'Not just the circus, not just music': Cirque Eloize production 'is really a new beast,' says star

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Shena Tschofen, left, stars in Cirque Eloize's "Saloon."
Photo by Jin Mneymneh

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

A folk jamboree, a rambunctious drinking hole and high-flying performers: All these disparate elements and more come together in Cirque Eloize's Saloon.

The Montreal-based company will bring its newest production to town Feb. 8 and 9 as part of Civic Amarillo's Broadway Spotlight Series. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. each night in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St. Tickets are $20 to $55, plus fees.

Saloon was developed by the 24-year-old company over the past year, said star Shena Tschofen, who plays The Kid, a fiddle-playing, whip-cracking acrobat.

Cirque Eloize's "Saloon" will be staged Feb. 8 and 9 as part of Civic Amarillo's Broadway Spotlight Series.
Photo by Jin Mneymneh

"The artistic director of Eloize (Jeannot Painchaud) grew up in the Magdalen Islands, off the coast of Quebec," Tschofen said. "There's a huge culture of folk music there; everyone hangs out and plays together. He wanted to make show that brings the circus back to what his roots were."

Working with music director and composer Eloi Painchaud, his cousin, and new and old members of Eloize, Jeannot Painchaud developes Saloon with live instrumentation on traditional folk and country tunes like "Cotton-Eyed Joe" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

"We all run around the stage, playing instruments, doing flips, doing flips backwards," Tschofen said. "It's a very funny show. ... It has all of the clichéd spaghetti Western moments, but we add a lot of weird twists to them."

Those include an array of circus stunts, including juggling, aerial acrobatics and the Cyr wheel, on top of the live music.

Shena Tschofen performs in the Cyr wheel during Cirque Eloize's "Saloon."
Photo by Jin Mneymneh

That's where Tschofen, who trained both as a violinist and as a circus performer, fits in.

"Some of our musicians play six instruments, and our other acrobats have other disciplines, too. We all have multiple things we can do," Tschofen said. "We're working on adding stunts while I play, but for the moment, it's kind of dangerous to play fiddle while hanging from the ceiling."

That all gives a taste of why Tschofen loves Eloize and Saloon so much.

"It's all very enmeshed. It's not just circus, it's not just music," she said. "A lot of people think it's like Broadway or Cirque du Soliel, but it's not. It is really a new beast."

Tschofen was recruited to join the company after graduating from the National Circus School in Montreal.

"I didn't expect" to find a job like this, she said. "I got luck that I can play music and do circus at the same time."






Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.

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