The Story of Cirque Mechanics with Chris Lashua

Before seeing the dizzying and dazzling 42FT from Cirque Mechanic, learn about the past, present and future of circus with director Chris Lashua!

The Cast of 42FT

How has Cirque Mechanics changed since the last time you were here?

Practice makes perfect! The same creative team has worked on the past three productions, so we’ve been able to achieve our creative endeavors more quickly and successfully.

Where do you find inspiration for your shows?

We build contraptions that display circus in new and different ways. Our roots in cycling keep us grounded in the physical, mechanical world, but inspiration comes from everything around us. 

For 42FT we wanted to pay tribute to the bygone days of the classic one-ring circus. So, to accomplish this we went back to show posters and photographs from the early days of the circus. In this way, we were able to find some acts that are rarely seen in contemporary productions and reintroduce them to audiences, like the strongman act!

What about the classic one-ring circus format most inspired you?

The one ring circus is NOT the three-ring behemoth it eventually became—it was once an intimate affair. The focus on the graceful ballerina on horseback or the thrill of the strong man act was a shared experience where the entire audience focused on one thing, one display of bravery, one lyrical or poetic moment at a time. In an era where we all multitask without even realizing it, there is something special about slowing things down and focusing our collective energy on one, singular presentation. This focus brings the audience together. The one ring circus has always done that and we hope to demonstrate to younger audiences the power of that kind of presentation.

What did you do before you ran away with the circus?

In a way, I have always been of the circus world. When I was a teen, I became involved in the first wave of BMX freestyle (or trick riding) which evolved into the performances we watch on the X games. I was asked to represent Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus with my bike act at a festival in China. There, I met one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil and was introduced to contemporary circus.

What sets Cirque Mechanics apart from other circus companies?

For us, it is about mechanizing the circus. We try to find ways to use the movement of circus to power our devices or for our devices to complement and showcase our circus acts. We seek to display these relationships in a theatrical context.

Do you have a favorite memory from performing?

I will always remember our first time performing at the New Victory. It was over ten years ago with our first show, Birdhouse Factory. The intimacy of the venue and the relationship with the audience is something I’ve never forgotten.

What kind of safety precautions are taken?

We continue to be on the lookout for ways to keep our artists safe when training. We use safety lines and belts and have access to some of the best coaches in the world. When we are researching new acts or building new devices, we continue to look for and evaluate what can go wrong. 

As an example, our Russian Swing launches our acrobats over 20 feet in the air, yet must be built low to the ground to fit in the theaters we work in. This creates an issue for the artists—they might have a bad takeoff and come down in the path of the swing. To save them from being pushed into the audience by accident, we redesigned the swing to include motorcycle disc brakes so the swing-pusher can stop it at any moment!

Where do you think the future of circus lies?

The circus will need to evolve to remain relevant. For our part, we will continue to wrap astounding acrobatics in new stories that demonstrate the relationships between the acrobatics and the world of mechanical contraptions. We will continue to display the accomplishments of those that challenge their bodies and minds while including ever-evolving technology to enhance the productions, but also remind us of what is possible in live entertainment.