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Fall 2001
Monkey Business
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scholarship covered registration fees, it didn't include room and board. To make ends meet, Notary lived in a camper that he parked on Veteran Avenue, studying for midterms and finals by candlelight and sprinting out to a coffee or sandwich shop in Westwood to use a bathroom.

Living in the camper was both an experiment and a test of will.

"There was something freeing about it," he says. "I could drive anywhere and have all the stuff I owned with me." He also knew it was just a temporary situation.

Sure enough, Cirque du Soleil recruited Notary for the premiere of its Mystere show in Las Vegas. He performed on the Chinese poles, teeterboard and trampoline, and played Taiko drums. In Vegas, he also met his wife, Rhonda, who was dancing as a Rockette.

Cirque du Soleil taught Notary how to relax and be artistic. "I learned to just be myself and to not conform," Notary says. "There's a conformity in gymnastics. I don't want to sound like I'm putting gymnastics down in any way, but it's very different than performing.

"Maybe it's because I wasn't mature enough to understand how to perform when I was in gymnastics. I was too scared about the technical scores and competing," he says. "But when I went to Cirque, it was like I really found out who I was and I could just let my soul out. That's when I started to really be able to do some things that were incredible."

In 1996, Notary and Rhonda moved to New York, where Notary took up photography, directed circus shows, got work in a few operas at the Metropolitan Opera House and started his own production company, Emitime. Not long afterward, he was called to work on Grinch, for which he ran "Who School," teaching the whimsical Whos of Whoville to do stunts like playing on trampolines and teeterboards and jumping onto each other's shoulders, all in a seemingly magical way. Shortly after that gig was over, he got the call to do Apes.

Today, when he's not working in Hollywood, Notary is concentrating on a larger ambition: creating his own circus. Although he won't divulge many details, he says his vision is of a show that combines dance, music, theater, film and circus.

"It's going to put all of those aspects into one show," Notary says. "There will be musicians flying overhead, landing onstage and performing as characters in the show. The audience is going to be surrounded with theater, circus and music. There's going to be special effects that will have people saying, 'Oh my God, this has never been done before!' There's one special effect in which people are going to fly in new ways, and it's not with wires."

Notary wants to get started with preproduction in a year or so, but first he has to raise the money.

"Do you have $7 million?" he asks. "I'm asking everyone these days."

Not to worry. It's all written down in his notebook.

Marina Dundjerski is a senior writer for UCLA Magazine.

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