Cirque Eloize (pronounced EL-WAZ) is bringing its newest production, Saloon, to the Merriam Theatre for a limited run as part of Broadway at the Kimmel.
Johan Prytz, one of the show’s acrobats, took time out from his busy schedule to chat about the show, his circus career, and coming to Philadelphia.
Ralph Malachowski: Can you tell us the storyline of Saloon?
Johan Prytz: The story is a Western-styled homage to comedy with a piano player who falls in love with a girl. The girl is also loved by the bar owner who gives chase, and thereby hangs the tale. It’s sort of like … what you would call a Spaghetti Western. My character is what might be called the Clown/Acrobat/Lonesome Cowboy. There is a fight I’m in using aerial straps and I have a horseless rider routine. I provide some comedic relief. I help to move the main story along.
RM: For a man who speaks several languages, you hardly have any accent at all. You sound so neutrally American, with no regional accent.
JP: (Laughing) Really? Well …. I’ve lived in several countries, and spoke French and English in Canada while I was at college. I’ve been in three touring productions with Cirque Eloize which has taken me to five continents in the last two years.
RM: Johan, your biography says you were born in Sweden, studied in Copenhagen, Denmark, later moving to Canada to attend the four-year program at the National Circus School of Montreal where you specialized in aerial straps. Can you explain your studies more? Did you actually study at a circus college for four years?
JP: Yes, you seem surprised. The National Circus School of Montreal is a four-year college with a curriculum and major. Classes included career management, circus history, French, and physical education in concentrations such as handstands and aerial straps. I majored in working with aerial straps. It’s a very physical endeavor. Topics such as perfecting technique, minimizing injuries, physiotherapeutic practices, and building stamina were all part of the program.
RM: You and the rest of the company have to be in great physical condition, since you are professional athletes, and like athletes, you must have your share of injuries. Have you had any rotator cuff injuries, since it would appear to be a most likely injury given what you do.
JP: Well! That’s a very specific question. I’ve never been asked that before. Let me begin by saying that studying how to properly perform physical feats was part of our education. We studied anatomy, and how to move to minimize injuries. But, things happen even to the best prepared. I did have surgery a while back on my right shoulder, but it’s all better now. We do have excellent health insurance, and we do have coaches to direct us and physiotherapy between our eight shows a week.
RM: Your answer brings me to my next question. Like many performing artists and athletes, have you considered what will be next after you end your performing career?
JP: (Laughing) Well I hope that doesn’t happen for a long, long time! I love being in the circus community. I really love what I do. I am really happy right now. Of course, I do think of what’s next – we all do – but I know one thing: I could never hold a desk job. That would drive me crazy! Right now, I’m enjoying being in the show. Saloon just started in August, so we’ve got a way to go. We have individual contracts. My contract is for two years, and I still have eighteen months left. We finished four weeks in Munich as part of the Christmas Week celebrations, and we just closed in New York. All of us are excited to come to Philadelphia.
RM: When you come to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, what will you expect? Will you and the rest of the cast mind that men and women will be fighting to take you out to dinner?
JP: (Laughing) I don’t know if they’ll be fighting over us, but it would be nice to have some company. It’s always nice to meet new people.