Already an accomplished musician, Christa Mercey has added acting to her repertoire with a role in Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, the latest production from the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil.
The Elmira native plays “Bella Donna,” an elaborately costumed 19th century woman introduced during the first act: Chaos Synchro 1900.
Since joining the show in November 2013 and taking part in its spring Montreal run, Mercey has pushed herself beyond her comfort zone.
“It’s been really challenging, I don’t come from an acting background,” she explained. “In other projects that I have been a part of, I would be on stage as a percussionist as myself, performing to an audience, which is very different than playing a character and portraying something other than my own genuine self. So that was a learning curve and it continues to be something I am still working on.”
Growing up in a musical family – her father is Ray, of Mercey Brothers fame – performing came naturally. A talented percussionist, Mercey’s pursuit of a music career took her through classical training at the University of Toronto and around the world with TorQ percussion quartet and Scrap Arts Music.
But she never dreamed of a career in theatre.
“When I was younger I would have never have thought of doing a role as a character, I was far too shy,” she said. “I think part of the reason I played drums was because while I loved the arts and being involved, my personality was shy.”
She continued, “It’s been a fun experience and I think it has been really good for me. In my career, I have happened to fall into positions where people want me on stage portraying something on stage. I think it’s funny because I come from such a very shy place.”
The show, running at the Grand Chapiteau Theatre in the Port Lands, Toronto, from August 26 through October 26, exemplifies the familiar –and wildly successful – Cirque du Soleil formula of surrealism mixed with spectacular acrobatics.
“The show is set in a mad scientist’s laboratory and it is about using your curiosity and imagination to make things that you think are impossible into possibilities,” explained Mercey. “It’s about looking at the world around you from a different perspective.”
Featuring 46 jugglers, acrobats, musicians and actors from 13 countries, the production marks the 25th incarnation of the French-Canadian theatre company since its inception in 1984.
“The athletes in the show are incredible,” Mercey said. “Each act is completely different from anything else in the show, so it is just one amazing scene after another.”
The opening act for example, “is very happy and uplifting, and is based around juggling and percussion. There is a lot going on onstage. It is very chaotic, yet organized at the same time. It is a celebration.”
After the introduction, Mercey joins the show’s band where she performs as a percussionist for the duration of the production.
Kurious: Cabinet of Curiosities plays 8-10 shows each week and is scheduled to tour North America for the next two years. Next up after Toronto, Mercey is set for two-month stops in San Francisco, Seattle, Calgary and Denver.