Cirque and the Sexual Objectification of Men

On Friday, I went to Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. I have been dreaming of going to a Cirque show for years, but something always got in the way of us going. So I was very excited to go. What I didn’t expect, however, was to feel utterly disgusted by the end of the show. I couldn’t believe that the show would include such base comedy nor that it would go nearly to the point of sexually harassing male audience members. But it did. And I want to share my shock of the experience.

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I went to the show expecting the majesty and beauty that I’ve come to know from Cirque. And there was that. The costumes and music were beautiful, the acts stunning to perfection. But the show itself left something to be desired.

During the intermission, I actually went back to the website for Varekai. Did I miss something? What was going on? The show is described as “A captivating forest inhabited by whimsical and enchanted creatures.” Ok, check. Looking more closely, I see a mention of “both the absurd and the extraordinary” and a tribute to the “circus tradition.”

First, the character of The Skywatcher. This character spends half the time on stage grunting or making obscene faces. Like a caveman meets a dunce. A dunce who “comically” makes rude and inappropriate gestures. Here is how he is described online:

“Mad scientist and ingenious inventor, collector of the world’s memories and interpreter of signs, this is a man who receives signals, transforms sounds and forewarns of trials and tribulations.”

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Ok, sounds ok? I can see a little bit of comedy in there, but the level of base rudeness presupposes that the audience is uneducated and only capable of laughs through the most crude grunts and gestures. So I found that insulting. Take those elements of “interpretation” (I’m being generous here) out, and the character would have more value. Particularly as he’s supposed to be “ingenious,” not an idiot. 

So let’s move on. If you thought that was it for comedy relief, however, you’d be wrong. Included in the show, but hidden from the main page, are “Clown Acts”:

“No circus show would be complete without clowns! Joanna and Steven amuse the audience with an act that’s simply absurd.”

And yes, absurd it is. I can forgive this as an intermission piece, but it’s woven throughout the story, removing all sense of fluidity and grace from the actual Cirque performance. What’s more, I felt actually offended by the content of the show. During the show, the act singles out audience members to “interact” with. They make men take their arms off of girlfriends, or pick pocket some men, or interact in other ways. There were two incidents, though, that spoke of more than just comedy.

In one incident, the performer isolated a boyfriend from his girlfriend. The male in the act went to sit with the girl (haha, I’ve stolen your girlfriend!), which would have been ok, had not the woman in the act thrown herself in front of the man, holding onto his chair while covering his body. Now, imagine a man doing this to a woman. Would you be ok with a woman being physically restrained in this way? No? Me neither. But I also wasn’t ok with this being done to a man. I didn’t find it funny. 

Next was the more serious incident. A man was pulled onto stage to be a part of a disappearing act. During the course of the act, the woman in the show was seen to throw her body onto his and pretend to kiss him. The whole act was about her sexually fawning over this audience member. So, while I object to the way she’s sexualizing herself, what really threw me was how everyone was laughing while this was happening. If a woman were on that stage and a man pretended to grope her, would that be ok? It’s NOT OK. 

I don’t know what happens in these circus acts at other shows. This is not, and has never been, my style of comedy. But if this is the norm for circus acts, it’s NOT OK. Just because men are the centre of the act, not women, does not mean we have a right to sexually objectify them. If I were on that stage, I would have felt abused. That is sexual harassment and it is NOT OK. 

Cirque, what are you doing?!?!

Paradise Cove Luau in Oahu – Review

We celebrated Ianiv’s birthday in Hawaii with a trip to the Paradise Cove Luau. Though we knew Aiden would have enjoyed the music of the luau, we chose to have a date night on our own to celebrate Ianiv’s birthday – having two wonderful grandmas with us on the trip made such a thing possible!

There are 5 luau locations in Oahu, from what I can tell, and one was at our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Starlight Luau. Though we could see from our hotel room that this luau was quite spectacular, with 5 fire dancers!, we wanted to get away and see another part of the island for our date night. We decided that a structured day at the Polynesian Cultural Centre was not right for Aiden at this age, so we passed on their luau as well, even though it is rated very highly. We chose the Paradise Cove Luau for what looked to be a good ‘experience’ along with the buffet and show.

Paradise Cove is located as part of the Ko Olina Resort on the leeward coast of Oahu. The area boasts a stunning sunset setting with a wide open space for activities before the luau including lei making, tattoos, canoeing, and games of skill. Periodically they draw your attention to a demonstration, including the Shower of Flowers. We were able to take some great photos throughout the evening, though we also did get sucked into buying a souvenir photo of us as a couple (yet to be scanned).

Before the buffet, the guests are gathered in an amphitheatre to reveal the roast pig and to watch some dancing – additional performances were shown during / after dinner, including a fantastic fire dancer. I did feel disappointed that Aiden was not there for that, although I was glad for the quiet time for the rest of the night!

The dining area itself was probably my biggest disappointment – I found the folding tables, chairs and plastic tablecloths a bit ‘cheap’ looking, though I’m sure it’s the most functional. Depending on your luau package, you either line up for a buffet or are served at your table. The food was ok, though not fantastic. I wasn’t feeling super great for this night, but I did find the buffet a little limited and would have liked to see a couple more dishes to round it out. The Kalua Pig was too salty for me, but I’m not sure if that’s atypical of the dish.

Overall, we enjoyed the experience of the luau, though neither of us were overly impressed by the meal. It did sound like the luau at our hotel had more ‘upscale’ food for the buffet. The location was beautiful and the activities were fun for all ages. We did get rained on a little bit during our meal, which would be a downside to any luau I suppose!

Since the Paradise Cove Luau is not in Waikiki, they offer a complimentary bus service that took us to and from our hotel. The bus driver offered his own form of entertainment for the trip, which was fun.

Have you ever been to a luau? What were your thoughts?

“Bye Bye Birdie” with TUTS

Ianiv & I were invited to attend the opening night of the Theatre Under the Stars production of Bye Bye Birdie. The show runs on alternating nights at 8pm in Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl, alternating nights with their other production, Anything Goes.

Both live theatre productions feature local actors on the open-air stage, ready to engage you in the whole production. From flying beach balls to doing the twist, this isn’t your regular theatrical experience.

I hadn’t seen Bye Bye Birdie before last night, despite it being a classic for many high schools. Honestly, I never attended any of my high school’s plays (unless you count being in the orchestra for Fiddler on the Roof). That aside, it was a fun production. It’s not the calibre of a production like Wicked, but you will have fun. Bye Bye Birdie was an easy story to engage in…

Inspired by Elvis Presley and his draft into the Army in 1957, Bye Bye Birdie tells the story of a teen rock sensation, Conrad Birdie, drafted into the Army. The story weaves in that of his manager, Albert Peterson, whose financial success depends on the rock star and whose girlfriend, Rosie, is desperate for him to quit the business after he makes it profitable, become a teacher and get married. This all depends on making one last hit song for Conrad, “The Last Kiss”, which has him deliver one last kiss to a fan in Sweet Apple, Ohio. We also follow the story of this fan, Kim MacAfee, and the dynamics of her boyfriend, family and friends. The music is fun and upbeat and the acting drew you into the story.

Some recommendations for the best TUTS experience:

  • Know how to get to Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park (map here)
  • There’s food! We didn’t know this, so scarfed down a dinner before. Wish I’d noticed that.
  • Wear or bring a jacket
  • Bring a blanket, if you want to be extra cozy
  • Warm beverages are available (coffee, hot chocolate, etc), or you can port in your own thermos
  • You can sit in the assigned seats or bring a blanket and set yourself up on the hill
  • Porta-potties only. Be prepared.
  • The show is as long as most theatrical productions, complete with intermission. Expect to be out late, under the stars!
  • Have fun!

Tickets for Theatre Under the Stars’ productions of Bye Bye Birdie and Anything Goes can be found here. You can follow their Facebook page for updates on both productions.

Defying Gravity with “Wicked”

Last night, Ianiv and I had a date night out to see Wicked, currently touring across Canada with Broadway Across America.

I’ve read all of the Wicked trilogy (Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men) and have always wanted to see the theatrical adaptation. I was not disappointed! The production tells the story of Elphaba as a young girl, growing up in the shadow because of her green colour. She attends University with her sister, Nessarose, who is wheelchair-bound and meets there Glinda, the popular and petty opposite of Elphaba. Both fall in love with the same man, Fiyero. And through it all is a political struggle for the rights of Animals (sentient animals who can talk).

At University, Elphaba discovers her “quirky” side is an aptitude for being a witch and begins to dream of someday doing good. However, on her path to doing good, and meeting the Wizard of Oz, her good deeds are misconstrued and used against her to brand her as “wicked.”

The 2011 Wicked Vancouver cast included Ann Brummel (Elphaba), Marilyn Caskey (Madame Morrible) and Tiffany Haas (Glinda understudy). We had an understudy for The Wizard as well. Despite having two understudies, the play was beautifully performed. The first scene with Glinda was a little rocky, but she seemed to find her footing after that and performed perfectly. Ann Brummel did an amazing job as Elphaba. Truly beautiful.

What did you think of the performance?