Bringing a message of inclusion to Hamilton

By Christina Kwiczala

Cirque du Soleil will once again be bringing its magic to Hamilton. Their newest show, OVO, takes audiences on a colourful journey into a community of insects who deal with surprises, but end up finding love and acceptance. The show has spread its message of tolerance, lively music, and incredible acrobatic acts to over five million people since it premiered in Montreal in 2009, and now the City of Hamilton gets to experience this performance as well. We spoke with Tim, the Artistic Director of OVO to learn a little more about the show and what Hamilton can expect when the circus comes to town on June 7 – 11, 2017.

Artistic Director, Tim Bennett

Q: Tell me about your role as the Artistic Director of OVO. What does your typical day look like?

A: I’m responsible for the artistic integrity of the show. I do a whole collection of things from oversee rehearsals, to watch the show and take notes, to work with the head coach on training, to a little bit of office administrative work, to casting. It all really depends on the show’s needs in the moment.

An average day would be coming in around eleven or noon and working with the head coach on training and targeting things if we’re having any issues. This mixed with running back and forth to the office, doing a couple of emails, dealing with the replacements that are coming up down the line, and dealing with casting or working with some other shows.

Q: Is there anything you enjoy the most?

A: The thing I enjoy the most is working with the artists. I was originally a performer myself and spent most of my career as a director of choreography. So the part of working with the trainers, artists, clowns, and acrobats, one on one and in groups, is my favourite part by far.

Q: Can you speak to the theme of OVO? What does it represent?

A: The theme is really about inclusion, and discovering how people fit in together. The rough outline of the story is there’s a community of insects and they’re going about their daily lives and a foreigner comes in. He’s a bug that they’ve never seen before and he’s very different from them. Initially they’re a little afraid of him and they reject him and through the process of the show they discover that he’s a lot more similar to them than different. There’s also a little bit of a love story woven in there. The foreigner is a fly and there’s a lady bug that’s part of the community and they fall in love with one another.

So they’re sort of discovering their differences and how to come together and what’s really interesting to me is, it’s sort of a representation of how Cirque is. Cirque is a collection of people from different countries, cultures, languages and disciplines, and they all come together to successfully create this show.

Photos courtesy of CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

That’s a message that the world really needs right now.

A: It couldn’t be more timely! We have Americans and Russians and Ukrainians all working together side by side and without a spot of politics or anything like that. People are people. I always say, if we can work together, why can’t everybody else?

Q: Cirque has so many incredible shows, but what do you think makes OVO really stand out and differentiates it from a lot of the other shows?

A: There’s a couple things about OVO. One is that it does have a little more of a linear story line. A little more of a narrative than some of the other shows. Another thing is that OVO is very bright, colourful, positive, fun and playful. Although most of the other shows have elements of that, many of them are a little darker and will have more mysterious themes.

Q: Is it true that Cirque du Soleil makes it a practice to hire local workers to help with the show? What exactly is that going to look like in Hamilton?

A: When we come in we always hire a very large crew to help us load in. We’ll hire about 60 to 80 people for the first two days that we load in. Then, our load out we’ll actually hire about 80 to 100 people because we have to load out much more quickly.

So we’ll come in and we’ll be a big employer for a bit. We’ll come in and snatch up about 100 hotel rooms and kind of descend on all of the restaurants and clubs in the area. We travel with a catering company and they’ll come into the community, and they’ll shop and look and see what the local foods are and they’ll create the menus and everything around the local experiences.

Photo courtesy of CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

Q: How do you feel about performing for the city of Hamilton?

A: I’m very excited! Cirque is a Canadian based company. We have a lot of Canadian artists. I think going back into Canada and playing the Canadian cities is really wonderful. I think we have sort of a special connection with Canadian audiences and I think they welcome us and feel a little bit of ownership of us at the same time.

Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to add? Anything else you want to say about the show?

A: It’s one of the Cirque shows that I think is so broad spectrum. It appeals to families, it appeals to children. People of all ages, of all cultures. It has a universal message, universal themes. Someone who maybe feels that they’ve seen Cirque before, OVO will come to them and bring new ideas and new elements to them. So anyone that’s seen the other touring shows will really have a different experience with OVO.

Be sure to check out a performance of OVO and let the music, dancers, and acrobats transport you to an insect utopia! The show will be playing at the FirstOntario centre from June 7 until June 11th. Tickets can be purchased from TicketMaster.

Photo courtesy of CIRQUE DU SOLEIL