Monday, May 16, 2011

Breaking down the Big Top

The Cirque du Soleil gig has now ended. It was an interesting experience for the most part. Being an usher was not that difficult, but I still found myself feeling worried about not being perfect which happened on more than a few occasions. Since the amount of shifts you worked depended on your performance, it was obvious to see I was not one of the stand out people. It's okay though, my heart wasn't broken, especially since I did pick up a few shifts this past week.

Overall, I'd say that I met the goals I had: to meet some new people and to do something different. There was a diverse group of people there--some had lost jobs, simply didn't have a job (this was the majority) others were supplementing their income, and others wanted to be Cirque "followers." Followers are people who follow Cirque from city to city, as long as they are approved to come. They get paid more and obtain more hours, but still, they have to provide their travel and housing expenses, at least in the beginning. My impression was that as you got higher up on the hierarchy chain, the more Cirque would paid for you. One example was a guy who was just out of the army a few years ago and joined Cirque for temporary work. He went onto follow them, and now manages one of the sections of food and beverage for this show. Now, Cirque covers most of his expenses. So for Cirque, there is a lot to be said for working hard.

I met another guy who was also an usher whose eventual hope is to audition to be a trapeze artist. He said he saw Cirque when he was 6 or so and decided he wanted to do that when he was older. He did gymnastics and self taught himself trapeze. Another guy actually got offered a position to work in lighting.

There were a few things I learned in the process too:
  • I could never work a second shift type job. It isn't the hours per se, but I dislike feeling like I miss out on a lot of normal people's life. Usually, by the time I got home, I was pretty beat and fell asleep fairly quickly. Then, my mornings were spent with e-mails, phone calls, job searching, etc., and then it would be time to leave for Cirque again in the early afternoon.
  • A second-type shift also affects my eating schedule. Sure, I'd probably adapt if I had to do this everyday, but on a temporary basis, it isn't my style.
  • Standing for long periods of time even in good shoes is definitely hard on my back and hip. I noticed on days when I did not have to work, these body parts felt significantly better.
  • I think if I had to wear black every single day, I'd go neurotic with worrying about dog hair on my clothes.
  • I do not think I could live the artist or Cirquador (that's what we were called) type lifestyle. It isn't so much the traveling that would be hard, but it would be difficult on my animals. If I had only one animal, that might be easier. Also, my neurotic self could not handle having to try to find housing every 3-4 weeks in a completely new city. That would be really stressful! And for the artists, this lifestyle can be really tough if they have family, though Cirque does try to accommodate for that. Basically, there is no real permanency.
  • People can be very messy at these types of shows. Popcorn everywhere, soda, liquor, beer, water spilled, half eaten pretzels and candy thrown on the ground. It was really gross at times. I guess this would be similar to a movie theater.
  • People also either do not read signs or completely disregard them. We had to tell numerous people that no flash photography or recording was allowed for the artists' safety, despite the signs and announcements. It is tough with cell phones with cameras to catch everyone.
And now for some Cirque du Soleil facts and what I learned about this show which I will now reveal was Ovo. Typically, I just don't reveal these things, but I really liked this show, so I want to be able to give you all my recommendation.


  • Cirque du Soleil is French for "Circus of the sun."
  • The Grand Chapiteau (the Big Top) seats about 2,600 people. It is set to be intimate, so everyone can see the stage well and feel the emotions of the artists.
  • Cirque started in 1984 with 2 street performers in Montreal, Canada.
  • There are 22 shows worldwide with a variety of themes and venues.
  • The show Ovo is about the world of insects.
  • Ovo is Portguese for "egg" which is supposed to embody the cycle of insectdom in awakening, playing, seeking love, finding love.
  • This show has 54 artists from an age range of 14-54 years old. They encompass 16 countries. When I looked at this program, there were only 2 artists from the US, the rest international. The entire Cirque du Soleil company is comprised of 5,000 employees, over 1,300 artists, and about 50 countries. It is also still a privately run company.
  • The insects range from a ladybug, a fly, a dragonfly, a mosquito, butterflies, ants, fleas, spiders, scarebs, crickets, cockroaches, and a "creatura."
  • This show is the first to have a female director.
  • The music in this show is Brazilian inspired. It's a really nice music track--very upbeat.
  • The diabolo juggler is apparently the only guy in the world who can juggle 6 diabolos, though he consistently performs with 4.
  • In this show, the scarebs in the trapeze act cover the most distance ever for a Cirque show. It takes 40 technicians to set up this act.
  • This show also uses the most lights ever in a Cirque show as well as the highest free-standing structure made for a show--the wall in this case that the crickets jump off from.
Their next stop for this show tour is Minneapolis. If you get a chance, it is really worth seeing.

p.s.--I had a really sweet moment. On one of the last days, they had like a "garage" sale of items you could buy for a discounted price. As workers, we already had a substantial price off, but these were even less because they couldn't sell these items to the public. One guy who I did not even know (he worked in a different dept.) overheard me saying I thought the little masks on the table were cute but didn't have any cash with me. Well, he just upped and offered to buy it for me. Such a nice gesture.

3 comments:

Linda said...

What a cool job!

Missy said...

Despite the second shift and cleaning up the mess I am still jealous and I hope that is ok (0:

I Hate to Weight said...

good for you for sticking to it thru to the end. even if there were down-sides, you hung in there. very impressive.

good luck with everything!