KOOZA at Cirque Du Soleil: Acrobats & Mouthy Clowns

When Colin Heath was growing up in Victoria, British Columbia, he was a self-described "reckless kid." Channeling all that energy for good, he went to circus school in Montreal, where he got the formal training that led him to Cirque Du Soleil in its early, more circus tent-like years.

"At that time, Cirque Du Soleil was famous for being a theatrical circus. I had already had a background in theater, someone who could do the physical stuff and express themselves as a character," Heath says..

Now, after about 20 years away from Cirque while he pursued TV, film and stage work as an actor, comedian and playwright, Heath returned to Cirque and has been traveling with KOOZA since January 2010, playing a clown.

And he and the other clowns are on their way to Sam Houston Race Park, where they'll put on a show concentrating on acrobats and clowns.

But these aren't just any clowns. They're mouthy ones.

"We're more verbal than most clowns," Heath says, which made things very interesting when they did a lengthy tour of Japan -- they had to follow their phonetically learned script very closely. Unfettered in an English-speaking country, Heath and his fellow clowns say Houston audiences can look forward to a whole lot of improvisation.

The Japan link was interesting in a number of ways. While they were there, the earthquake hit and the show had to shut down for a month. When it restarted, they were still experiencing daily aftershocks for a while, he says.

"It was pretty scary. And for those people on the high wire and balancing acts, it was a challenge for sure, " Heath says.

Actually, though, Heath says it's relatively rare for Cirque performers to be injured. "But every once in a while, we'll get an audience member who likes to play too much and they'll get carried away. It's hard to put a lid on it once you've opened people up," he says, laughing.

Cirque Du Soleil premieres at Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West, July 26-August 19. For information, go to the Cirque website.

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