History

Prologue


The real beginning is in our minds. Each person has his own beginning, and his own foolish dreams, denials, sanctuaries.

What are we going to do with our Utopian dreams? Celebrate!
The spirit of celebration is everywhere.
We celebrate because desire and life are stronger than ideology and consumption.
"La fête, cette hantise", translated loosely as "Celebration, this obsessive fear", was the title taken by the magazine "Autrement" in 1976.

Today, those happy and lively times are remembered as an enchanting interlude.

Of all the desires that fill our world, and God knows there are many, the desire to change our lives is a powerful driving force.

Everything started in Besançon five years before the birth of Cirque Plume.
Four of the founding members (all still part of the company) met in a band on a barge.
They all had a passion for street entertainment and circus arts, encouraged by "L’atelier du marché" and by a juggling book for children.
In 1980, everyone who would later create Cirque Plume took part, along with several other companies, in a mythical Jurassic festival, "La falaise des fous", which brought the art of street theatre back to life. This was followed by street shows, which combined music, circus techniques, sales pitches, theatre, and dance, performed at rural festivals and fairs, on city streets, and in small theatres. In the summer, we complemented our modest earnings by passing the hat around the crowds who came to watch us at public squares, and filled our heads with romantic visions of the nomadic life.
In 1983, we called ourselves "Fanfare Léa Traction", "La gamelle aux etoiles", and "Le magicien de balle". We rehearsed in a barn in Chay (Doubs) and in the hallways of a Youth and Culture centre in Besançon-Palente. In December, we employed all our skills and know-how to create the show "Amour, jonglage et falbalas" which we performed in the big top owned by the "Théâtre des manches à balais" in Besançon.

We had opened up the circus chests and trunks and inside, we had found a treasure.


Chapter 1
1984 - 1990


Faced with the ruin of political hope, after Sartre, Guy Debort, L.I.P., the festivals at Larzac, the Bread and Puppet Theatre, Gong, Soft Machine and the Grateful Dead, mind-numbing pot, the Grand Magic Circus, protests, the beautiful years of the sexual revolution, friends who left us too early, those who were never able to fill their lives with enchantment and passed over to the other side,...we were looking for a less-travelled path.

There were nine of us: Hervé Canaud, Michèle Faivre, Vincent Filliozat, Jean-Marie Jacquet, Bernard Kudlak, Pierre Kudlak, Jacques Marquès, Robert Miny and Brigitte Sepaser.

Poster of the show Amour, jonglage et falbalas {JPEG}1984 started with a meeting at which Bernard Kudlak suggested creating a circus - a project that would bring together the spirit of celebration, politics, dreams, vagabond angels, journeys, poetry, music, and the human body, all in a non-violent and popular desire for fraternity. The Cirque Plume.

There was already a rough draft for the tour. The show was fragile, amateurish, and innocent. Half the troupe was working "on the side" elsewhere, while the other half also had “real jobs”. It was urgent for us to connect with "real circus performers", so we employed artists outside of the founding group.

We lived in Franche-Comté, a land of forests, cooperatives and utopia situated on the back of the Vouivre. After a first meeting, we immediately obtained the support of the Regional Council.

We purchased equipment that would give any safety inspector nightmares. We painted, glued, welded and nailed. Our heads were filled with dreams. We trained a little, but not enough.

We became producers, riggers, drivers, poster-hangers, administrators, grant application writers, coordinators, circus teachers, lighting engineers, directors, musicians, and circus performers. We shared responsibilities for cooking. Two young children and a few dogs completed our numbers.
The first time the convoy went on tour, the big top trailer was immobilised on the way back and forbidden from travelling. We ordered a new trailer and our first truck at the same time.

Cirque Plume was indistinguishable from other small travelling circuses, except that we looked much poorer with our badly installed big top, our "Nottin" caravans and our 3-speed, extended and revamped "Tubes" Citroens painted the colour of the sky on the horizon between two white clouds. In the same way as gypsies, we found ourselves being followed by a dark blue van whose occupants constantly wanted to check our identities. So many long discussions!

In 1986, our participation at the "off" festival in Avignon marked our entry into the circle of recognised professional companies. Two years later, at the same festival, our big top was set up for the very first time by a proper crew, while we hid in our caravans filled with shame, peeking out the windows, not knowing what do with this lack of activity, our minds spinning. We soon got over that!
Later, the eight associates decided that each person would do the work they were best at. Although this change did not seem to be much, it was, in fact, a major revolution.
During that period we bought four consecutive big tops, three sets of terraced seats and quite a few vehicles. We became independent in terms of the show’s sound and lighting equipment.
When it came to the administration, we introduced methods adapted to our situation until we hired an administrator in 1988.

Poster of spectacle de Cirque et de Merveilles {JPEG}After our first show in the big top "Amour, jonglage et falbalas" (which we performed mainly around our local area), in 1988, we created "Spectacle de Cirque et de Merveilles", which toured all over France, as well as in Tunisia, Morocco, Belgium and in Switzerland (where we were behind a change in a protectionist law forbidding non-Swiss circus performances). We put together some new acts and groomed our performance and costumes. Everyone became a "professional" and we started to pay ourselves regular salaries.
From that point on, Robert wrote the original music for all of our shows. Brigitte created her first tightrope number, and the sound of Michèle’s voice accompanied her.

In Paris, we were being talked about in the national press. We still divided our time between busking and performances in the big top, but we soon decided to abandon the first in favour of the second.
Our big tops were relatively small and could fit into ordinary venues: Cardinal Granvelle’s palace in Besançon, the royal rope factory in Rochefort, the town hall square of St Gilles in Brussels, the royal salt works at Arc-et-Senans...
In December 1988, we erected the big top in Lutèce Amphitheatre. As night fell over Paris, the waxing crescent moon appeared in the sky and a tawny owl up in a tree next to the campers broke the relative silence of the park. What a warm welcome for us hillbillies! Thank you Paris.

I remember one city where we invited an old man who lived in a beat-up caravan next to our camp to see our show. In "Spectacle de Cirque et de Merveilles", a character spends his time hunting for a ball of light without realising that it is right behind him all along. The children in the audience chanted, "Behind you! Behind you!". The old man got up from his seat and yelled, "You jackass, it’s right behind you. Idiot, this is the tenth time I’ve been here and every night it’s the same thing!!", and sat down again.

In 1989, Bernard and Robert created a two-man children’s show called "Le jongleur de l’arc-en-ciel" that was selected at the Festival of Bourges. A Moroccan tour marked the end of that period: there were now as many as twenty permanent staff members, we had just won the "Grand prix national du cirque 90" awarded by the Minister of Culture, and we were preparing a new show. The troupe became a company, with a board of directors made up of eight of the founders (Hervé did not want to take part in the adventure). During this period, we gained expertise in circus and musical skills, administrative tasks, truck-driving, management and construction. Above all, we learned how to communicate with each other...
Then came the mature years.


Chapter 2
1990 - 1998


The idea of new circus was firmly established by 1990. We were members of the board of the National Association for the Development of Circus Arts (A.N.D.A.C.). During this period, the Franche-Comté region continued to help us, the national government gradually increased its participation, and the city of Besançon and the Department of Doubs also helped a little. These grants represented about 15% of our budget. Meanwhile, artistically speaking, we distanced ourselves from traditional circus acts, which had served as a basis for our first shows, and asserted our own style. More than ever, we were a troupe. We were doing what we had always dreamed about: performing for audiences from all walks of life without sacrificing our artistic integrity, all in the spirit of public education.
But as you no doubt suspect, things were not always easy...

Poster of the show Nouvelle créationIn autumn 1990, we changed our equipment, our show, our working methods, and we increased the number of performers, technicians, administrators, but... we kept our own style.

We were taking a gamble, but it was no bigger a gamble than the one we took when we decided to start a circus in the first place.

We bought a second-hand blue big top that seated 850 people, which, in a previous life, had been a large abandoned theatre in southern France. We rehearsed our production "création 90" in Meylan (Isere). Bernard wrote the show with Vincent’s help... In terms of the notion of authorship: we progressed from a guided joint creation to a personal project in which the performers played their full role.

The number of external artists increased, and, for the first time, Nadia created and made all the costumes. The show, in which Bernard’s first act was based on shadows, started with a white line drawn on a black background and ended with an explosion of every colour in the rainbow.

It was a time during which circus for us was as we lived it in the present.

The start was rather shaky, with the first show being cancelled because the new terraced seats were not ready on time!

We performed the next day. The premiere was a mess, with enormous technical problems involving the sound and accessories.
However, the next day, our second show reassured us that, in artistic terms, we had won.

Poster of the show No Animo Mas Anima {JPEG}We created a new version in 1991, when the initial project opened its arms to some new arrivals: Cyril (the "man-dog" who really made an impression!).

The "création 90" was given its definitive title "No Animo Mas Anima", in Paris at the Parc de La Villette. We had joined the ranks of the famous.

We gave our all to get people talking about us and it worked: buyers from France and Europe wanted to book us, the press was enthusiastic, and we were full of energy and raring to go.

So, life was great? Not too fast. Let us spend a little time doing some sums: we had spent 3 million Francs on the operation, including rental fees for the space, publicity fees, technical requirements, salaries but... we had only made 2 million!!

What do you do in such a situation?

We closed up shop and hoped for a miracle... And can you believe it? There was a miracle.
It came in the form of a booking for a Christmas show at the Omnisports arena in Paris Bercy, which would attract some 240,000 spectators in 10 days.
This encouraged the bankers to lend us some money to help us to keep going: We were crippled by debt, but we had the prospect of several years of work.

It was time to give our expanding operation some structure, without renouncing our desires. Communication, cooperation and a platform for discussion were more important than ever. That was in 1992, which was also the end of the "No Animo Mas Anima" tour (a total of 223 shows in front of 125,000 spectators).

Poster of the show Toiles {JPEG}In 1993 we created "Toiles". In an abandoned big top (the one we had found in the south of France...) characters came together with boxes, veils, and giant shadows. We were not telling one story, but several stories. We were delighted to start rehearsals. Among the founders, Jean-Marie created his first magic act and Jacques trained Zippo the dog. Vincent left the artistic team but remained on the board.

Bernard received a grant from the "Fondation Beaumarchais" to write the show, and Robert’s music was commissioned by the government.
It was a huge success at La Villette.

In August 1994 the beautiful documentary, "Les Plume font leur Cirque" by Christophe De Ponfilly was broadcast on prime time television. According to the ratings it was the flop of the week, but that evening,1,555,000 TV viewers heard about Cirque Plume. We were amazed.

Fourteen children were born in 1995, and we produced a second version of "Toiles"; the women were having babies, so we had to change the show. Some performers were injured and others were growing weary. We finished the "Toiles 2" tour with six new people. But, despite all that, the troupe was surprisingly stable.

With "Toiles" (350 shows to 265,000 spectators), European festivals opened their doors to us (Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Britain, Ireland, Holland, Portugal, Sweden).

Poster of the show L'harmonie est-elle municipale ? {JPEG}In 1996, we created "L’harmonie est elle municipale ?" in Salins les Bains, Jura under a brand-new yellow big top with 1,000 seats. The big top was an original prototype of our own design. Our artistic and technical investment was in line with our ambition. Bernard wrote and directed the show but had stopped performing. The idea: a band consisting of six men meet a group of six women who live in the big top. As the scenes unfold they constantly search for happiness, for harmony... Michèle and Brigitte eturned from their maternity leave, while Jacques left the show (although he remained on the board).
The official (worldwide!) premiere was in Munich, and we then took to the road for a two and a half year tour. Reviewers loved us and the big top was packed.
"L’harmonie est-elle municipale?" ended magnificently in Lyon in December 1998 after 278 shows in front of 250,000 people.

The next project, "Mélanges (opera plume)" was underway, with the casting and artistic decisions already made.

At the same time as all of this, in 1997, Bernard directed a show inspired by Victor Hugo, "La plume de Satan", and, in 1998, he resumed his work on the idea of the "jongleur de l’arc -en-ciel" with Robert working on the music. The work became an opera for three jugglers, a soprano, a tenor, a children’s choir and an orchestra, and was presented at Cannes Festival Palace and Nice Opera in June that same year.


Chapter 3
1999 - 2008


Poster of the show Mélanges (opéra plume) {JPEG}In 1999, the last year of the millennium, a new chapter in our history started with rehearsals of "Mélanges (opéra plume)" in Salins les Bains (Jura).

We wanted to combine all the arts - after all that was our trademark - but we also ventured into other areas, such as dance. After a few months of rehearsals, the show was not artistically ready when we presented the preview in Salins les Bains. Despite that, we received a very enthusiastic response for the premiere in Recklinghausen, Germany. Jacques Schneider, who played the angel, injured himself in Portugal in July meaning that we were obliged to present a shortened version... the show must go on!!!

However, reviews in Holland were lukewarm, even negative. It was an ordeal we had to get through. In order to be ready for the show in autumn at La Villette in Paris as planned, we had to replace the injured angel. Two days before the dress rehearsal our trapezist, Sophie, injured herself as well, and we started to think that the show was cursed... but we fought back! We found a replacement for Sophie, and pulled the show together for the Parisian premiere, getting closer to the Plume spirit than we had during the original research. We received rave reviews. Circus reviewers gave us the thumbs up... The storm of 26th December struck during the night: all the big tops in the Parisian area suffered, but ours resisted valiantly, mostly thanks to our technical set-up. We watched as the roof of the Grande Halle flew past us.

That was how 2000 started, the year we had been waiting for since childhood. Contrary to popular belief, the post did not have to be distributed by helicopter. We were working with performers young enough to be our children.
The earth continued to turn!!!

2000 was a year just like any other (we will spare you the details): the tour schedule was full and the team changed again. Jacques and Sophie (the performers injured in Paris) returned. The tour continued... Bernard took a 6-month sabbatical to finish writing the script for a musical show, do some sculpture and think about the future of the company. The opera was never performed.
In 2001, we toured in France, performed in Madrid, and, in July, after a year and a half of hard work resolving technical problems, we finally crossed the Atlantic for a series of shows in New York at the Lincoln Centre Festival. We travelled with ten containers packed with equipment and a special plan for setting up the big top in Damrosch Park, next to the Metropolitan Opera, which did not require us to drive any of the normally indispensable 360 stakes into the ground. Find out more in Bernard’s New York Diary.
On the night of the premiere, Jacques injured himself (again...) as did Fanny, another of our performers. This had never happened before! We cancelled the performance in order to adapt the show (our angel now had a crutch...) and it was a success (very good reviews in the New York Times). In September, less than 2 months after our visit, the Twin Towers fell. The world was in shock and so were we.

In parallel to his work with Cirque Plume and following a meeting with Raoul Lay (the musical director of Télémaque Ensemble), Bernard directed "Variété", a show that combined circus and contemporary music set to a score by Mauricio Kagel. The creation was performed in Nice and the show’s tour included a stop at the City of Music in Paris, where, for two evenings, the delighted composer was present in the audience.

We closed the tour of "Mélanges (Opéra Plume)" in Le Mans in December and we threw a big party to celebrate the 301 shows presented to 274,000 spectators.
The losses incurred during our series of shows in Madrid had weakened us financially and posed a problem for the creation of the next show. Instead, Bernard suggested that we create "Récréation", a compilation of the best acts from our previous shows. The choices made for this mainly theatre-based tour allowed us to devote time to essential research for our next creation.

Poster of the show Récréation {JPEG}2002: The rehearsals for "Récréation" started at the end of January.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to hunt through our treasure chests. We decided to add a seldom used element to the show: text. Our friends from the "Théâtre de l’Unité" helped each performer to write a personal text, words of truth, that they would recite during the course of the show.
We welcomed over 14,000 spectators for the premieres of "Récréation" in Besançon, which coincided with "1,2,3 Cirque", a national event to mark the "Year of Circus", a national operation under the initiative of the Minister of Culture.
During this tour, many of our old artists came to perform for one or two nights, and it was a great pleasure to be able to share the stage with them again in front of an always welcoming audience.
As planned, we allowed ourselves plenty of time between tour dates to research "Plic Ploc", the next creation scheduled for spring 2004 (you can find extracts from the "notes from a creation diary" online).
In the autumn, under our small big top erected in Salins les Bains for the preparation of "Plic Ploc", several of Bernard’s intuitive ideas were put to the test: metronomes, transparent tarpaulin, ceiling and floor water jets...
At the same time, in September, the show, "Variété" performed to music by Mauricio Kagel, opened the international music festival in Besançon ("on our turf" as we like to say). It was not the Cirque Plume, but our director was still very pleased!
When we resumed the "Récréation" tour in November, we performed in a theatre for the first time in eight years, and were very happy to do so. After the first six months of 2002 spent in the big top, the next few months of shows were held in theatres, and each venue had its advantages.
At the start of 2003, with the sun shining over the port in La Rochelle, we performed on La Coursive’s large stage, the city’s national stage (we loved this venue owing to its size well adapted to our type of show and the rapport with the audience).

Back in Salins les Bains, we set up our large big top and continued research on the new show. Throughout the entire month of March, we held auditions for new performers. We organised these auditions as a meeting of minds, and included candidates in the research in progress. Even performers who were not selected expressed their appreciation for this unconventional audition method. All the candidates were talented, but we had to choose... At the end of March, the cast of "Plic Ploc" was set.

Elsewhere in the world, George Bush Junior had decided to go to war. We were very distressed.

In April "Récréation" started up again. In Brussels, looking at all the empty seats before the show, we dreamed about Sitting Bull presenting the "Buffalo Bill Show" there. In Salins les Bains, we had a bug in the lighting console and had to cancel the premiere - the worst thing that could happen! The next day though, what a welcome (Thanks "guys"...) in Nantes in the immense "Cité des Congrès", one of our audience members wrote that she had cried during the show, at Recklinghausen Festival, we were on the receiving end of a massive thunderstorm which flooded the tent during the show. Plic Ploc had already started.

In July, amidst the cancellation of many summer festivals, Bernard wrote a text about "intermittents de spectacle" (a special statute for French performing artists) which made the round of General Assemblies around the country. He asked the question, "Why is it salaried employees alone who fund performers, and as a result, the culture of our country?" An interesting question, but no-one wanted to answer it...
In August, a heatwave killed many people in France due to negligence and a lack of resources. It was a studious summer for Jean-Marie, who was planning the set/scenery for "Plic Ploc" which would safely squirt and recover water during the show.

In September and October we were on tour again. In Caen, a new city for Cirque Plume, the theatre director told us after having seen the audience reaction, "It is as if all these people who have never seen you are impatiently awaiting your return...". This re-creation was an absolute recreation for us!

Once again we set up our big top (essential for our creative work since we were still without a permanent venue adapted to our work), inaugurated our water system, and rehearsed with practically the entire cast. The pace was serene, the dynamic was there... we made headway just as we had planned.
It was November and we watched the total eclipse of the moon over the big top. It was beautiful.

In 2003, we finished our tour in style. Recreation was performed 137 times for 130,000 spectators happy to discover or rediscover the essentials of our company. We were satisfied with our new work method, which involved combining theatre and big top shows in order to leave time for research, and "Plic Ploc" was ready to enter the execution phase.

Poster of the show Plic Ploc {JPEG}It was 2004, and "Plic Ploc" was on its way! We put up the big top for the fifth time in order to work on the show and we set up camp for three months in Salins les Bains. The team was very motivated and the work progressed well in a studious and calm atmosphere. But at the beginning of March, there was an accident (accidents actually): Martin, one of our Quebec acrobats, ripped the ligaments in his knee (misdiagnosed after a previous injury) and could no longer continue rehearsals. Since he worked with a partner, we had to replace them both, two months into the creation... At the same time, our clown/drummer developed shoulder problems and had to rehearse with his arm in a sling for several weeks! Was "Plic Ploc" jinxed?
Not at all, because the show continued to come together.

The creation was put together step-by-step with much attention and amusement. All the details can be found in the online creation diary (www.cirqueplume.com) and on the DVD "In Progress", a bonus documentary filmed from the wings during the creation.
Three days before the premiere, for the first time in our twenty year history, the show was ready: the new artistic method really was what we needed.
We went on tour and were delighted to be back on stage and under our waterfalls, and rounded off the year in the sun in Lisbon, at the large Centro Cultural de Belem theatre.

Meanwhile, Jean-Marie published his first novel, "Le rire du pendu".

2005: In Besançon, where we had already performed "Plic Ploc" in October 2004 in front of 16,000 spectators. In response to popular demand, we returned in April and more than 27,000 people shared our joy in performing this production there!

We performed twenty shows in Namur, Belgium, then fifty shows in Paris-La Villette, to an almost 100% capacity audience. The public told us that the show allowed them to rediscover the essence of Plume’s performance and to be surprised by a new breath of inspiration after more than 20 years of circus productions.

A structure for the Cirque Plume

In January, the President of our Regional Council relaunched the idea of a permanent venue for our company (a research and training centre where we could work and pass on our skills) by offering to build a structure alongside the new Franche-Comté Frac (Regional Contemporary Art collection), an architectural project where contemporary art and circus art would come together. This was followed by a meeting with the Mayor of Besançon who agreed to support this ambitious project.

However, after a short study, we decided to turn down the offer made by the President, Raymond Forni, which was not adapted to our very large requirements in terms of space (land too small).

Despite this, it renewed our interest in finding our own structure, where, at long last, we would have the perfect infrastructure for preparing our shows.
We started to look for other sites in Besançon, as well as in the canton of Salins les Bains.
We dreamt of a simple and environmentally-friendly building.


On tour in Le Havre, Maëlle suffered from an injury. It was not serious, but she was replaced at the last minute and with great skill by Hugues ("Pedro"). It proved to be the start of a lasting collaboration.

The production notes for "Plic Ploc" by Bernard, illustrated with photos by Anthony Voisin, appeared in bookshops in April (Editions du Layeur).
"Au nom de l’esprit", Jean-Marie’s second novel was published in May (Editions Aréopage).

In the summer, we performed in the beautiful city of Bruges, Belgium and in São Paolo, Brazil, which reserved for us a very warm welcome: Brazilians are friendly, kind and considerate. The city is huge. Posters announcing our performance were posted everywhere.
We toured in France in the autumn.

In December, Robert’s first book was published: "Petite poérésie à l’usage des vents et marées" (Éditions du Vendredi).

2006:
A structure for the Cirque Plume (continued…)

In January 2006, the city of Besançon offered us a dream site to build our new workplace: on the site of the former amphitheatre in Besançon, where we were used to setting up our big top when we performed in our city.
In February, the President of the Doubs Department offered us the opportunity of one of the buildings at the Salines Royales d’Arc et Senans as our base.
There were now two sites in the running.

As far as Besançon was concerned, we were worried about problems with the site being listed. But the Municipality’s Technical Director reassured us that there were no obstacles in that respect. On the strength of these guarantees, we decided to work with the city of Besançon and decided to abandon the Departmental Council’s project at Arc et Senans.
A big mistake…
At the Avignon Festival, Bernard, along with the Mayor of Besançon, met with the Minister of Culture to discuss some of the points to be resolved.
10 October 2006: architects from Bâtiments de France (national heritage authority) informed us that they were completely opposed to any building work on the site of the amphitheatre because it was listed for several reasons.
We felt that we been had tricked.
When asked, the Doubs Departmental Council did not wish to renew the proposal which we had turned down.

The project for our own structure was abandoned.

We would be nomadic. It was an end to any dreams we had of a fixed structure. Our Artistic Director was very down.

We refocused our energy on researching our next show and on the "Plic Ploc" tour. We performed 107 times that year, including a series of shows at the Maison de la Danse in Lyons in December, all completely sold out several months before the premiere. Michèle, the general secretary, told us that she was overwhelmed by the fervour of the public, who had started queuing in the early hours of the morning in the hope of getting a seat: “I thought that this type of thing was only for Johnny Halliday!”. That made us laugh. Yes, our audiences are really great!

2007: Start of the year on tour again in France.

In April, at La Chapelle sur Furieuse, we started a research and audition phase in a small studio that we had fitted out for the occasion (because it was too expensive to put up the big top for this preliminary phase, and, we had no fixed place to work (see above!). Our next show would be called "L’atelier du peintre".

In June, we were in Marseilles for a series of twenty performances, all sold out, in our big top at the "J4" facing the sea. Every day, the ferries setting sail for Corsica were a sign that the performance was about to start. The white sails of a three-masted ship sat beside the yellow canvas of our 6 masts. Pierre captured the evocative image on film and it became the picture for our greeting card the following year.
In September, we were in Epinal for the start of the first season of a new cultural organisation (Scènes Vosges), and at Roubaix Theatre in October.
We resumed research work on "L’atelier du peintre" in November, still in the same studio in La Chapelle and we continued to meet performers in order to complete our team.

At the same time, Bernard wrote and created "Le cabaret des valises" with the Télémaque troupe.

In December, we performed at the Auditorium in Dijon, which normally is a venue for classical music and is magnificently luxurious.

2008: During tours we found ourselves in many towns and cities, but it would take too long to mention them all. At each location for a week, a fortnight, or more, we met new people, and visited new venues, bars, bookshops, restaurants, museums, cathedrals, and coastlines. Over the years, each one of us has built up a personal geography of France and Europe.

We installed the big top at Salins les Bains in May to resume work on "L’atelier du peintre". Pierre took advantage of the opportunity to make a short film there, called "Tempus Fugit". This was followed by a series of local performances of "Plic Ploc".

Summer was quiet and Bernard set up an artist’s workshop at the studio in La Chapelle and took up painting, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the task (it’s not useful for the actual show !... unless it is the painting used for the poster).
Invited, along with our big top to take part in the Helsinki Festival, our ten articulated lorries set sail across the Baltic Sea. We received a wonderful welcome from the Finnish public and took advantage of this Nordic adventure to enjoy a sauna.

"Secrets" (Éditions du Vendredi), Jean-Marie’s third novel was published in September.

In November, we spent three weeks working at the Commanderie in Dole (Jura): it was the first time in our history that we had a permanent venue of the right size for our creative work (the first 25 years are the hardest!).
We performed the very last "Plic Ploc" shows in Clermont Ferrand.
Champagne!

Unlike previous tours, this one was mainly French. Times are a’ changing…
"Plic Ploc" was performed 398 times to 395,000 spectators.


Chapter 4
2009 - 2012


Poster of the show L'atelier du peintre {JPEG}2009: Year of the creation of "L’atelier du peintre".

We set up our big top again in Salins les Bains for four months in order to produce "L’atelier du peintre".
Performers, stage managers, costume designers, chefs, continuity staff, director, all come together in this manner once every three or four years, to work, exchange and create. A meeting of generations, skills, characters… we get to know all the newcomers.
In total, a team of 92 people are working on this production.

We perform the preview shows here and then set off in June to play at La Coursive – state-subsidised national theatre in La Rochelle – our sole co-producer, and, in July, at the "Printemps des Comédiens" festival in Montpellier: our first official performances at a theatre and under the big top.
After several performances at the Commanderie in Dole, we set up our base and our big top in Paris, at Parc de la Villette. We have performed for Parisian audiences here for many years: we worked out that the oldest members of our team had probably spent a total of more than two years here…
The first audiences were difficult and we were not yet at our best for this show. Unlike the summer press, the autumn and the Parisian press did not let us off lightly. Much of what was said in their criticisms was true. They were useful for us: we returned to our drawing boards, with the help of our friends from the Théâtre de l’Unité. By refocusing ourselves on our company’s artistic essence, we dropped 20 minutes from the show.
The big top was sold out for the longest series of performances (60) ever at the Parc de la Villette.
Phew!


Poster n° 2 of the show L'atelier du peintre {JPEG}2010: This century was already ten years old. In the spring, we returned to Besançon, the ancient Spanish city, and our much loved France-Comte audience for a month of performances. This was a triennial event which we particularly enjoy: the pleasure of performing in front of family and friends and long-standing and new audiences: 19,000 people.

Actes Sud / CNAC published "Cirque Plume" by Gwénola David, a book of interviews with Bernard.

The economic crisis resulted in the cancellation of performances in Lisbon and Athens, but not in the Netherlands. We completed a magnificent French tour.
At Rezé les Nantes, we reworked the show for the arrival of Diane, who was replacing Chelsea in the artistic team. With our maestro having been the victim of a road accident in September, it was Benoit (his stand-in) who took charge of Diane’s music.
In December, in Voiron, the premiere proved to be difficult owing to an accumulation of events: sometimes not much is needed to destabilise a show’s subtle balance. But, the following day, thanks to all the troupe members’ professionalism, everyone found their marks and we rounded off the year as we had started out.

2011: At the start of the year, let us summarise: Benoit became the proud father of a baby girl, Dom and Myriam were expecting a boy, Tibo tout court and Caro a girl, and Laura and Mark twins (a boy and a girl).

In Amiens and Rueil-Malmaison, Laura was replaced by two performers: Babé for balancing acts and Osmar for "trampo-pétales", both Laura’s creations.
After much discussion, we decided to perform at the Geneva Arena, a very (too?) large venue. It was our first time back on neighbouring soil in twenty years!

Bernard started writing "Tempus fugit", our next show, based on the theme of memory, transmission and passing time. We drew on elements from our repertoire and a new generation of performers who would make these their own and work on variations based on Robert’s music. “With its passing, time is starting to want to make us older” he said in reference to “Plic Ploc”.
It was at this point… with many of us already having celebrated our fiftieth birthdays, that we started to think about the company’s future.

The tour continued in France up until the summer. Everything was going well and that was good news.
Summer: holidays for everyone!
September: because of a lack of a rehearsal venue, we found ourselves out on the streets. The Director of the Théâtre de l’Espace - state-subsidised national theatre in Besançon – lent us its main stage for three weeks before the start of its season. We worked there on our initial ideas for "Tempus fugit".

In the autumn, we presented a project to our institutional partners for the installation of our big tops in Besançon for a period of 18 months, a project which would bring together a cabaret, meeting centre, host venue for troupes from elsewhere, and two productions. All of this is with a view to a more permanent base in our city.
But yet again, this project, which was so well received, fell by the wayside owing to a lack of funding.

At the end of the year, we performed in Lyons in front of 35,000 people at the Grand Parc de Miribel Jonage, a venue without any public transport in the winter. But, the audience turned out regardless. A big thanks to our public.
Delighted by this great success, the troupe’s members suggested continuing the tour beyond the final date in São Paulo next summer: unanimous agreement!

2012: Dominique got on the phone so that we could continue the tour: after a few ideas which fell by the wayside, we decided to return to Paris in October, November and December, and join Cirque en Chantier at Ile Seguin, Madona Bouglione’s structure.
This year looked difficult.

In January, we continued our research for "Tempus fugit ?" (the Latin tag is emphasised with a question mark, to get the imagination working) which offered many rich and enjoyable moments. We worked on audio and musical objects.
During that period, Robert composed three new pieces. He was very present and very creative…
Bernard launched a workshop with Yann the juggler/handyman (he was the one who made the metronomes for “Plic Ploc”): ideas, models, cardboard, bottles and pieces of string… The scenography started to take shape.

At the beginning of this year, Bernard simultaneously publishes a little book: ’The Studio of the Artist Charles Belle’, the place where he spent time in thought, chatting and among friends during the preparation of the show ’The Artist’s Studio’. Published by Virgile, in the ’Carnets d’Ateliers’. collection.

On Thursday 1st March 2012, Robert Miny takes his own life.

The Cirque Plume loses its composer.

We have to take time to grieve… to deal with our emotions: a sense of loss, mourning, the support of friends and spectators, pain, and anger.
At the Grainerie à Balma (Urban Area of Toulouse), we performed some magnificent shows: we devoted the first one to Robert and to Isa, one of the founders of the Grainerie who died the same week as him.

And we decide to continue the Cirque Plume adventure, with a creation involving time and transfer, a show we want to fill with celebrations and joy,
At Bernard’s request, Benoît (Robert’s replacement since the ’Plic Ploc’ tour) takes over the musical direction, arrangements and composition.

We continue the research work in the theatre for ‘Tempus Fugit?’ at the beginning of Autumn 2012, at the same time as the end of ‘The Artist’s Studio’ tour, which turns out to be difficult financially (see below), despite the enthusiasm of our audiences, and an average attendance of 90%.
After a trip to Brazil in summer, we end this tour on the Ile Seguin, in Paris.
’The Artist’s Studio’ will have been played a total of 346 times in front of 319,846 spectators.

At the financial level, too, 2012 shows itself to be a testing year: in fact, to keep going, (Cirque Plume has only a15% subsidy) we have to use three-quarters of the sum provided by the first years of ’The Artist’s Studio’ tour, a sum which we should have used to finance the next creation...
After almost 30 years of success, all it takes is a single weak year to find ourselves back in difficulties.


Chapter 5
2013 - 2016


Poster of the show Tempus fugit ? une ballade sur le chemin perdu {JPEG}2013: Year of the creation of "Tempus Fugit? une ballade sur le chemin perdu".

We were nearing 30 years of existence. Our new show spoke of the passing of time, and of the way in which we were handing our world over to a new generation of artists, some of whom had not even been born when our adventure began.

The title was lengthened, its second part inspired by a clock-making term, the "chemin perdu" (sometimes translated in horology dictionaries as “backlash”) being the gap between the tick and the tock of the movement of a Comtoise grandfather clock.

This moment between the lock and release of the escapement lever is called "le repos et la chute" in French. Here we are! Circus is precisely and eternally here, between "le repos et la chute" or "the rest and the fall."For the Franche-Comté circus folk that we are, the revelation of this miraculous convergence, at the very moment of the creation of a show about the passing of time, was incredibly exciting!

That February, we’d pitched our circus tent in Besançon, the French capital of watch making, and Cirque Plume’s home town. There, on land cleared by the city between the Citadel fortress and the Doubs River, we rehearsed for almost three months.
But this last creation and production phase of "Tempus Fugit ? une ballade sur le chemin perdu" was no vacation!

Due to difficulties of the year 2012, we were short 400,000 euros at the time of realizing the creation. We asked for exceptional help from the Ministry of Culture. Meanwhile, despite this lack of funding, we decided to create the show with the firm intention not to make artistic concessions.

This creation period began right around the anniversary of the loss of Robert. We were grief-stricken. The presence of his absence haunted the big top.
Bernard was experiencing a waking night mare, attempting to direct a show while feeling amputated of a part of himself, a part that had died along with Robert.
30 years of complicity. Then immense solitude.
Solitude. "There is only one tomb: the heart of a friend," wrote Tacitus.

The theatrical research periods of 2011 and 2012 had been pleasant and largely effective. Thanks to them, almost fifty minutes of the new show already existed (the middle part was never changed).
But when we came together again in March under our big top, under these very particular conditions, the artistic fusion between our veteran artists and our incoming team did not happen naturally. We searched inside ourselves for answers; we sought to understand our differences.
Cyril, the unforgettable polymorphic acrobat of "No Animo mas Anima" visited us a few days for an "animality workshop" with our new artists.

Despite this period of acclimatization, Bernard still felt blocked. He spoke to the troupe about the hard time he was having working "as before" when things had become so different for him. He asked everyone to help him pass this painful course.
So, each member of the troupe “grabbed the oars.” Yan Bernard was particularly effective in his role as assistant and more. The technical team took to their tasks and held the ship in these stormy times.
The group began to assert itself and to come together.
Musically speaking, the work progressed tremendously. In a difficult context, Benoit handled the transition perfectly.
So, a lot of work. But also grief, doubts, uncertainties, anxieties.

During the first complete run-through, we realized that the show needed major reworking. We analyzed the work at night and restaged it the following day. In the next run-through, the poetry of the show appeared: Everything was there!
We were reassured, but time was running out. There were still modifications to make. We needed to tweak a few moments that were still too long (thanks to Hervée De Lafond and Jacques Livchine, of the Théâtre de l’Unité, who both graciously lent an objective eye—invaluable in these moments of doubt). Did we have time, would we be ready? We knew the answer during the first public dress rehearsal, playing before 900 people, all close to the company. The show took off, and was warmly received.
"Totally Plume," we were told.

On May 18th, the premiere in Besançon reassured us. The theatre programmers who came to discover our new creation during the 20 sold-out performances that followed spoke to us of a "bon cru."
We carried on with 31 evening shows (also sold-out) at the Nuits de Fourvière Festival, with a superb opening night in Lyon.
This renewal was brought forth by the new artists. The magic worked once again. But what a trial, this passage!
The show held all the emotions of its distinction creation. The poetry really was there, inside the sensitivity of each person.
We went on the road with "Tempus fugit ?" for a mainly French tour with over 300 dates booked. With great pleasure, we found our audiences in these cities (Caen, Roubaix, Voiron, and La Rochelle between October and December), wherein some cases, loyal theatre programmers had trusted us before the show even existed (as they had done in some cases for several decades).
The new tour began as the company blew out 30 birthday candles in December 2013.
30 years already? Tempus fugit...

2014: The tour of "Tempus fugit ? une ballade sur le chemin perdu" had us traveling, playing in our big top as well as in theatres, from Amiens to Epinal, passing by Cergy-Pontoise and Rezé-les-Nantes.
At the beginning of the summer, French cultural life was marked once again by social unrest, with highly publicized protests denouncing the reform of the “régime des intermittents du spectacle, "a French status allowing performing artists and stage technicians to practice their profession in good conditions.
We were scheduled at the end of June at the "Printemps de Comédiens" Festival in Montpellier, one of the first festivals of the summer season. It also happened to be at the center of the protests. Festival technicians on strike prevented the performances of the scheduled shows.
While affirming our opposition to the reform, we confirmed our intention to perform (for us, missing an encounter with the audience is always a failure of the creative act).
But a few days before the scheduled dates, several of the artists and technicians of our troupe decided to position themselves among the protesters. De facto contract canceled.
It was a first for Cirque Plume. But it would have been more difficult to handle this impediment to perform had the show just been created, as productions are most fragile then.
Meanwhile, Brigitte and Molly had to be replaced due to physical problems. Replacements of artists during a tour are always sensitive moments to manage. But the replacement process went well, and artistically, the show was at its best.
After playing in Heerlen, the Netherlands at the end of the summer, we set up our camp on the Espace chapiteaux at the Parc de la Villette in Paris for a strong autumn run of 66 shows.
This presence in the French capital was an occasion to highlight our 30 years of creation. An outdoor canvas covering 25 meters in length and an exhibition designed by Bernard were presented under our big top in the reception and bar area.
The anniversary also served as the moment to publish the "Abécédaire du Cirque Plume," a collection of Bernard’s texts written throughout the troupe’s 30 years, accompanied by a hundred photographs.
We felt reassured: everyone in the troupe—both new and old members—grew together. This beautiful dynamic was reinforced by the public, critical, and commercial success of the show, albeit a show that had had a painful birth.
After a difficult period, the tour of "Tempus fugit?" marked the return to a calm operation of our company.

2015 : A great year of touring. We played mainly in France, with long-time programing partners (in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Le Havre, Blagnac, Rueil-Malmaison, Elbeuf, Belfort, Chalon-sur-Saône, and Clermont-Ferrand), as well as with several cultural agents who had never programmed us before (in Brest, Auch, Marseille, and Perpignan).
Summer brought the occasion to return to São Paulo, Brazil to perform, the only escapade outside of Europe for "Tempus fugit?" Unlike in the 1990s, we were performing abroad much less at this time.

In early July, Bernard was named Officier des Arts et des Lettres of France, and was handed a medallion by the Préfet de Franche-Comté. The whole company rejoiced with him! During the medal ceremony at the prefecture, Bernard invoked the memory of his grandfather, who immigrated to France from Poland. Bernard shared his wish that in these times of so-called migrant “crisis," our country could remain a land of welcome for those whose descendants may one day receive honors and medals from the Republic.

2015 was also the year during which we began writing and researching for our 11th creation, already titled "La dernière saison"(“The last season”). The next and last show, since we decided to end our artistic, human, and entrepreneurial adventure at the end of this future season.
But we were not there yet! The creation and production period was planned for 2017, and we had two years before us to prepare for it calmly.
In January, we put out a call to recruit the future artistic team. We received 470 applications (39 French artists as well as 431 artists of 28 other nationalities), and held auditions under our big top during the tour. At the end of this process, six new artists were hired, along with two "old" ones.
The creative team was set up around Bernard. The composition and the musical direction were entrusted to Grégoire Gensse (who was already part of the troupe as a musician in "Tempus fugit?").
In December, we worked on staging various scenes at the Théâtre de l’Espace de la Scène nationale de Besançon. Bernard was really pleased with the implementation of these first ideas.
The foundations seemed solid and already gave a sense of an exciting project.

At the same time, our administrators were hard at work. The world changes, and the means to communicate with our public change, too. Our online presence (cirqueplume.com) got a makeover, in order to adapt to new digital uses.
It was worth it: since 2002 (the year the previous version of our site had gone live online), our website accumulated over 3,000,000 (three million) visits.

At of the end of the year, the French Ministry of Culture and Communications created a new status called "compagnie nationale" ("national company"), a program to support companies of international rank not acting as directors of institutions. Cirque Plume was one of about sixty structures to be listed under the new status.
The information was communicated to us on December 30th: a beautiful end to the year! We welcomed this recognition of our work and our place in the landscape of live performance.
On New Year’s Eve, we recapitulated our year: a super tour of "Tempus fugit ?";enthusiastic pre-production and preparation of "La dernière saison"; the benefit of a formalized national status; even a medal from the French Republic for Bernard. It was “all systems go.” Champagne for all!

2016 : We attacked the year in full form, between the last bookings of the "Tempus fugit ?" tour (in France and in Belgium) and the preparation of a long period of research for "La dernière saison." Touring a successful show while creating a new production—a process we’d been undergoing every four years—gave us great energy.

In March, we set up our big top a month early in Illkirch-Graffenstaden (a suburb of Strasbourg), taking advantage of the time before the April bookings of "Tempus fugit?" This first long period of research was an opportunity for members of the troupe, both old and new, to meet for the first time and to begin working together.

This is what happened during the first four days: there was an immediate group spirit, a creative energy of the highest level, and the time and means to work serenely—everything we had set up worked perfectly.
But this dynamic was broken on the evening of Thursday, March 31th, with the suicide of Grégoire Gensse, the composer chosen by Bernard for the musical direction of " La dernière saison." Grégoire died on April 24th after several weeks in a coma.
The week before, Grégoire had directed a week of work with the musicians of "La dernière saison," in a studio graciously made available to us by La Rodia (S.M.A.C. of Besançon). The musical project had started to take shape, with nothing foreseeing such a catastrophe.

The tragic event obviously put an immediate end to the month of work and development planned in Illkirch.
But after a short period of shock, despite the pain, everyone in our team quickly took the decision to come together beyond the tragedy: to continue to perform, to keep the bookings in Illkirch, and to go on with the rest of the tour.
And above all, to continue the artistic project under construction, the creation of "La dernière saison."

And so, in June, we once again came to the stage of Théâtre de l’Espace de la Scène nationale de Besançon for two weeks of set design research and tests.

At the same time, Benoit, who had been the musical director and composer of "Tempus fugit ?"agreed to take on this same role for "La dernière saison."

But beyond the musical compositions themselves, the loss of Grégoire profoundly altered the artistic plan that Bernard had originally laid out. The months that followed therefore called for are structuring of our future creation.

In early September, we pitched our tents in Besançon for ten months.
The last run of "Tempus fugit ? une ballade sur le chemin perdu" was held there, effectively closing the tour in the very city where it had started back in May 2013.
In total, the show was performed 377 times for a total of 364,711 spectators (often playing to full or nearly full houses, with an average 97% capacity utilization).
From the fall through mid-December, we spent nine weeks working on artistic research and development for "La dernière saison."

But 2016 hit Cirque Plume doubly. Spring came with the announcement that Alain Mallet, an artist and musician who joined the troupe in 1989, had been diagnosed with cancer. Audiences remember "Jimmy, "the electric guitarist and trampolinist of "Mélanges (opéra plume)" and the flying violinist of "Tempus fugit ?" Our dear friend battled the disease all year. He left us on December 14th. The end of the year was marked by sadness.


Chapter 6
2017 - ...


Poster of the show La dernière saison {JPEG}2017 : After a two-month winter break (during which we loaned our big tip to artistic friends: the musician Aldebert and the acrobatic company XY), in February, we began to fully commit to the creation aptly entitled "La dernière saison" (“The last season”).
The final stretch!

The casting was modified several times. In the end, the troupe went from 13 (as we’d had in "Tempus fugit ?") to 14 artists, bringing together several nationalities (Argentine, American, Spanish, and French), and mixing longtime collaborators, recent returning artists, and newcomers.
Finally, on May 19th, after working together for 36 weeks over the course of three years, "La dernière saison", Cirque Plume’s final opus, was born.