Strange birds

Roll on, circus train: Nat Allister’s lunar masquerade party will set the stage for the 2014 performance of Tarocco, a collaborative, interactive show.

Most circus troupes use elements of theater in their productions, and most theater companies could probably benefit from a ring or two of the circus in theirs. The Fox and Beggar Theater, founded by impresario Nat Allister, is using parts of both for its pseudo-inaugural event, Ovo: A Lunar Masquerade Party. Proceeds from the party will go toward the staging of Tarocco, Fox and Beggar's actual inaugural event planned for spring 2014 at Asheville’s Masonic Temple. So, Ovo will be an event for an event — and an eventful one.

Tarocco will be an art exhibition moving through time,” Allister says. “Many artists will be collaborating on this project with the intent to transport the audience into a surreal fantasy world, populated by strange creatures and bizarre characters.”

Ovo, which means “egg,” will be a night of performance, live music and art at Club Metropolis. Allister considers the event to be the “conceptual hatching” of Tarocco.  “We’re going to transform the entire space into a Venetian Lunar Garden party,” Allister says. “I want it to be an interactive experience and I want everybody to create their own characters with masks or face paint and get a taste of the aesthetic I’m shooting for.” (Speaking of shooting, local production company 6:14 Films will document the event for Tarocco’s Kickstarter campaign.)

The Bromelia Aerial Dance Collective performs the event's keystone piece at midnight, but there will be a variety of performances throughout the evening. Musical guests include Medisin, Futexture, Kynara, and DJ Yum. Art installation and performances by Awe Lucid Studio, and members of The Clan Destiny Circus will perform. The extravaganza begins Friday at 9 p.m. and revelers can party until 2:30 a.m.

Each of Tarocco's 21 acts will be an interpretation of one of the major arcana, or trump cards of the Tarocco Piemontese, a precursor to the modern tarot. Allister hopes Tarocco will have a live orchestra and mechanical set pieces built by Lotus, a local artist. Describing the show as nonverbal, surreal, mature and high-budget, Allister says, “The aesthetic I want to see is very much in the Cirque Du Soleil tradition. I want it to be strongly Venetian; I love the artistic style of Renaissance Italy, especially the carnival aspect of it. The reason I’m doing this is because I love circus to the very core of my being.”

Although Tarocco will be in 21 acts, the Tarocco Piemontese actually has 22 cards. “A lot of circuses have a clown archetype that leads you through,” Allister says. “Card zero is The Fool, and his journey is a progression as he moves through the 21 cards. You can read them as an evolution of consciousness or a road to enlightenment.” Allister says card zero is at times interpreted as the lowest card, the common man, and therefore the person you empathize with. But in Tarocco’s structure everything depends on him, so he could be interpreted as the highest card as well. 

Allister first explored the Piemontese theme while majoring in film at Vassar College. In the end, filmmaking was too expensive and not the right fit for the art experience he envisioned. According to Allister, “With street theater it’s so much easier to suspend your disbelief without tons of money. Giant puppets were my first detour from film. They instantly put you in this magical world, and they’re made out of flour, water, trash and duct tape.”

Although Allister wrote the script for Tarocco, he says he’s not a performer himself, so collaboration is a key element. He has chosen local performers, artists, designers, dancers and puppeteers based on their desire to push boundaries and break traditional constructs. Allister says, “I just want to get everybody in town who I’ve been watching and completely idolizing for years now to work together on the biggest project ever, and try to launch Asheville into a new level. I really think Asheville can show that we can be a tiny town and still produce some amazing, high-quality shows and really push boundaries because it’s a really creative space.”

what: Ovo: A Lunar Masquerade Party
where: Club Metropolis, 38 N. French Broad Ave.
when: Friday June 7 (9 p.m.-2:30 a.m., $8 in advance and $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at (the show is ages 18 and up). For more information, call 952-237-3759.

About Toni Sherwood
Toni Sherwood is an award-winning filmmaker who enjoys writing articles, screenplays, and fiction. She appreciates the dog-friendly, artistic community of Asheville.

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