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What’s it like to work for Cirque Du Soleil?

Cirque du Soleil, the mega Canadian entertainment company has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Once a small performing troupe founded by the two former street performers Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix, now the company is world renowned, with over 20 shows currently out there touring the globe. With the official title of largest theatrical producers in the world, their shows are grand spectaculars that are the synthesis of circus performance styles from around the world. But, what’s it like to work for Cirque Du Soleil?

Cirque du Soleil – Kooza (2012) photo by Derek Key

We grabbed some time with Trish Forde who is currently working with Cirque Du Soleil as the assistant head of wardrobe on their current outing of Ovo, their bug inspired show, to talk about her experience of working for the giants of Circus.

What’s it like to work for Cirque Du Soleil?

It’s great, they’re a big company, but they really focus on trying to make it feel like a family. You always feel like you’re taken care of. Partners and children and anyone that you love is always welcome backstage, which feels a lot different than other places I’ve worked.

They do their best to make sure we’re all taken care of and feel at home. In terms of being backstage and in wardrobe it’s just huge! So they do their best to make sure that we feel like we’re at home both offstage and while we’re in the hotel.

What’s it like backstage on this show? 

Backstage is actually quite intimidating compared to a lot of other things that I’ve done. In the backstage area there’s a full-on gym that they unpack every week, and then something that they call ‘the jungle gym’ which is lots of rigging that allows all the performers and aerialists to practice on a smaller scale backstage. So that’s all happening backstage, behind the actual show.

Then you go into the actual backstage area where you’ve got the musicians and all the entrances and exits for the show itself and of course wardrobe. Because we’re moving every week, [Wardrobe] can vary quite a bit. They [the producers] do their best to make sure we’re as close to stage as possible, but that’s not always possible, it’s venue dependent.

…and in Wardrobe?

Wardrobe is massive, we’ve got 29 men and 20 women on the show and there’s four of us as the wardrobe team.

There’s the Head of Wardrobe and I’m the Assistant Head of Wardrobe. I’m also in charge of maintaining shoes, and then their are two other girls who are in charge of hats and costumes respectively. So between us, we get it all done!

Being in charge of shoes, I check every pair of shoes daily- There’s close to 100 pairs of shoes in the show, so my job is to go around everyday to make sure everything is safe, nothing’s falling apart, there aren’t any laces that need replacing and then secondly [sic] to make sure that they are aesthetically pleasing, so there’s lots of painting and patching and cleaning to be done. On top of the actual cobbling of shoes.

Talk us through what your average day looks like.

On some days you’d have quite a light show track in terms of the ‘dressing’ you’d be doing. Sometimes you’d be working on major projects if a performer needs a pair of shoes made for them or assembled for them, and then you’d be taking the parts that Cirque du Soleil Head Office have sent to you and making and fitting them for the performer.

Then on top of that, because I am the Assistant Head of Wardrobe, I’d be helping Marr- our head, with things like inventory and orders and the organisational side of it, to make sure everything is running smoothly.

What’s your favourite part of working with this company?

My favourite part of the job, as always, is actually being with the performers backstage during the show. I really enjoy dressing, feeling part of the show. It’s an entirely different vibe than anything else I’ve done in terms of theatre or dance or anything like that. The performers are quite independent and they’re used to more or less being left to their own devices. They know what they need in terms of help in and out [of costumes], but it’s still nice to feel like you’re part of the show, getting to see your amazing colleagues doing all of these crazy tumbles and with their feet over their head and allsorts… it really justifies why you’re there I suppose.

What's it like to work for Cirque Du Soleil?
Cirque Du Soleil – Ovo Photo by Ed Schipul

How does a stadium tour compare with working on a theatre tour? 

Being in an arena vs being in a theatre is so drastically different, first of all just the size- there’s no ‘popping back’ if you’ve forgotten something. If you’ve forgotten something, you’re legging it across the other side of the arena! So that’s a major consideration, but at the same time, it’s great because it means you’re never running out of space. Arenas obviously do vary on how well equipped and how big they are, but for the most part, you always have the space that you need and can set up properly and have everything at your disposal.

The other thing that’s a little bit different about arenas is because of their size you tend to be a little out of town. Even if you are in the middle of town, the stuff that’s around you tends to be carparks! Sometimes there’s a movie theatre next door, but it’s a little more isolated than being at a theatre. You tend to have more of a commute [To the venue] when it comes to arena touring.

What’s your favorite costume from the show and why?

My faveourite costume in the show is our ladybug, she is one of the main characters. I really love the ladybug costume – she’s got this big fake orange belly that zips around her and these pink and orange wings. It’s quite girly and fun and looks quite cartoony as a lot of our costumes do.

Are you currently working on a show. Let our readers know about your experience by getting in touch.

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