Look closely into the darkest corners of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater, and you just might find a few snowflakes.
The paper flakes are mementos of the last time Slava's Snowshow came to Maui, back in 2002. As the MACC preps for Slava's return visit next weekend, huge amounts of paper snow are being loaded into bags that will be dropped on the stage, where a small airplane engine bolted to the upstage floor will blow the snow - lots of snow - out into the audience.
"It's a wonderfully intense scene," says Rusty Conway, technical director at the MACC. "There are also snow machines over the audience that drop the paper snow as well. Have I said there's lots of snow?"
The Snowshow is the creation of Slava Pulonin, who has been called the world's greatest clown. Born in a small province in Russia, Slava set out to become an engineer in Leningrad, and instead became a world-renowned performance artist. His most famous character is a shaggy-haired clown called Asisyai, who wears a baggy yellow suit, big red slippers and a woebegone expression. Slava has attributed this "thoughtful, gentle, poetic character" to the influences of Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Marceau, among others.
The eccentric Slava is beloved in Russia, where he has founded some amazing events over the years: like the Mime Parade in 1982, drawing more than 800 pantomime artists from all corners of Russia; and the Mir Caravan (Caravan of Peace) in 1989, a traveling festival of theater that undertook a rambling six-month journey across Europe from Moscow to Paris, with the mimes living in tents and performing in the streets.
He also founded a popular theater called the Licedei, which created five successful shows over the years. However, Slava ascribed to the philosophy of Russian theorist Konstantin Stanislavski, who believed that any theater dies after it has existed for two decades. When the Licedei reached its 20th anniversary in 1988, Slava and his colleagues gave the Licedei a dramatic funeral, complete with a procession of flaming coffins floating down the Neva River, and shut the doors to the theater forever.
Here in the U.S., Slava is best known for his stunning Snowshow, a creative spectacle that has been touring all over the world for more than 15 years. During a two-year run in New York City, the show won the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. The show combines clowning and physical comedy with poignancy and artistry. Along with tiny bits of paper, the Russian clowns use water, dry ice, cobwebs and bubbles to create extraordinary effects.
The overall experience has been compared to a childhood fantasy, more like a dream than a theatrical performance. As Slava told an NTD World News interviewer, "One of the simplest keys to happiness is to follow your childhood dreams." For those of us dreaming of snow in the heat of a Maui summer, Slava's Snowshow might be the perfect way to cool down.
A piece of paper won't melt on your tongue quite like a snowflake, but it lasts a whole lot longer - probably until the next time Slava comes to town.
Due to the conditions inside the theater, the show is not recommended for children under age 8, and children under age 2 are not permitted.
* Slava's Snowshow will have three performances: at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28; and at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. Tickets range from $12 to $57. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
Ballet Hawaii and Maui Academy of Performing Arts will hold auditions for "The Nutcracker" from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, at the MACC. The classic holiday ballet will be performed in the MACC's Castle Theater on Dec. 5 and 6. For more information, contact MAPA at 244-8760.
MAPA's touring educational theater program starts off the new school year with "Tea Time with Ogres," an original play written by Derek Nakagawa, featuring original music by Grammy-nominated Peter Kater. Based on the Japanese folktale "Momotaro," the 40-minute musical incorporates colorful Banraku-style puppets to tell the story of two stubborn bullies. Children in pre-school through 5th grade will appreciate the lessons about the importance of friendship and forgiveness. The program includes grade-level study guides based on HCPS III. Upcoming Maui performance dates are Aug. 31, and Sept. 1 to 4 and 8, to 11. To book a show or for more information, contact Mark Collmer at 244-8760, ext. 224, or tours@mauiacademy. org.