If, in every tragedy, there can be found triumph, we experienced that at Baobab Stage at Town Square late Thursday night and early into Friday morning.
It was a triumph of art and heart, of support and passion, of laughter and love.
The night was a benefit for the late “Ka” artist Sarah Guillot-Guyard. The show was dubbed, simply and fittingly, “Cabaret,” for its swiftly organized lineup of diverse performers. The evening was organized by the theater’s landlord, resident artist and fashion maven, Wassa Coulibaly.
Originally from Dakar, Senegal, Coulibaly stages a weekly production — which she wrote — at Baobob Stage titled “Red Dress” that addresses the stark subject of women who attempt to rise from impoverished, oppressive cultures and find freedom and opportunity in the United States. She sells women’s fashions, which she designed herself, from a boutique connected to the Baobob Stage theater (Baobob is named for a tropical, gourd-bearing tree found in Coulibaly’s home country).
More pertinent to this event, Coulibaly is an artist with “Zumanity” at New York-New York. She has been a member of Cirque du Soleil’s adult show since the cast convened for workshops in 2002. That makes her a member in long standing in the Las Vegas Cirque family and an apt individual to stage a night of support and assistance for the young children of Guillot-Guyard and her ex-husband and the children’s father, Mathieu Guyard. The father is part of that Cirque family, a member of the “Ka” cast, in fact, as is his current wife, Kelly.
The performance was filled with music and magic and mime. And acrobatics, too. In the audience were dozens of Cirque performers from the company’s longest-running Vegas production (“Mystere”) through the newest (“Michael Jackson One”). Also showing support by their mere presence were performers in shows that usually vie with Cirque for business — especially “Absinthe,” which was represented by about a half-dozen cast members, among them Melody Sweets, Tony “Tightropes” Hernandez and Angel Porrino.
Though the event was for a somber and sobering cause, the stage show was hardly that. “Zumanity” artist and noted fitness buff Todd Ty Hambrick walked onstage in a beaded bikini bottom fashioned by Coulibaly. Vegas spoken-word artist Sean Critchfield unleashed two bracing pieces of slam poetry. Benedikt Negro of “O” performed a classic mime act (battling gravity and a white balloon).
Gyulnara Karaeva ably tumbled across the stage to a music piece punctuated by gaseous bodily sounds. Agnes Roxane, leader of the Perfect Body Brigade, performed a sizzling striptease (even the self-aware Hambrick was impressed by that number), and a dance troupe of Coulibaly, Silvia Vrskova, Kelly McDonald, Hanifa Jackson-Adderly and Leysa Carrillo closed out the night.
But before that final, spirited dance number, “Mystere” artist Ross Gibson, a close friend of the Guillot-Guyard family, had the most difficult assignment of the night: to read a note written by Mathieu Guyard to the audience. Gibson, in his haughty British accent, handled the task expertly, first announcing the night’s take of $3,796.
After a cheer for that figure, the crowd went silent as Gibson read the message:
“To our friends and colleagues in Cirque and around Las Vegas, we cannot strongly enough express our gratitude to each and every one of you. To be around the love and support you have given not just our family at home, but also to the ‘Ka’ family over at MGM. This has been an equally trying time for them. And for those of you who were able to attend the dress rehearsal on Tuesday (the day the show returned to the stage), that day we all witnessed the strength and power of a show community coming together to help carry an entire cast back onto their stage. On behalf of the entire cast and crew of ‘Ka,’ we thank you.
“As often as you can say it, ‘thank you’ never seems to be strong enough to express how we feel for what people are doing here tonight. As a family, this means the world to us. And for the two children, Emi and Ethan, this will mean the world to them, too. They have been dealing with the loss of their mother in ways that make us question whether they really are still just children. Their maturity and motivation is honestly overwhelming and is a lesson to us all. A lesson that, no matter what, life must go on. Although nothing will ever bring back their mother, fundraising events like tonight’s will definitely bring forth a solid future, and for them and for that, we, and they, are eternally grateful.”
The kids were not at the event, which started long after their bedtime. But the celebration of circus, and Cirque, went on and on. There is risk in what they do, accepted and invited. When tragedy happens, the Cirque family closes ranks and embraces — and lives for another night.