Cirque Gearing up for One-off Extravaganza

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When Guy Laliberte puts on charity benefits, he doesn’t go small. Witness the million-dollar buy-in Big One for One Drop event he hosted at last year’s World Series of Poker that sent $111,111 to his One Drop Foundation.

Now there’s going to be a one-night-only Cirque du Soleil performance for Laliberte’s water-access charity, the One Night for One Drop March 22. And doctor, it’s going to raise some serious dough, with tickets starting at $1,500 and going up to $250,000 for certain limited VIP packages.

When the curtain lifts at the O Theatre, it will be on Krista Monson’s production that draws performers from all seven local Cirque shows and tells the story of a young man on a journey of self-discovery.

We caught up with Monson at a rehearsal for the performance—it appears that it’ll involve lots of twirling over the audience–to ask about the evolution of the project, picking out the performers and just how you get seven different productions to all come together, anyway.

When you first drew this assignment, what was your initial reaction?

“Oh my God.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t just jump into it. On the one hand my passions and my energy are always strong and I want to jump in, but this is a big mandate. It’s a serious mandate. It’s a serious, urgent cause. We had to couple the entertainment quality, the artistic expression, the “wow” factor we want to deliver, with our resonating message.

What were the challenges of merging all seven shows?

It’s a great challenge, but it’s also extremely gratifying. There are obviously logistics. Each of our shows in Vegas have a different weekend. So we cannot take for granted people’s availability. At the same time we wanted to make the opportunity equal for everyone to participate. We didn’t want to cut anyone out or to create a scenario that discourages someone from participating. And all of the artists are working until midnight, so we cannot have a 9-to-5 rehearsal schedule, because they are working until midnight.

It’s a duality. On the one hand it’s around the corner. We’ve always had that spirit that we’ve had to work quickly to deliver the quality that needs to be delivered. On the other hand we have to be patient and trusting in everybody’s innate ability. The talent level is enormous. So that’s what it is. It’s pushing everyone and submitting to the schedules and really trusting that we move forward. And we are.

What were you looking for from particular performers or particular acts to bring them into this?

I wrote a concept with some creative partners. This is how it started. For us it was very clear. We knew it was going to be big. Big in terms of scope, big in terms of number of artists participating and creative team, but we wanted to make it true to the story, true to the vision. After that writing and conceptualization phase, then we started envisioning how that concept could be translated into acts and numbers. We put out our own casting calls or signup sheets to shows, and anyone who was interested could sign up. Very rarely did we turn anyone away.

How many different acts are going to be in the final production?

I believe 18. It helped that I was the casting director for all our resident shows before I came with this mandate. So I was familiar with not only what everyone does on a nightly basis at their own shows, but many, many of them have hidden talents, things they were working at on the side. We were all able to tap into those dimensions.

Has the show morphed much from its original concept?

Yes, it’s evolved. I would say we have not strayed from our original concept, but with every person, whether it’s a composer, an artist, a set designer, a props designer, they are not only executing a vision, but they are fueling it. It’s so gratifying to see that happen.

Now that you’re about eight weeks out, where are you at and what are your biggest challenges moving forward?

Where we are is we’ve basically set everything, but it’s a massive puzzle. We’re working every night until two in the morning, because O runs until midnight. So from midnight until 2 a.m. we’re setting lights. We’re setting how these lifts are going to come up and down. We’re setting sound cues. In the day we’re working with artists. We’re starting to merge all these parts together.