Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving (without the turkey dinner)

Greg’s first week as a Cirque du Soleil artist has sounded fun and impressive.

He’s in a decent little dorm-style single apartment, with private bathroom and kitchenette.

Each day he works out at a gym, and practices in the cone for two 2-hour sessions. (they assigned him one session – he requested a second one put on the schedule).

The rest of the day he has various meetings with directors and business people. The week has included
- 3D full-body scans for costume measurements
- Finding out that our health insurance, life insurance, & disability insurance are going to be more comprehensive than anything we’ve had in our lives
- Getting free physical therapy sessions as often as he wants (3x per week has been their recommendation, to loosen up his back and shoulders)
- Acting classes and company meetings, learning about the show.

On day 1, they showed him his own training area, and told him that the cone would be set up there. For day 2, he says, “At 8 am I was supposed to check out the setup of the rigging and lighting for the cone. It was all completed before I got there. I am going to have to get used to technicians getting everything done right on the first try and getting it done very fast.”

On day 3, he requested a few amenities for his practice area – a table, a fan, a clock, a power strip. It was all there on day 4. So on day 4, he says, “I made a request for a small refrigerator filled with beer (its worth a try, lets see what shows up tomorrow!). Whether the Cirque people understand Greg's sense of humor remains to be seen.

In the meantime, life in Philadelphia proceeds as normal. It’s Thanksgiving, but I did not to go anywhere – opted instead to just stay at home with the kids, spending the whole day with them (which I don’t do often enough.) We went to Center City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, spent the afternoon baking, and watched the Peter Pan DVD on my computer. With all that, and the excitement of having a bunny rabbit living with us (Coconut belongs to the preschool, we took her home for the holiday), it’s been busy enough.

No turkey for dinner tonight, but instead we made Thanksgiving turkey-shaped pizzas!

We’ve been trying to figure out Skype… Greg’s Internet connection in Montreal is, apparently, super-slow. So video chat with him is like some kind of still-motion film. Any seasoned Skype users out there know how to handle this problem? Perhaps I will just get used to it. The kids weren’t quite sure what to make of it, and of the audio going in-and-out, when they tried to talk with him this evening.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

So, it begins.

Although it really began quite a long time ago. My husband, Greg, has been juggling professionally since 1997. He had sent his promotional materials to Cirque du Soleil on several occasions, never receiving more than a form letter confirming receipt from the talent department. His last submission was around 2002.

In fall 2007, we got a call from the talent department in Montreal. When you’re a self-employed variety entertainer, and that French-Canadian-accented voice comes in from Cirque headquarters, you drop everything. They invited Greg to an audition in Las Vegas. So, in October of that year, he flew to Vegas at his own expense, to meet and impress the talent scouts from this most-esteemed organization.

For the audition, he brought a few small props, and photos and video of all of his larger stuff. He had debuted, the previous year, this routine:

which he was particularly proud of, but it was simply too expensive and complicated to ship out for the audition.

Apparently they liked him – he even survived the second day of the audition, which was physical skill stuff, strength conditioning, acrobatics. I had tried to get him to work out more before the audition, but you know, he’s a juggler. No matter – at the end he received a certificate saying something like “you passed”. Which didn’t mean too much – it meant, essentially, that he’d be moved to a higher level in their files.

We heard nothing from Cirque for over a year. And then, in January 2009, another call came. This time, there was a show. They wanted Greg to come to Montreal to meet with an artistic director, to be considered for an act in the next touring production. Our hearts started to beat a little faster.

March 2009 was his trip to Montreal. He drove up there with the cone, and most of his other material, in a van. (this time his travel expenses were covered!). He met with Robert LePage. And after that trip, they formally offered him a contract, to join the Cirque 2010 show.

This was still not the end of the process. Greg spent a couple of months going through this lengthy, detailed contract, consulting with an entertainment lawyer, negotiating fees and intellectual property. But in the end, it was signed and accepted, and we began the process of re-thinking our future.

I knew, from day one, that I would accompany Greg, with the children, on the tour. Working with Cirque du Soleil has been a distant dream of mine for over 15 years. And though in this case I won’t be actually employed by them, the chance to experience the Cirque world first-hand was not one I would give up. Even though it means letting go of my other passion – the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. The plan is this…. Greg leaves for Montreal on November 22nd. He’ll come back to Philadelphia to visit occasionally while the show is in “creation” phase, from now until April. April 22nd, the show debuts in Montreal. And at the end of June, when my oldest child, Baz, is finished with his school year, we’ll leave Philadelphia and meet Greg in Canada.

It is not going to be an easy leap, for any of us. Every day we are wrestling with questions about our two studios, our house, our belongings, our travel plans, etc. But so far, the folks at Cirque have seemed incredibly hospitable, and considerate. They have treated Greg with great respect, and he is feeling good about taking this step. Like any other choice, I suppose, some doors must close for others to open. We are both very excited for the opportunity.

This blog will chronicle our adventures as we run away with the circus. It will begin, this fall, with only Greg running away… I will stay in Philadelphia and try to report on his experiences, and my own, as we ease our way into this new situation. And then, I will continue blogging during our travels, as we make our way around Canada and Europe with three young children.

I hope you enjoy my stories, and perhaps many more of you can vicariously run away.