Published: November 1, 2009

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH...
IMRE BAROSS

Meet the man in charge of running everything smoothly at Pirates Dinner Adventure. Hungarian acrobat and SBF Member, Imre Baross. His acrobatic training started at the Hungarian Circus Institute, which was established in 1950, was the birth-place of many Hungarian acrobats over the past decades and where his father was the headmaster. Needless to say Imre's talent has taken him everywhere, from Europe to America...
Imre Baross

Quote ...nowadays there aren't any shows for acrobats where they can start out in, you really have to be out on top from the beginning...
Donna Lee & Baross Acrobatic Dancer Duo
  • Could you please tell us a little about your background?
    Imre Baross: All my life I have been involved and specialised in acrobats. I worked and run my acrobatic dancers in the Scala productions in Spain, had touring productions in Europe and also ran an artist agency. When I came over to the States in 2000, I gave them up... you can't do everything!

  • What is your position at Pirates and what does your role involve?
    IB: I'm the Vice President of the company and I came over three years ago to be the Artistic Director. I am responsible for the show and our other Pirates show in California. I travel between the two places. My position involves all areas from making sure that there is paper in the toilets, to the safety of the performers, from auditioning for new cast members, to choreographing a double layout on the trampoline, so... a lot of variety! However managing is about having a great team of people around you and we certainly have that at Pirates.

  • Is the Orlando show the original one?
    IB: Yes, this is the original show and we opened the Californian show four years ago. It's more or less the same show and the same high quality family entertainment, but it has been adapted for a different showroom.
    Imre on the Flying trapeze, 19XX's
  • What kind of entertainers do you employ?
    IB: It's not easy to employ people for the show. You have to be a good acrobat, a good gymnast, a good singer, a good actor, a good dancer, a good swimmer, who can hold his breath under water for a long time...

  • What type of audition do you have, to be able to test all these different skills?
    IB: Oh, my audition is tough! I have to check their physical ability. Some people come here thinking that they are really good at everything, then I send them up a 5' mask and tell them to swing from a rope and you see the change, from what was a very confident person to someone who sheepishly climbs back down! Within the show we have different characters, so it's also a matter of choosing the right person for the right part. They have to do a bit of everything, but be excellent at what goes with the character that they are auditioning for, whether it be trampolining, sword fighting etc.
    In California, I sometimes audition over 300 people in one day. Here in Orlando, it's easier. I usually audition about 30 people in a day. In Orlando the top of the business is Pirates, Cirque du Soleil, Disney or Universal Studios. There really isn't anywhere above that they can go. However in California there are more entertainment people, there are more dreams as they have hopes of becoming a movie star, with Hollywood being there. Once they have past the audition, they have two to three weeks of intense rehearsals with their character. Barcelona, Scala                                                                'Scala de Barcelona'                                                             Imre (center bottom) with his Acrobatic Dancers
    The show is very demanding and there are about 50 people on my list and I rotate them, but it means that no two shows are the same. This has to be extremely well planned and rehearsed, because the cast are performing a difficult and potentially dangerous show, full of stunts and the timing must be perfect. Cirque du Soleil have a system where they perform five nights a week, so they don't require too many swings. We, however, operate seven days a week, often two shows a day and obviously the cast need to have at least a day off. You cannot make compromises with either the danger or the quality.


  • Do you usually look for people who will fit the character or do you build the character around the person?
    IB: We first of all see who is suitable for that character. For instance the 'Orange Pirate' has to be a big strong man, the 'Purple Pirate' must be acrobatic and a comedy actor and then we have the 'Yellow Pirate', who must be a very good swordsman and the 'Blue Pirate' requires strong singing skills.
    Madrid, Scala Melią Castilla                                       Madrid Gran Hotel, 1981                                                      Imre & his Acrobatic Dancers
  • How much rehearsal time do you put in each week?
    IB: It's a very dangerous show and lots of things can go wrong and obviously safety is a priority. Before every show we go through things with the 'cast members of the day' and talk about the changes we need to make on that day.
    Over the Christmas holiday period we change the show and have different characters, so for 3 or 4 hours a day we will be in rehearsals for that. The rehearsals are tough because of all the different cast combinations.

    Quote You have to love what you are doing, because if you love it, you will become good at it and if your good at it, you will become wonderful at it...
  • The Pirates Cast love working in the show and you have a great relationship with them. Why do you think that is?
    IB: If people make it with me for their first two weeks, they usually stay with me for years. I know what it's like to be a performer, as I've been one, so I know what problems people can have and understand these problems. I think this is why I have a very good relationship with the people that I work with. In some places you can work with a manager who doesn't have a show business background and it can be very difficult, as they don't know where you are coming from.

  • What nationality are the cast in Pirates?
    IB: At the moment we have Americans and Canadians, but we've also had Mongolians, Russians, Bulgarians and Germans. Sometimes we audition fantastic acrobats, but they also have to be able to sing & act in English.
    Berlin, 1990-1991                                                               Imre in a glamorous moment
  • Do you think that the entertainment industry puts more or less pressure on an artist now?
    IB: I think that there are less opportunities now and people expect an extremely high quality. The problem now for acrobats is that there aren't any shows where they can start out in, you really have to be out on top from the beginning. You have to love what you are doing, because if you love it, you will become good at it and if your good at it, you will become wonderful at it.
    I also think, particularly here in America, that the audience want to be more involved with the show and be an interactive audience rather than a passive one. What we are doing in Pirates is trying to amaze the audience with incredible stunts and at the same time trying to sell them emotions and family feelings. So basically, we want to entertain them.

    Quote What we are doing in Pirates is trying to amaze the audience with incredible stunts and at the same time trying to sell them emotions and family feelings. So basically, we want to entertain them...
  • Do you have a funny memory that you would like to share with us?
    IB: I have so many... I've worked with a lot with animals and there anything can happen! In the Granary number in the Scala Barcelona we had horses in the act. During rehearsals I ended up with horses on top of me and scenery destroyed. We also had chickens. They were fine during rehearsals as they had been trained, but in the show it was a different matter, with the audience and loud music. They didn't hear their cue and they ran onto the tables where the audience had been having their dinner. I ended up grabbing two of the chickens, putting them under my arms and then I had to jump up on a horse. All in a day's work! Also at La Scala in the Gypsy number, I did a knife fight with the principal boy dancer. One day, for some reason, he didn't have his contact lenses in and he kept on pushing me further and further back, until I ended up on a table in somebody's soup! Horses are one thing, but I also worked with a cow, called Elisa. When a horse leaves a 'pizza' on stage, at least it's hard, but a cow is a different issue... Then you have the backstage towel problem. After I warmed up I would always put a towel around my waist and on a number of occasions I forgot to remove it before going on stage...


    Thank you Imre for this fascinating interview and for your hospitality!