By Jim Callicott
When it comes to performances and productions, Seymour resident Mark Cook is at the head of the class. Mark has been the lighting designer for some major artists and projects for the past 23 years.
Mark has been the guy that makes the show work through lighting and sound. Proper, professional lighting and sound not only enhances a production, it is as essential as the production itself.
Mark has been the mainstay with some of the major artist in the entertainment industry. The first major artist he worked with was T. G. Shepherd. He later toured with Brenda Lee, Martina McBride, George Strait, Disney on Ice and other major productions.
There is good money in touring, but touring means you are away from home. Having paid his dues, Mark decided against heading back to his hometown of Reno, Nevada, and the Smoky Mountains seemed a good fit.
After stints at Dollywood, Country Tonite and Bob Eubanks $25,000 game show, Mark became the lighting and sound guy at the Smoky Mountain Palace four years ago. “I thought I had seen everything until I witness the Chinese acrobats,” he said. “This is the most amazing show I have ever been associated with. I don’t know of any other show that could compare with it outside of Las Vegas.”
Tian Ya is one of the outstanding acrobats at Cirque de Chine. She stopped by Mark’s sound booth between acts recently, asking to be shown how he did what he does. After a brief demonstration, she said, in her broken English, “You do lights, I stay acrobat.”
Tian Ya has been performing with the acrobatic troupe for the past 10 years. Being small in size is not a handicap as she performs in the two most difficult acts at the Cirque; the contortion act and the chair balance act. At one point in the contortion act, the only part of her body that is connected with the earth is her teeth.
The chair balance act consist of six girls who balance chairs in a semi-circle with the top girl being three stories high in the air. Even though there is much danger in the act, it is her favorite one to perform, and it also took two years of practice to perfect it.
Despite her young age, Tian Ya is a world traveler having performed in China, Russia, Singapore, Finland, Japan, Germany and now the USA. Even though this is her first trip to America, she says it is her favorite place and she likes it, and the people, very much.
Having spent two thirds of her life as an acrobat, it would be a drawn conclusion the she would stay with the troupe in some capacity after retirement. Not this girl; her dream job is entirely different. When asked about her future plans, she said with a big smile, “I want to own a supermarket.”
Let there be lights
By Jim Callicott