For Slava Polunin, clowning is serious business.
“There is a lot [to] every one of the characters,” Polunin explains through an interpreter during a telephone interview. “There is delicateness. A fragility, with a lot of detail — like Stanislavski.”
The Russian entertainer is bringing his “Slava’s SnowShow” to South Florida’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts for a four-week run starting Wednesday. “Slava’s SnowShow” is set in a winter wonderland of fantastical images, mime comedy and haunting music.
“This show, this spectacle, this play is an expression of freedom for the actors,” Polunin says. “There are 150 actors, and they are changed on a constant basis [to keep the show fresh]. Clowns are like children, and like children, they don’t remember what they did yesterday. They practice the art of improvisation.”
Brought back to Miami after a hit run in 2008, “Slava’s SnowShow” has won an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. Inspired by the likes of Marcel Marceau and Charlie Chaplin, the 63-year-old Polunin dedicated his life to the art of clowning when he was 17. He started his own theater company called Litsedei in 1979.
“I have created four different [schools] in my lifetime,” Polunin says. “All of them coexist. [The people I have trained], some of them are with Cirque du Soleil. Some are with the ‘O’ show in Las Vegas. Some are with ‘La Nouba’ in Orlando. So my ideas are spreading.”
His ideas for live performances are keeping pace with a younger generation raised on the cinematic showiness of computer-generated imaging (CGI), especially in summer blockbuster movies.
“I heard one child say once, ‘When you go to see Slava’s show, you see special effects just like in ‘The Fifth Element,’ “ he recalls. “What I do in our show is create fantastic toys from the world of fantasy, and there is no one else in the world with these toys, like these big five-meter balls … and an elephant lost in a spider web.”
And when he returns to the region, Polunin says he hopes to carve out enough time to revisit one of his favorites.
“There is no better place than Key West. They preserved the best of the ambience they have been giving people for hundreds of years. I like the openness and the fishing, of course.”
“Slava’s SnowShow” runs July 31 through Aug. 25 at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays (7 p.m. Sundays) with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost from $25 to $75. Call 877-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.