Just when you thought you knew everything about the 518… did you know that we’re on the brink of becoming one of world’s great homes for Clowndom? Aaron Marquise has worked internationally as a performer and clown, and now he’s working to bring the world — and its clowns — to the Capital Region. Read on to hear what drives his amazing vision.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Round Lake, Exit 11! I left to study play writing and musical theater in New York for a year and half. Then, I moved up to Montreal to study contemporary circus in Montreal for four years. After that, I had the amazing opportunity to work in Switzerland, France, Germany and other places, sharing my time between Europe and the United States. I’ve been back in the area for the past few years now.
What’s the name of your company, and what do you do?
The company is Contemporary Circus and Immersive Arts Center (CCIAC). We promote, produce and present contemporary circus. Our vision is to link this incredible art form with American audiences, who have such an interesting relationship with the term “circus.” We want to redevelop people’s relationship with circus.
How and when did you know that circus – and starting this company — was what you wanted to do?
Growing up, I’d been to Ringling Brothers, and saw Cirque du Soleil in Florida, and thought, “Gosh, this is incredible, I wish I could do this.” But I never knew I could do this for a living, until I went to Montreal. We want to help audiences here experience the amazement and wow of the things that I saw at school, standing in the chapeteau (the French term for circus tent). I want to bring that to our area. We are completely unfamiliar with it.
Is this what you imagined doing for a living, when you were a child?
I’m blessed because I’ve been in the performing arts almost my entire life. I always thought I’d be an actor on Broadway, and I always knew performing was what I’d do. Even as a kid on the playground, I was organizing productions of Peter Pan. So I always had that skill set and desire, but the thought of being in circus — well, that part is new.
Was it hard, as a creative person, to learn how to run a business?
The business part of this was not something I ever saw myself doing. Creative producing has always been in my blood – that part is easy. But payroll and budgeting and marketing and strategic planning is new for me.
I find it so exciting, and I think I understand the long term vision of what we’re trying to do and how we’re going to do it. I’m learning every day. I’m not afraid to say what I don’t understand something, and when I need help.
I heard someone say that show business has two parts to it – it’s the show, and it’s the business. Yes, we can be really good artists, but we have to pay our bills.
What’s your “unique selling proposition”? What is CCIAC doing that no one else is?
No one was focusing on awards for just circus shows, like we see for the Tony Awards or the Oscars. Covid allowed us to do this economically, because the show could be presented digitally. We celebrated work from all around the world, without having to travel.
As a new dad, how do you balance your work and family obligations?
It’s not easy. But I’m a disciplined person, which I learned in school. I love getting up at 4:15 and working out and getting all of my emails done before my son wakes up. That’s where I thrive as a person.
That being said, not every day is like that. There are times where we’re having friends over, drinking a glass of wine, and I’m not into waking up early.
How did the “It’s All Circus” number come about?
I love the opening numbers for award shows, they’re my favorite. So when we were planning the digital ceremony, we thought, “Let’s write a great opening about what circus can be. We wanted to define what it can be, but right now, in contemporary circus, it can be really anything or anywhere. And we wanted a fun way to be able to talk about that.