Monday, July 5, 2010

Interview with Beyond's Aurelien Roulin

Actor, producer, director Aurelien Roulin is an opinionated Frenchman, to be sure, but also a very talented one. His Beyond plays the El Portal mainstage through August 1. In our interview, he tells us how it all came into being. He also shares his thoughts about American versus French culture.

The story about your niece that you told the audience before the show is heartwarming. Tell us a little bit about her struggle with cancer and why you decided to build this show Beyond to help her?

When you hear stories about families going through cancer you think that you know how hard it must be or how they feel , but I can tell you that it's wrong; it's only when you experience it on your own that you realize the impact it has in your life.
My niece was 6 1/2 when the day before my sister's wedding she came down and complained about stomach pains; the next thing we knew was that the wedding was cancelled and she was at the hospital fighting for her life.
Kids are so pure and innocent and when something like that happens to them it makes you realize that life can be shorter then you think; things could be taken away from you and that is why Beyond came alive, following your dream, going beyond your beliefs and not being afraid. My niece helped me grow as a person and Beyond is dedicated to her and to those kids out there who may never get the chance to go beyond....
She is now a healthy 8 year old girl and we hope that she will stay that way ...........

Have you been an aerialist/circus performer since childhood?

Yes. I was born by the swiss border and I was 6 years old when I started to do gymnastics and many other outdoor sports. Growing up by a lake with a 10 meter diving platform, I soon started to feel very comfortable in the air diving and all. I did gymnastics for many years, then started dancing. I moved to Paris at the age of 18, to go to circus school and performed for various dance companies doing dancing and acrobatics combined, so it has been part of my life for now over 24 years.

What was your experience with Frecnh cabaret like? Compare it to American cabaret.

I was 19 when I was hired to go on tour with a company named "les oiseaux de paradis" who by the way are in LA right now and are the ones who created the costumes and more for us.
It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot throughout this journey. It was a dream come true already ..... I moved to the US shortly after and didn't do as much musical work here; it was more about aerial and acrobatic work, less cabaret. American cabaret is a little bit more conservative, so that is why our show is a little more modern with that French touch ....

Are there other shows like Beyond in France?

No. I don't think so. It's so original; I have been working on it for a long time; it brings such a variety of dance styles, people, costumes and music that it is so unique, and I really think that it is one of a kind ........

Who are your favorite performers - American or French? Stage or screen?

Of course, for me it would be Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire; I am a little old school. On screen I admire Meryl Streep for her ability to own whomever she is playing with so much conviction and belief. I get inspired by many people the moment you can tell they are doing all of it with so much love and passion.

Tell me about the Bollywood or Persian segment of the show.

Well, LA has so much Bollywood culture, and I've always been attracted to it. I love the style, the rhythm; the energy is so high. The costumes are so colorful, so I had to have a piece ..... but I was also in a play called The Ramayana directed by Robert Prior, and we ended up performing for 3 years, went to NY and got nominated for many Drama Desk Awards; it was a great show and it played a role in my life that I wanted to pay tribute to in my show.

The aerial act - the birth - is so beautiful. How did that become a part of the show?

A very good friend of mine who is known as a song writer, composer and singer in France offered to write some original music for me, which he did for the opening and closing and also new birth.
I fell in love with Avatar on a spiritual level and I wanted to create a piece very organic and pure. When I told Emmanuel Moire what I wanted, he gave me this amazing piece of music and the creativity came instantly; it's like he was in my head putting notes on my movement and vision. It's so cool. It's my favorite piece I think...... it's very special ... and combined with amazing talented dancers, you can't go wrong .....

What are your plans for Beyond?

We would love to go on tour, but most of all we want to create something unique and special, go beyond with our choreography and see where life will take us. It's a show for a lot of people so our target for now is to spread the word.

Talk a bit about French and American culture. The similarities and differences you see.

So, as far as culture goes, I have been here 11 years and I consider the US my home.
It's different from Europe, for sure, but what I like is that I am able to have both some of my culture heritage and the freedom of the US, land of the free - and it's true, you can do whatever you want, your dream can become reality. French are more abrupt, more direct; Americans are more gentle and polite. That would be more of my observation on the culture .....

Is it easier for you o produce musical theatre here than in France?

Well, for sure, theatre is bigger here than any other places, and that is why I was able to create and produce Beyond; in any other place it would have been more challenging, for sure!

Voila! See Aurelien Roulin and Company in Beyond on the El Portal mainstage until August 1. It's unlike any show you have ever seen! Oui, j'en suis sur!

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