Circus feats, a lesson in tolerance, and the story of a small creature who makes a difference. Those are the elements in "The Legend of the Pink Elephant," a circus-theater piece by the singular Miami performer Luckner Bruno which has its final showing this Saturday at the Miami Theater Center.
"I've been wanting to do something about growing up different in this country," says Bruno, a Miami-based dancer, actor and cabaret/circus artist and teacher. "Looking at the news, I'm like how am I going to talk to people who are tired of being yelled at? But you can talk to kids - you can affect the next generation."
Luckner's show tells the story of a little pink elephant whose bright color gets him kicked out of his herd. He goes on a journey, where he encounters some literally leaping lizards (the common basilisk, known as the "Jesus lizard" for its ability to run on water, played by actors on jump stilts); the Mokele Mbembe, a giant dinosaur that is the African version of the Loch Ness monster legend; and some high-flying lemurs. All teach the pastel outcast lessons in the importance of being himself. Eventually the pink elephant (played by Bruno) returns to his herd, where his differences allow him to save them from a group of human hunters.
Bruno, who has an extravagant stage personality and style of moving, with a voluptuous physique unusual for a dancer, says the story grew out of his own experience growing up and making his way as a performer.
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"Everywhere I go I'm the only one that looks like me or talks like me," says Bruno, who is Haitian-American. "Growing up being more colorful and always being told this is how you need to act, this is what you need to be. Going to a circus thing and being asked "can we help you sir?" when I'm here to take the workshop. Being the only black person, the only gay person, and when you walk into a room everyone gives you that look, and their idea of who you are and who you can be is not positive, so everything you do has to be amazing."
Bruno wrote, directed and choreographed the show, which has original music by Luciano Stazzone, a regular collaborator on Miami Theater Center's acclaimed original productions. It has played to over 2,000 people since opening earlier this month. Although many have been school-age children coming to morning shows, Bruno says that teenagers, in "that awkward time between who I am and who I'm supposed to be" have been especially appreciative of "Pink Elephant."
"It's good for all ages," he says. "It's remembering to love yourself, that difference isn't a crime, and we need to embrace each others' difference. There's something for every age."