Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES

An Immersive Holiday Extravaganza at the Actors’ Gang

By: Dec. 07, 2022
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Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES

After playing to sold out shows with their recent revival of Ubu the King, The Actors' Gang is excited to present their family friendly holiday show, Shambles, an unbridled concoction of seasonal charm and sassy cunning all rolled up in a cirque-infused panto, blurring the lines between audience and performers. When I read that this immersive experience will drop theater goers into a 60's NASA holiday party complete with alien abductions, ugly Christmas sweaters, and free-flowing champagne offered as theatergoers meander through curated rooms of wonder, I knew I had to speak with the production's creator and director, Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves (pictured, photo credit: Scot Nery), about his vision to bring such fun family fare to the stage.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me, Stefan. First of all, what was the impetus for creating this immersive experience for The Actors' Gang?

As a cirque director committed to building community, joy, and connection, the timing could not be more fortuitous to build a huge spectacle of a variety show with Tim Robbins and The Actors' Gang. Shambles is a gift to the city of Los Angeles, a gathering of actors, musicians, and variety artists banding together to lift spirits through comedy and joy.

What types of acts will be presented?

Tap Dancers, Aerial Silk, Comic Juggling, Ventriloquist, One-Man Band, and Special Guests from Cirque du Soleil.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES

The production is described as an atomic immersive cirque panto. Exactly what does that mean in the way of performance?

The outdoor foyer is transformed into a planetary winter wonderland where Aliens wearing ugly sweaters sing an original Christmas send-up. A Bad Cat, Feline Musk, shows up and corrals the entire audience into a rocket ship. They land in a curated oceanic environment, traverse through a strobe light room, descend to a Day of the Dead installation and upstairs into a mid-century bathroom where a Mad-Men wife is just about to attend the NASA space center party in 1962. Now a Panto unfurls before the guests, underscored by a six-piece band under band leader and musical director Emmy Nominated Philip Giffin.

The immersive beginning brings the audience right into the show and this spectacle breaks the fourth wall as we speak directly to the public and we may dance together!

This is going to be quite an immersive experience! Audience members are also being asked to wear their ugliest holiday sweater to the show - and who doesn't like laughing at funny holiday sweaters this time of year?

It's a call to whimsy and inclusion after a time of concern and isolation.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES Why did you decide to include outer space aliens in Shambles?

I seem to be a bit obsessed with aliens and how they were perceived in the 1960's. They seem to be the perfect backdrop for comic scenarios to play out.

Tell me a bit about your time with Cirque du Soleil. Were you a performer as well as a director?

I have worked on several creation teams for shows as a designer in the area of comedy, clown, and story. Kooza was my first show out of the gate with Tony Award winning David Shiner directing. I have gone on to do the same duties on the newly opened Drawn to Life in Disney Springs just this year. I also have cast clowns in the past and conduct master classes with all of the shows in Las Vegas.

How much of the Shambles creation was influenced by your time with Cirque du Soleil?

All of it! At Cirque you dream big! Now I'm dreaming and manifesting just as big with limited resources. But the imagination and naive wonder when constructing an original circus show links the child within us all.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES

How have you acquired the various types of acts for the show? And will the acts be the same at each performance?

The acts will vary from night to night. The first couple of weeks I am blessed to have Karl Herlinger a ventriloquist, Super Tall Paul a one-man band, Michael Rayner a comic juggler, Lexi Pearl an aerialist, and Jason Rodgers & Joseph Wiggan tapping.

Will any other Cirque performers appear in Shambles?

Benedikt Negro from the O Show will appear, and possibly an aerialist from Zumanity.

How did you go about casting the production?

I was fortunate enough to get to know the company members by leading a twenty-hour clown intensive. Through this process, observed by Tim Robbins, I opened up the show to any members who wished to participate.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES Have you worked with Tim Robbins before? Or Shambles musical director Philip Griffin?

Eleven years ago, I did a holiday show at the Actors' Gang called Atomic Holiday Free-Fall, which was a sell-out hit! I collaborated with Philip Griffin on that extravaganza as well. Philip and I are collaborators in all mediums of storytelling whether it is in live theatre or film. This hybrid of musical theatre and comic mayhem is a direct merging of our styles - his in song, mine in physical theatre.

Other than just having a good time, is there a message you hope audiences will take home with them?

Following the plague, a renaissance occurs helmed by artists. As a performing artist focused on joy and comedy through clown - an art form anchored in the here and now, simplicity, and connection - my charter is to raise up all of our spirits collectively. Shambles acknowledges all of our shared mortality, doubts and fears, and then elevates and celebrates them through song and comedy!

Is anything special planned for the closing performance on New Year's Eve?

Yes!!!!! If all goes as planned, we will have an early family friendly show at 7:30pm and then ring in the new year with a raging after-party following the 9:30pm show with a DJ and champagne. (Details are to be confirmed, so stay tuned!)

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself and/or the show?

I am publishing my first book on comedy - launching December 15, a Thursday. I look forward to signing and selling books after the show that night.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES

Shambles opens on Thursday, December 8 and continues on Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm through December 31 at The Actors' Gang at The Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. Tickets are $35, available by phone at (310) 838-4264 or online at Recommended for ages 7+. And remember to wear your ugly holiday sweater! More information, including updates on New Year's Eve shows, at

Shambles production photos courtesy of The Actors' Gang