Brennan Figari flies high above the Odysseo horses
Shelly Paulson Photography
By Drew Rowsome
Aerial artist Brennan Figari dropped out of the finals of America's Got Talent to run away with the circus. "They happened so close together," he says, "that I was faced with a challenging choice. Do I continue with this competition or do I take this brand new show Odysseo and be part of the creation, I love the creative process?" Figari is happy with the choice he made despite taking billing below a herd of horses.
"I've always really loved animals," he says. "Before I started circus stuff, I was dead set on becoming an marine biologist. With Odysseo, seeing the connection between humans and animals . . . I hadn't been around horses before and everyone always talks about horses are so wonderful, their personalities, and I hadn't experienced for myself. I really love the horses but my first love, my passion, is for aerial arts."
There is another treacherous challenge to working with horses. "Running through the horse poop is not all that romantic. However it is with great shame that I admit that I am fine with stepping in it now. When we first started we were all tip-toeing around it, trying to avoid it, but honestly their diet is so simple compared to humans - they just have hay, grain and some supplements - so there's nothing that gross about it. It's just part of nature. There is an ick factor but you get over it pretty fast."
Figari himself has a more varied diet and fitness regime. "The struggle with a show like this is less the single show and more than endurance. We do long runs in a city of six to seven shows a week so you really have to maintain. A lot of the training and working out I do is not to gain muscle mass or improve drastically, it's just to maintain. If you really push yourself one day, the show's going to suffer that night and possibly the next day. I don't weigh my food or anything, I just try to eat healthy and have a variety of things. I enjoy my glass of scotch and bowl of ice cream at night."
Growing up, Figari did a lot of theatre and sports but a vacation gave him his career path. "When I was 16 I went to a Club Med resort and they had flying trapeze as one of their activities. I ended up doing it every single day, every hour they were open I'd be waiting in line, 'Can I go again?' When I went home, just north of San Francisco, there are some very good circus schools and I ended up training. Once a week, became twice a week, became four times a week and senior year of high school, I found out I could get paid to perform. That was the selling moment."
Life on the road is not for everyone but it works for Figari. "I've been touring in one form or another since 2008 and you learn really quickly who your friends of convenience are and who you actually enjoy spending time with. It's definitely harder to develop and maintain relationships but I think the payoff of that is that you know that they're much more sincere. You're only going to put that work in if it's worthwhile."
Figari is also an entrepreneur who does web design and e-commerce. "It's a whole other artistic side of me." He's created an online store,zazzle.com/flyingbren, attached to his website,brennanfigari.com, where he sells circus and aerial arts themed merchandise. "I haven't been doing a lot because I've been so busy here and taking care of my body for the show. Every so often someone will buy something, it's exciting."
With so many options, one wonders what the future holds for Figari. "I'm kind of here until I don't want to be here and I'm really enjoying the tour so for now I'm quite happy. It's been four years and part of being artistic is that you always want to keep pushing yourself and I feel like I'm still doing that here. The artistic director and I get along really well. He gives me the creative freedom for my solo on the hoop and let's me change it and keep it interesting for me. It's also good for the audience because I look engaged and they appreciate it more. It's always pushing the skill level higher and higher."
Odysseo continues until Sun, May 24 under the White Big Top, 393 Lake Shore Blvd E. cavalia.net