Earlier this week, Eugene Daily News took the time to sit down with two extraordinary acrobats part of Cirque du Soleil’s production, “Quidam”, that finished up their tour of Eugene on Sunday.
A marvelous wonder, “Quidam” is the story of a young girl who feels alienated and ignored by her parents only to suddenly be whisked off to a world of imagination where she is able to set herself free and be who she wants to be. With a story that revolves around the human condition, “Quidam” distinguishes itself from other Cirque du Soleil productions while still featuring all of the stunts and acrobatics people have come to love about Cirque.
Eugene Daily news had the privilege of talking to two world class performers, Jean Philippe Viens (Boum Boum) and Mei-Mei Brushard (Spanish Webs).
Here is a transcript of the Q&A EDN performed with these talented performers.
EDN: How did you become a part of Cirque du Soleil?
Mei: I started training aerial (before Cirque du Soleil). They were holding auditions in Florida, so I submitted my information. A few months after (submitting the information to Cirque du Soleil), they offered me a contract for the show.
Jean Philippe: I came from martial arts, I did karate for about 15 years. I initially started circus school as a hobby but then my coach told me I had potential, and three years into circus school I was performing and talent scouts saw me perform. They invited me to audition and offered me a contract.
EDN: Was this the first production that you were apart of on as big of stage as Cirque du Soleil?
Mei: I only had a couple of aerial gigs before Cirque. My main focus is dance so I was really focusing on professional dance. This is my first major show.
Jean Philippe: I did a lot of freelancing when I came out of circus school. I did many other gigs before that but not with Cirque du Soleil. I’ve been with Quidam for about two years now.
EDN: Has there been any particular city that you have become more fond of or one that could be considered your favorite?
Mei: I’m still in Hawaii mode, so I would definitely say Hawaii (Cirque du Soleil had just performed in Hawaii prior to coming to Eugene).
Jean Philippe: It’s really hard to tell. You can’t judge a book by its cover, you have to read through it. It’s the same with a city. I think whenever you go somewhere and you go, “oh this was a real boring town”, it’s just you didn’t open the book. If I had to take a pick, though, no offense but San Francisco takes number one. For me, number one.
EDN: What is the typical work week for you and how much time do you spend working on Cirque?
Jean Philippe: I say I work from 12 to 12. I come here early (to the performance center), we have training, I’m going to do my own workout. We have to do our makeup. For me personally, that takes an hour to an hour and a half. You warm up, you do the show, then you do an extra workout and you go home, you eat, so it’s an easy 12 hours there. We usually work from Tuesday to Sunday, but there are usually exceptions. Usually we work for ten weeks and have two weeks off.
Mei: Same with me. Everybody has the same schedule in Cirque.
EDN: How different is it performing in different venues all the time? Are there any stark differences?
Mei: The only real different is that the venues essentially have the same components inside, but the location of them may be different.
Jean Philippe: As for the set, it is always the same. You have the same equipment, same stage, everything is the exact same and it is meant to be the same.
EDN: Was there any level of fear when you first started working with Cirque in terms of executing your performances?
Mei: I don’t think there was any really fear. It’s very exciting, and you meet everybody from all over the world. It’s really cool to understand the different cultures and to learn new things. Everybody here is kind of like a family so there was never much fear involved.
Jean Philippe: I think, from my side, it wasn’t fear at all. You work for many years, doing so many different productions, when you finally get a real big contract like this it’s more of a relief. Of course there is te stress of performing 8 shows a week, it’s hard on the body, you wonder if (you’re) going to be able to do it.
EDN: With a vast array of cultures working on “Quidam”, is communication difficult?
Jean Philippe: English is the official language, so if you don’t speak it, learn it. That’s the rule, that’s basically how it works. We really learn to communicate. You learn key words really quick and you learn sign language really quick…it becomes natural.
EDN: What distinguishes “Quidam” from other Cirque du Soleil productions?
Mei: It’s very real. From the human aspect of the show, from the music to the costumes to the people and the whole atmosphere with the lights, everything comes together.
Jean Philippe: “Quidam” is actually a unique show even for Cirque du Soleil mostly because it is by humans, for humans, and inspired by humans. It was a very human show. It’s about society, it’s about how human beings interact. It’s so much centered around the human being that it makes it even better. It’s something that you really have to see. It goes through all the range of emotions; you’ll have laughter, you’ll find fear, and even sadness. But it’s comforting. It’s comforting to see that yes, you’re living a human being life and those people are human beings and performing for you and they live these emotions to. There’s nothign that is not real in this.
EDN: Who is your favorite character part of this production?
Mei: It’s hard to say because they’re all great. I like all of them but if I had to pick just one or two I’d have to say the Aviator and the Target.
Jean Philippe: The Boum Boum character is really a fun character. It’s a side of me that I may keep hidden but I can go full on onstage and I’m allowed to. Who is allowed to scream as loud as they can in front of a live audience? Nobody does that but I do it! And it’s great! I also like the Aviator, he’s one of the forgotten characters but he’s really cool. He’s inspired by Icarus, so he’s got skeleton wings. Every character in this show is inspired by something. I think your challenge as an audience is to try and find it and make it your own. If you don’t find it, that’s fine, just looking for it will make it even better.
Cirque du Soleil’s production, “Quidam”, finished up their tour in Eugene on Sunday.