Michel Laprise has some serious street cred when it comes to creating large-scale, queer-friendly spectacles. He’s directed performances for the Eurovision Song Contest, the opening ceremonies of the World Outgames, and did we mention Madonna? “I did Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show,” Laprise says. “And I did her show right after that, MDNA. That was big.”
What could be bigger than orchestrating one of Madge’s tours? Arguably, the project Laprise is embarking on right now as director of Kurios, the newest offering from Cirque du Soleil.
The 35th show from the celebrated Quebec-based company is inspired by a 19th-century steam-punk aesthetic. “It was a tremendous moment in humanity,” Laprise says, “when human beings were creating inventions that would connect and bring them closer to one another. The very beginning of the Global Village. So, we have this reference period which is super rich and super inspiring and talks very much to the people of today.”
The main difference between directing a Cirque show and a Madonna tour? Longevity. “When you write a Cirque du Soleil show, the life expectancy is 12, 15 years, maybe more,” Laprise says. “So you write thinking, ‘Okay, I have to write keeping in mind what our society will be in 10 years.’ And it has to speak to the Japanese audience and the South Africans and the Brazilians and the Europeans.”
What about the queer audience?
Does Kurios speak to us? “Besides the fact that we have pretty boys in the cast?” Laprise jokes. “I think the message of Kurios is very inclusive.” As a gay man employed by the company, Laprise says he has always found Cirque very gay-friendly. “We went in Quebec City one Saturday to a drag club,” he explains. “And some of our Russian big, big males followed us. It was super cool! And one of them actually ended up onstage with the drag queens, trying to lift one of them! I went to the drag queen and said, ‘You know what? For lifting someone in the air, this guy is one of the top six in the world, so honey . . . don’t worry, you’re in safe hands!’”