Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 29: Mystère

MystèreI signed off yesterday saying something about relaxing “poolside” with Vera Valmore (here visiting for the week). Was cloudy most of the day, and during the afternoon came a torrential downpour, meaning nobody was doing much of anything poolside yesterday. Much nicer today, though, so I think we’ll really, genuinely make it out there for some fun in the sun.

Last night, while Jeff Lisandro was winning his third WSOP bracelet of the summer (in Event No. 44, the $2,500 Razz), Vera and I trucked over to Treasure Island for dinner and to see another Cirque du Soleil show, this time Mystère. We’d seen both O and Love before, and this one followed the formula fairly closely, offering once again that surreal mix of dance, ballet, gymnastics, acrobatics, trapeze, and occasional slapstick. Fun stuff, to be sure. (This here two-minute trailer gives a good ideer what we’re talking about, if yr curious.)

Another part of the formula for these shows that was given a little more attention in Mystère than in the others we’ve seen has to do with audience involvement, whereby some of the characters of the production pull spectators out of the crowd and interact with them, with a couple even being brought onto the stage to become “characters” in their own right, playing roles in the nonsensical narrative.

I’ll admit that while watching the show last night I was thinking there was something incongruous about the more serious-minded dance/gymnastics numbers and these little comic interludes. Neither really immediately seem to “mean” much at all, and whatever they meant, I wasn’t really picking up on what they had to do with each other. I’m not saying that sensing such incongruity made the performance less entertaining -- just harder to respond to intellectually.

Vera made some good points to me afterwards, though, that kind of explained how all the parts indeed served a greater whole. She noted how those interactive elements forced the audience to engage a little differently, which kind of fits with Cirque du Soleil’s thematic emphasis on creativity and imagination. Indeed, on their website one reads that “Cirque du Soleil’s mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world.”

How do they do that?Those bits with audience -- in which one could literally be unexpectedly taken out of one’s seat at any moment -- made it impossible, really, to sit there passively and not respond to what was happening. “No one dared to take out their iPhones or Blackberries to check their messages or friends’ status updates,” explained Vera. She added that she appreciated the effort made to engage the audience in this way, because really, they could’ve gotten by without doing so -- the dancing and jaw-dropping-how-the-hell-did-they-do-that performances were plenty engaging on their own.

Vera’s explanation made me think a little about the WSOP and how it attempts to engage its audience -- both online and live at the Rio. There’s a lot of energy being directed toward that effort, too, I think, that shows Harrah’s understands you can’t just put on a poker tournament and expect throngs of fans and other interested folks to come follow along.

Of course, sitting in the bleachers watching a WSOP final table is probably never going to “provoke the senses” quite like a Cirque du Soleil show can. Although it can certainly “invoke the imagination” and even “evoke the emotions,” I think. And for anyone hopeful of finding and keeping an audience, it is important always to think about how best to keep ’em engaged.

I’ll be back over at the Rio tomorrow, trying to keep people engaged with Event No. 50, the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout, which I’ll be covering Friday through Sunday. Looks like they’ve capped that one at 1,000 entrants, meaning the person who wins that bracelet will need to win just three one-table sit-n-go’s.

Meanwhile, my plan is to spend most of today relaxing au soleil with Vera by the pool. Very passively.

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Blogger Mark said...

Nice write-up Shamus, saw them do the 'Delerium' tour a while back... really was amazing stuff.

6/25/2009 3:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Your comment ... 'meaning the person who wins that bracelet will need to win just three one-table sit-n-go’s' ...
How do ya figure?

6/25/2009 4:50 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

If I understand it correctly, 1,000 players will play 100 ten-handed, single-table "tourneys" on Friday, with the 100 winners then coming back Saturday to do the same. The ten winners on Saturday will then form Sunday's final table.

6/25/2009 5:27 PM  

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