what Saturday Night Live does and what South Park does—taking today’s issues and making a commentary and parody on the things that we’re really facing in an entertaining environment where you can laugh and reflect on what’s happening in society—that’s the best medicine for our soul.”
Have you started working on the new show’s choreography yet?
“I challenged myself to NOT do it, but my brain hasn’t stopped working, I have ideas, especially with the whole Blackfish controversy with the SeaWorld thing, that movie touched my heart, I was like, I have to do something about that, I have to make some sort of commentary on that, which might be some really ridiculous gimmick that I come up with, but at least it will bring awareness to the audience. We want to keep it light-hearted and fun, but still be provocative. It’s going to have a couple of zingers in there.”
“This is what this grant is for … to use the raw talent of these amazing artists, and to say, we’re going to do what we’re going to do, we’re going to say what we’re going to say, and here it is, take it or leave it, and let’s have fun. Let’s discuss, let’s get angry, cause a revolution, let’s go out and protest about something that stirred our feelings … something that provokes you to do something different with your life … comedy has the power to do that.”
[fellow performer Octavio Campos enters with hugs and kisses … ]
[shouting to Octavio]
“OMG, I’m in the middle of an interview … I’m being recorded … ”
[returning her attention to the interview]
“Octavio is my mentor. This is the one who taught me everything, he is like a major dance-theater guru in South Florida and around the world.”
How many performers will the shows at the Fillmore have?
“I’m going to say between ten and twenty that Octavio will hold me to, but I know myself and in the end it will be like, fuck it, I’m going to slave at two other jobs and hire more showgirls.”
Are you going to have specialty acts such as aerialists?
“I don’t want to make it about the grandeur of these highly skilled circus acts, I want to make it about the content and what we have to say more than anything.”
When will this happen? Shows begin?
“The goal is December of this year (2014) to do the first one. we’re pushing forward full speed ahead … it’s going to be … ”
[more hugs and kisses from arriving friends]
” … it’s going to be a bi-monthly thing. The ideal would be once a month, however for this first grant period we’re probably just do three in the first year and see how that goes. I don’t want to do just ‘fast food entertainment,’ I want to do quality.”
Waves of friends arriving produce yet more hugs, more screams of joy, and more spontaneous posing as the cameras flash. Everybody’s in show biz tonight …