Sky Valley sisters star in Rabun Gap’s “Cirque Arqadia”

Sisters Cydni and Peyton Coppage of Sky Valley practice in their roles as rivals for Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School’s upcoming Cirque Arqadia February 13-15. (photo courtesy RGNS)

Sisters Cydni and Peyton Coppage of Sky Valley, GA will take the Rearden Stage as rivals in Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School’s production of Cirque Arqadia this week.

This year’s show, scheduled for February 13-15, is more student-driven than ever before.

Arqadia is a deconstruction of some classic fantasy elements. Audiences will see hints of Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, The Longest Journey, Lord of the Rings, I am Legend, and hints of many more influences all patch-worked together and reimagined as an original story that the students built the framework for.

“We began conceptualizing this show last year at this time, starting with some general concepts and slowly narrowing into the show we are about to perform,” says Fine and Performing Arts Department Chair Sean Lakey. “Students were put together into groups to piece together whole sections of the show this year and there is more of a sense of ownership.”

Sibling rivalry

The Coppage sisters star in opposing roles in this year’s performance. Cydni, a senior at the school, is playing the heroine and Peyton, a junior, the villain. Arqadia will be Cydni’s fourth Cirque show and Peyton’s second. The two day students, who are very close, have been enjoying the opportunity to channel sibling rivalries in their performance.

“Being in shows with my sister is always fun, but this show is especially exciting because we play enemies, so it has been really fun to channel our sisterly disputes into our acting,” shares Cydni.

“I love working with my sister and of course we have our casual sibling fights, but she is one of the most amazing people to watch perform and I love getting to see her do something that she loves,” says Peyton. “I’m also having a lot of fun with the idea of this show because my sister and I get to bring our sibling rivalry on stage, which makes for a lot of good laughs.”

A unique program

Cydni and Peyton have been involved in the Cirque program for most of their time at Rabun Gap. Cydni joined in her freshman year and Peyton in sixth-grade. They are grateful for the experiences they have had in the distinctive program at Rabun Gap.

“In the middle of Rabun Gap, Georgia there is this amazing teaching-learning opportunity for something that you don’t see around this area,” says Peyton. “The thing that’s really special about it is how the seniors and juniors teach the sophomores and freshmen. The skills are passed down and prepare lower classmen to be the next upcoming Cirque stars, and you get to see really great bonds form.”

“The Rabun Gap Cirque program is unique because of the originality and student involvement,” says Cydni. “Every Cirque show that I have been in at Rabun Gap has been written by Mr. Lakey with the help of the Cirque Planning Committee, a group of students that help create the Cirque shows. The opportunities that we have to design such creative and beautiful shows make Cirque an amazing experience for all students and faculty involved.”

An artistic blending of theatre, music, and dance

The Coppage sisters are a part of a Cirque legacy that began at Rabun Gap almost 20 years ago. It started in 2001 when Larry Smith and his Gap Players performed the first Cirque show with a handful of dedicated students. Cirque combines theatre performance, acrobatics, and dance. Students perform on apparatuses including the Spanish web, aerial silks, trapeze, German wheel, and aerial lyra.

Today, Cirque has morphed into a full-scale program that involves more than 50 students performing on stage and working behind the scenes. The program is led by our arts faculty and draws on the expertise of regional cirque trainers and performers.

More than ever before, the annual cirque show has become a full performing arts endeavor, showcasing the best in theatre, instrumental music, and dance at Rabun Gap.

This year’s show particularly reflects a commitment to cross-curricular learning, says Lakey.

“The show this year is written and performed in iambic pentameter and pulls in references from all manner of mythologies and classic works. We have students using Arduino boards to program fog machines and creating a full plumbed piping system for CO2 fog,” he says. “Students are designing the set pieces, the costumes, the lighting and even how rigging flies away. Every day of rehearsal, we are pulling in electronics, physics, math, literature, history, music editing, dance, film and so very much more into a giant collaborative creation that only exists for a single week.”

Ticket information

Cirque Arqadia is appropriate for all ages, although small children need to be accompanied due to possibly scary content.

Playing for four performances only, this show runs February 13-15 at 7:30 with a special matinee performance on February 15 at 2:30.

Tickets are $10 and can be reserved at

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