I know the difference between a good show and a bad show. Through years of performing, I’m really educated on how to read an audience and to find what’s going to work with that audience. I have a huge data base of performers from all over the world that I’ve worked with over the past 20 years on stage as well as having hired them to perform in all kinds of events. I’ve experienced all the situations they’ve been through – dealing with difficult clients or situations, tiny stages, rain – all the hiccups that come with putting on shows. I know the feeling of being onstage and having your microphone fail, or finding that the lights aren’t working. That helps me a lot.
I’ve also watched other people who ran cabarets, circuses and festivals through the years. I copied the ones who were doing it right and made sure I didn’t do what I thought was wrong.
Q: What was the biggest challenge for you when you started?
A: It took a while for us to get recognized for being able to produce a product at a high level. People wanted to know who you worked for before, so the first few big clients were the hardest ones to catch. We tried really hard to align ourselves with the event-planning and marketing industries.
Q: Who was your first corporate client?
A: Andrew Turner from Jetstar Entertainment. He hired me to do a series of promotional shows across Canada about three months after I arrived in Toronto – partly luck and partly because Andrew thought I could do something great for his business and his clients. He’s been a big mentor to me over the past 10 years.
Q: What’s your business strategy?
A: We’re a custom made-to-order kind of circus. We don’t build a show, put up a tent and sell tickets. That’s not the way our company has evolved. We work with clients who have something in mind and build the show the way they want it.
I knew I wanted to produce circus, and I was very pragmatic about the idea. I love the circus, any kind of circus, but instead of building my own show and trying to find somebody to pay for it, I went at it from the other side. I presented myself as a producer of quality circus and looked for people who had third-party reasons to produce circus shows, as in marketing campaigns, corporate events, and opening ceremonies for things like the Olympics. We’re putting in a big bid for the Pan Am Games this year.
We work with clients to pinpoint what they’re trying to achieve, how to find the most creative way to do that and keep within their budget to get the most bang for their buck. Sometimes people want the wow of a circus performance but they want it to be new, so we mix in a lot of break-dancing, parkour artists and aerial acrobatic stuff that resemble modern rock climbers. You name it, we do it. We’re always working on new ways to present things.
Q: What kind of staff do you have?
A: We have five full-time employees for administration and approximately 15 part-time employees for our related circus school, the Lunacy Cabaret, out of our facility on Gerrard Street and other projects. Then we have production people we hire for staging, lighting and rigging for each show. Sometimes we need a lot of guys and sometimes two. It’s a very flexible company. It’s the way a modern company has to run. I have a big Rolodex of people who are happy to come out and do shows with us. We’ve created great relationships with people in all parts of this industry.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge in doing live shows?