Lee and Roch in the shadows of the Bataclan.
The etymology of the word stamina is interesting.
The word first appears in 1676 and comes from the Latin stamen.
In those days the word stamen meant “thread” or “warp”.
The original creators of the word stamina prescribed to the notion that the warp is the foundation of the.fabric.
Stamina was defined as a “vital capacity of a person or animal” and “the power to resist and recover.”
Resisting sickness and injury and recovering as a team is what stamina is all about under the blue and yellow.
Each member of this company is a thread that runs through the fabric of each show and we all know that each show is the only one that particular audience is going to see.
Adding some finishing touches to a Denver audience member.
Empty Purel bottles stack up in the recycling bin.
Chewable vitamins (aren’t they all, really?) are dispensed like holy wafers to lines of performers.
It’s gotten to the point that some are replacing their High Fives with the much less satisfying but probably less germ distributing Elbow Bumps.
Still, enough performers pick up the flu anyway prompting us to consider changing the show’s name to Flooza.
And there are other dangers.
Angelito the high wire artist just got 22 stitches in his mouth from a winch handle.
Big Dima, a Russian teeterboard catcher, (the French call them porters) got burnt by a muscle stimulation device while receiving therapy for some back pain.
(He’s back in the show, supporting two grown men on his shoulders nightly.)
From the acrobats to the clowns, we’ve all had to fashion our routines around available personnel.
Amazing acts are replaced with equally amazing acts.
Threads are mended and woven back in.
And based on their standing ovations no audience has been the wiser.
In between shows we found time for another Cirque du Monde event, putting thirty "at risk" kids through a round-robin circus boot camp of sorts. Each of them got a taste of acrobatics, music, prop construction, juggling and finally clowning with myself and the delightful Stefan Landry, (“the Innocent” in our show) and Roch Jutras.
If there is a better feeling than widening some kids eyes for a couple of hours and opening up some young mind to new possibilities I don’t know what it is.
Knee Pads and the Suckhole
Just to the left of where we clowns put our make up on is the suckhole. An air vent that I imagine draws a mix of all the sniffles, colds and other bodily odors in the entire big top and re circulates them I have no idea where.
We use this vent to dry our kneepads.
Clowning means kneepads to most of us.
Except for Roch Jutras, the irrepressible Cirque veteran who has joined us while the injured Christian Fitzharris recovers.
Roch helped train me for the King role in the first place and he is the real deal.
Having begun as an acrobat, continuing as a director and now he is one of the clown sidekicks in our wacky triumvirate.
What a joy to work with him, an athletic miner of the funny with a great smile, sparkling available eyes, Quebecois accent and instincts borne of a life in and around the circus.
Roch does not use knee pads. A true pro and a master of pratfalls- (he does one down the three stairs that lead into the audience that gets laughs and gasps every time.) I wondered aloud one night why he didn’t use knee pads.
His answer: “Why? My knees don’t hit. Only my wrists. But it gets a good laugh, no?”
“Yes, it sure does.” I reply.
Threads holding up the fabric.