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Cirque Berzerk Partners With Chrysalis to Provide Jobs for Downtown's Homeless

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Photo by Tom Andrews/LAist

From the minute one steps foot inside the Los Angeles State Historic Park, the site of Cirque Berzerk, no minute is left unstimulated. A small crew outfitted in pirate-like burlesque circus costumes greets entering cars. As you walk toward the entrance, distracted by the LA skyline that unfolds ahead, a burst of intense heat startles you and you instantly jump back 5-feet. It's easy to miss the enormous torch towering above; that is until it lets out this fire-breathing roar. Just when it seems like a good time to ask yourself "What the hell is going on?" a giant pale faced 'clown' on stilts drunkenly stumbles your way, looks down at you for a second and keeps going. And at intermission, the 1930's brass band, Vaud and the Villains, put on a show with so much energy, it's not only worth the price of admission, but they leave you tempted to hop on the next flight to New Orleans. One might imagine this is how David Berrent, Cirque Berzerk's executive producer and managing partner, felt when he attended the wedding of Cirque Berzerk's founder's Suzanne Bernel and Kevin Bourque prompting him to "quit his day job" as a TV-producer, and put everything into developing the current show, Beneath.

At a recent show, LAist sat down with Berrent and discussed this 'labor of love', why Cirque Berzerk wouldn't work as a reality show and his desire to create a business that also gives back to the downtown community. Berrent partnered up with Chrysalis, the LA-based organization that helps the homeless find employment opportunities. At each performance, Cirque Berzerk employes about 10-12 Chrysalis workers and Berrent says he couldn't be more pleased with their hard-working, positive attitudes and the organization itself.

During a time of much downtown development, when many residents voice concern over the fact that downtown residents are being ignored when it comes to employment opportunities, LAist was happy to learn that Cirque Berzerk is taking advantage of these services.