Scuse: Radical Postcircus by Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard

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Scuse: Radical Postcircus by Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard

Let’s talk about radical art. Maybe it happens in two ways. Either something smashes into a culture so abruptly that new aesthetic shards are flung far and wide due to the sudden impact. Or, there’s a creeping—an underground new way of thinking, making, and seeing that seeps into the scene. Maybe the circumstances are less of a binary and more fluid. There are always radical creepings in artistic scenes, and if one artwork happens to explode, it’s because there was a foundation of pre-laid dynamite. Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard (she/they) is not the first person to pair projection and circus, to tell an autobiographical story, to explore an apparatus at unusual heights, or to make a political work. These elements of hybridization and dissected circus disciplines have been creeping for some years now, but by the end of Scuse–Sorry in English–I felt like I had been bowled over by a radical circus show.
The show itself was a microcosm of the same phenomenon. A story trickled in, and then, very naturally, became something altogether different. It’s subtle, then quick. Like when kids play a game and suddenly it becomes too real: an “I don’t want to play anymore.” In the show, Lessard describes these moments in her life with the word “epiphany.” But for how my gut sank and heart pounded, how my skin crawled, and how I frowned as she told her story, the word is too soft, too billowy.  I saw Scuse at La Chapelle, an intimate black box theater, during the Montreal Circus Festival. Technically, what I saw was a first staging, a work in progress, but if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have guessed. The show is far beyond the beginning stages. It’s smart, well-crafted, and beautifully performed with sincerity and nuance. Lessard, an accomplished and awarded circus artist and filmmak...
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Madeline Hoak

Madeline Hoak is an artist and academic who creates with, through, and about circus. She is a Writer for CircusTalk, Adjunct Professor of Aerial Arts and American Circus History at Pace University, Editor and Curatorial Director of TELEPHONE: an international arts game, and curator and director of Cirkus Moxie, a weekly contemporary circus show at Brooklyn Art Haus. Madeline has performed, coached, produced, and choreographed at elite regional and international venues. Her background in dance and physical theater is infiltrated into her coaching and creation style. She is passionate about providing her students holistic circus education that includes physical, historical, theoretical resources. Madeline initiated the Aerial Acrobatics program at her alma mater, Muhlenberg College, where she taught from 2012-2017. She is also a regular contributor to Cirkus Syd's Circus Thinkers international reading group. Her circus research has been supported by Pace, NYU, and Concordia University. Recent publications include "Teaching the Mind-Body: Integrating Knowledges through Circus Arts'' (with Alisan Funk, Dan Berkley), a chapter in Art as an Agent for Social Change, "expanding in(finite) between," a multimedia essay in Circus Thinks: Reflections, 2020, and "Digital Dance & TELEPHONE: A Unique Spectator Experience." Madeline has presented academic papers at numerous conferences including Circus and its Others (UC Davis), International Federation for Theatre Research (University of Reykjavík), the Popular Culture Association, Gallatin (NYU), and McGill University. Madeline earned an MA from Gallatin, New York University’s School of Independent Study, where she designed a Circus Studies curriculum with a focus on spectatorship.