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Cirque Swings In

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LIFE UNDER THE BIG TOP: Cirque de Soleil publicist Maxwell Batista (below, right), travels with his husband, graphic artist Martin Tomatis. They will be in Houston March 8–11 for ‘Corteo’ (above) at the Toyota Center.

Out publicist Maxwell Batista helps bring ‘Corteo’ to Houston.

By Don Maines

Each time Maxwell Batista runs off to join the circus, he gets to take his husband with him. Batista is the openly gay Cirque du Soleil publicist who will sweep into town March 8–11 for six performances of Corteo at the Toyota Center. The spectacle is about a clown who watches his own funeral unfold in a carnival-like atmosphere with 50 acrobats, singers, musicians, and actors.

About 50 support staff also travel with the show, which will kick off its national tour early this month in New Orleans before thrilling Houston audiences.

“We become a family, somehow,” says Batista. “Cirque de Soleil doesn’t care if you are LGBT or if you have tattoos or what language you speak or what country you come from. They are super-respectful. What they care about is the soul you have and your talent. We are like a small planet, with 20 different nationalities. We embrace each other, and the company embraces us.”

Batista, who is 27, grew up in Brasília, the capital of Brazil, and speaks Portuguese, Spanish, English, and some French. “I am from a simple family in a city that is very conservative, so being gay was not an easy topic to be talking about, for me,” he says. “Then, one summer, I was an exchange student in the United States, where I worked at Disney World in Florida. At the park, I was a greeter. I would say, ‘Welcome to the Magical Kingdom. Have a magical day.’ I saw guys holding hands, and I got shocked at first, but it gave me more confidence. No one really cared that I was gay; it was not a secret. So when I came back to Brazil, I decided that it should not be a secret there, either.”

Batista says he came out “to the world” at age 20, then to his mother at age 24. “It was New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro, and we were on the beach before the fireworks started,” he says. “I told my mother I had something to say to her. She listened, and while I won’t say she was happy about it, she said it didn’t change anything.”

Three-and-a-half years ago, about the same time that Batista began working for Cirque de Soleil, he married a graphic artist in Buenos Aires. “He travels with me,” says Batista. “Because he can do his work online, from anywhere in the world, sometimes he is working more than me. He works at the hotel, or he takes his computer to the arena, and when I get time off for two weeks, we often travel together in the area.”

Batista sent ahead for a list of landmarks and popular places to visit in Houston, but admits that their Bayou City tour stop will allow the company to “relax” after opening the show in New Orleans. “We will be able to breathe,” he says, following February’s intensive rehearsal period in Québec City, Canada.

Corteo has enchanted more than eight million fans worldwide since the Daniele Finzi Pasca production premiered in Montreal in March 2004, before touring 64 cities (including Houston) in 19 countries on five continents.

However, the show’s original intimate setting was expanded for arena audiences on the new national tour. “It is a very family-friendly show, and what I think sets it apart from many Cirque de Soleil shows is that it isn’t about magical and imaginary creatures, but human beings,” Batista says. “It is about a clown whose friends come from all over the world to celebrate his life, and the greatest and most playful moments of his journey.

“It has one of the biggest sets in Cirque de Soleil history,” he adds. “It has a huge stage that is split in half, which makes it funny because you see things from the point of view of the artist, and the reactions of the audience across the way. The costumes are amazing, inspired by fashions from the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. It is romantic and theatrical and poetic, and very touching as it celebrates the happiness and nostalgia of life.”

What: Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo
When: March 8–11
Where: Toyota Center, 1510 Polk Street
More info and tickets: HoustonToyotaCenter.com/events/detail/Corteo

This article appears in the March 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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