Cirque du Soleil selects Purdue to host first Midwest workshop

February 19, 2014  


A high-level theater technology workshop by Cirque du Soleil, immensely popular on both coasts, has chosen to make its Midwest premiere at Purdue -- and current and aspiring theatre professionals need to register soon.

"This is an honor that just blows us away, that they've asked us to do this," says Richard Thomas, professor of theatre and director of the Midwest workshop. "In the past, they've done this at prestigious arts schools on each coast."

The first Midwest Cirque du Soleil Live Entertainment Workshop, presented by the USITT Midwest Regional Section and hosted by Purdue, is set for March 21-23 on campus. USITT, or United States Institute for Theatre Technology Inc., is the association of design, production and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry.

Registration is free but also mandatory and is being handled on a first-come, first-served basis. The event can accommodate only about 300 registrants. Applicants can register for one, two or all three days.

At the workshop, attendees will learn from top professionals in the theater industry through large-format presentations and a series of master classes in numerous disciplines of design and technology.

"The people they're bringing are very exciting," Thomas says. "Also, every one of these workshops addresses a career opportunity. That's another reason for having this here." There will even be mock auditions to show how Cirque handles auditions.

Among the instructors are:
* Krista Monson, artistic director of "O," Cirque's aquatic romance at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
* Katy Tate, dance master for "LOVE," a Beatles show in Las Vegas.
* Mike Peters, assistant head of rigging for "O."
* Steve Bush, senior technical support representative for Meyer Sound, a big player in big loudspeaker systems.
* Leonard Miller, national sales manager for Philips Entertainment Division, a big name in LED and lighting.

The workshop areas cover topics in:
* Acting.
* Automation.
* Carpentry and props.
* Dance.
* Lighting.
* Production/management.
* Rigging.
* Sound.
* Wardrobe and makeup.

"Purdue is doing very well preparing students in very high-tech disciplines, and that includes arts," Thomas says. "As we work with these companies, often we are reconnecting with our Purdue graduates who are at these leading organizations or also are working with them.

"Rigging is very high-tech, as are lighting and sound. Automation means computer-controlled scenery, sometimes with people on the moving pieces, which has become such an attraction in recent years. A stage could cost $100 million when using automation."

When Cirque officials approached Thomas about conducting a Midwest workshop at Purdue, he says, "a whole lot of people at Purdue said 'Let's do this' and offered support." They included Steve Hall, director of Hall of Music Productions; Joel Ebarb, department chair and associate professor of theatre; Rich Dionne, assistant professor of technical direction; Carol Cunningham-Sigman, chair and professor of dance; and Harry Bulow, professor and head of the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts.

Industry connections served as a springboard to Purdue's receiving the opportunity, along with facilities and costs, Thomas says.

"Steve Hall and I have done many workshops over the years with Cirque, Meyer Sound and others," he says, "and we have all those alumni ties."

As for location, Purdue is a relatively inexpensive location within an easy day's drive of hundreds of colleges. Also, the arts venues -- from Elliott Hall of Music to Loeb Playhouse to Fowler Hall to Pao Hall -- are all within a 10-minute walk and parking is easy.

The quality is there too. This month, Purdue Theatre and Elliott Hall of Music were ranked No. 5 by Best College Reviews for the 25 Most Amazing College Campus Theaters.

In addition to the learning sessions, the event also will rouse attendees with featured performances in the evenings. The schedule is 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday. On-site check-in will take place in the lobby of the Nancy T. Hansen Theatre in Pao Hall.

The workshop is intended for adult audiences and may contain and explore mature themes and subject matter. Children under the age of 16 will not be allowed into any event. A parent or guardian must accompany minors under the age of 18.

For more information including schedule go to http://midwest.usitt.org/cirque. Instructor biographies are at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/hofq77lnn3omvol/pK3HgZG-P3.

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