CirqueCon 2004: We’re Off and Running!

It’s Saturday, May 22, 2004, and it’s breakfast time down at Douglas House, a beautiful old Victorian-style Bed and Breakfast on Cambie Street near the heart of Downtown Vancouver, BC. We’re just on the other side of the Cambie Bridge and the old Expo center on West 13th Avenue. I currently occupy room number two, a small yet cozy single room with a Queen sized bed, my own sink, a television and a couple of chairs on the second floor of the house. It’s raining a bit now, but that doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits around here. Chatter fills the air as many of our group has awakened to the sounds and smells of mealtime.

Right across from me at the table is Simon Chavez, a twelve year-old here with his dad Todd (from Idaho). He’s had his head stuffed in his Game Boy Advance console ever since he arrived. Keith Johnson (from Seattle, Washington) is currently tormenting young Simon about his unrelenting Game Boy playing, which Simon is cleverly not having
anything of.

Joining Keith is his wife LouAnna, her aunt Barb Houde, cousin Shelly Blakeslee (from Missoula, Montana), and his father-in-law Calvin Davis (from Spokane, Washington). Oh, and here comes Jeff Tolotti (from Virginia) and Danielle Wall (from Ontario, California) who are staying in nearby Cambie Lodge, another wonderful Bed and Breakfast. They represent but a small fraction of the folks I’ve met thus far, and have yet to meet, as this gathering goes on.

What gathering?

Why, CirqueCon Vancouver 2004 of course! 30 fans of Cirque du Soleil came together in Vancouver from across North and Central America to celebrate not only our friendship, but also Quidam. Quidam, which comes from Latin for “a nameless passerby,” is Cirque du Soleil’s ninth production, which premiered in Montreal on April 23, 1996. Since then it has been heralded as one of Cirque du Soleil’s quintessential productions, showing us that we are all Quidams in one form or another.

“It could be anyone, anybody,” the show’s programme allows. “Someone coming, going, living in our anonymous society. A member of the crowd, one of the silent majority. One who cries out, sings and dreams within us all.”

In the world of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, the one who cries out is Zoë, a young girl who fumes because she believes she’s seen everything there is to see, experienced all there is to experience. For her, the world has lost all meaning. Her anger, sharp and unforgiving, shatters her little world and soon she finds herself in the universe of Quidam. Within this universe she finds she is not alone; Zoë is joined by a joyful companion (Target) and a more mysterious character (John) that will attempt to seduce her with the marvelous, the unsettling, and the terrifying.

It’s the marvelous that draws us, the Cirque “Passionates,” to Vancouver for this inaugural CirqueCon. It’s been organized chaos since we arrived, with our plans changing up to the very last minute. But we’re quite excited to be here. Cirque du Soleil has some wonderful experiences waiting for us today, but last night was one of the best evenings I’ve had with people I’ve never met before in my life.

Last Night (the 21st), around 5:30pm, we welcomed our guests and friends in style with a Cocktail/Show & Tell hour, which turned out to be great fun. There were many of Cirque’s older programmes and press kits to look through. Keith brought his Wallpaper books and there were a variety of other rare Cirque goodies to show off. The food (including meats, cheeses, and of course Applets and Cotlets) catered by Keith’s wife, LouAnna and was simply delicious! I met many of the Con’s participants at the Cocktail Hour; including but not limited to: Roderick Mariano (from Virginia), Albert Tsai, Shanna Shih, Taylor Jeffs & Steven Rodriquez (California), Dave Lee (Georgia), Gary & Jill Chapman (Oregon), and Rafael & Angelica Serrano (from Tijuana, Mexico!) We drank “Cirque du Rosé” wine, regaled our friendships, and even handed out a few gifts — our own home-produced CirqueCon programme, a two-CD set of rare Cirque music and badges with everyone’s name on them! It was a taste of things to come…

To be honest, Keith and I almost missed the Cocktail Hour ourselves! Why? Thank the Canadian border agents. Honestly, I think the border agents wanted to give a couple of unsuspecting American guys a hard time. Imagine the two of us pulling up to the Canadian/USA border through the truck crossing on Pacific Highway in Blaine with passports in hand and a timetable to keep. At first things seemed to be going well, however, the border agents seemed confused about the 40 programs and 80 CD’s we had sitting out in the open in the backseat. “You’re giving these away? You’re not making any money? They aren’t commercial?” Overloading the intelligence of the border-crossing officer we had to park and take a form into the customs building for review and explain the entire situation to someone slightly more evolved.


We were detained nearly 45 minutes as they schlepped us from one building to the next with rudeness prevalent, recanting our story to 3-4 more people along the way. The last woman we spoke with (after getting our paper stamped and cleared by the commercial office) was very anxious and intent to find some kind of infraction to charge us with. She tore out the entire contents of Keith’s trunk (which was packed very full). She came back into the building with the 6-pack of Cirque du Rosé wine we had for the Cocktail Hour.

I watched as she strutted her way from the car into the building via a side door, a smug look about her. “Okay my little Cirque fans,” she hailed. “What’s this? You said you had only four bottles of wine and this is six.” Problem is; she didn’t bother to look at the bottles. While it’s true there were six in the pack, four were Cirque du Rosé wine, while the other two were sparkling water/cider type drinks and non-alcoholic. Once she realized that she threw the case down upon the counter and bid us a hasty farewell.

“Okay, well, BYE!”

After collecting our IDs from the agent, we grabbed the wine, repacked the car and returned to the roadway, clear for takeoff. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be our only problem getting into Vancouver. We ran into traffic just before the George Massey tunnel — it was backed up to one lane; therefore we took an alternate route over the Alex Frasier Bridge (on Canadian Route 91). It put us well out of our way (by about 10 miles or so) but it was the only other option open to us.

But we made it to the party, and I think it was a great success.

Later, as the Cocktail party started to settle down (and as more of Jeff’s party went off to that evening’s performance of Quidam) it was decided amongst Keith’s group to head on down to a restaurant entitled Brothers, in Gastown — an area where the city of Vancouver began. It’s said Gastown was established in the same year that Canada became a nation (1867) and is named after “gold prospector, riverboat captain and saloon keeper John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton.” Its old, historic and an interesting place. If I had to compare Gastown to a place I’ve before visited, I would have to say it is (at least in spirit) similar to the Jacques Cartier Square in the Old Porte of Montreal.

As for Saturday, there’s so much planned that I find I’m already super excited!

12:00pm — Meeting with Cirque Merchandising
01:30pm — Backstage Tour of Quidam
04:30pm — Spaghetti Factory Group Dinner in Gastown
08:00pm — Quidam, Group Show
10:45pm — Q&A with Artists
11:30pm — Possible Drink with BJ

Well… my French toast has finally arrived so its time to put down the pencil and eat. Keith’s party will be headed out to Stanley Park this morning and I’m in on that. So, I guess I better tuck in!

(To Be Continued…)