For this interview I spoke with Mr. Smith via telephone. I will bring you an on-camera interview from the KFC YUM! Center on June 9. The 55-member company of Alegria will give 7 performances before it closes on June 12.
Scott: Is this a transition in your career, or a continuation along the same path?
Tim: This is a whole new Chapter for me. I spent fifteen years on Broadway and for my next step I was looking for a company that dealt with similar budgets and production values.
Scott: How is the world of Cirque different than Broadway?
Tim: The biggest difference and the part I like the most is Cirque’s mandate as a company is creation. On Broadway once it’s opening night and the show is made, it freezes. If you see Phantom of the Opera now you will see the exact same show you would have seen fifteen years ago. Cirque Du Soleil’s mandate on the other hand means we constantly challenge the show. Our show (Alegria) was created 16 years ago and it constantly moves and changes to motivate the artists to try new skills. New images and new acts enter the show daily to keep the show fresh. Obviously the concept is the same; the visual is the same, but the energy behind every move is new. I find that amazing having been with shows that have had long runs.
Tim: It varies. Longevity is a testament to Cirque’s management. Most employees stay six to ten years or longer.
Scott: Do they move from show to show within the Cirque Du Soleil family?
Scott: The physical demands on these artists must be tremendous. About how long will the average performer stay with a Cirque show?
Tim: Sometimes. We have artists who have been doing their act in Alegria for ten years. We also have artists who have been with Cirque that long but have come in from other shows.
Scott: Describe your responsibility to the show.
Tim: My desk sits in the middle of everything. By definition I am the director of the show; I motivate the show, keep the quality of the show up to the standard audiences expect of a Cirque Du Soleil productions. I have 55 artists from 17 different countries that work in 11 different languages, so that environment is rather unique for a director/manager. The technical aspects of the show are huge. Not only are there safety concerns, but every act is supported by a huge technical staff that I work closely with. Then I am a direct length with the home office in Montreal. Because this is a 16 year old jewel and a signature piece I am in charge of keeping Alegria special and beautiful.
Scott: How long have you been the Artistic Director of Alegria?
Tim: A year-and-a-half.
Scott: Let’s talk about some of the show.
Tim: I’ll start with the general concept of Alegria: alegria is a spanish word that means joy, happiness and jubilation. It sets up the collaboration/struggle between generations. The characters of the Old Birds that you see in our show represent the old establishment, old money, the old generation. Then we move into characters that signify the fearlessness of youth and the angels that are seen throughout the show and the Russian Bar, which signify the innocence of youth. From the generation to generation the old generation has to pass the baton off to the new in order for their voice to be heard and to let the world move forward. That’s the concept behind Alegria.
Scott: Tell me about the character Fleur.
Tim: In the world of Alegria the king has gone missing. Fleur was his major domo and he is in a struggle for power and leadership. He is a character from the past struggling for his own place now that the king and his leadership have vanished.
Scott: How does Tamir figure in the story?
Tim: Tamir is a prince. He is an ethereal character who is kind. What’s great about Cirque is that all of these themes that have inspired the creators are so avant garde and widely painted in the show that it allows the audience to come up with their own story. I love that. It’s so different from theatre. With Alegria we might sit next to each other and come away with two completely different stories. That is exactly what the creators have encouraged.
Scott: The music is always a big part of a Cirque show and in Alegria you have the White Singer and the Black Singer.
Tim: Yes, it’s a Yin and Yang feeling. I find the score to be the star of the show that motivates all of the acts and drives the production. It’s the highest-selling recording of any Cirque Du Soleil show to-date, so that gives you some idea of just how special it is.
Scott: Twenty-five years ago the founders of Cirque Du Soleil did something that many people say is impossible: they created something new. The shows in the Cirque brand are so unique, how do they begin?
Tim: This company is exciting because they’re the only people doing what they’re doing. It’s a complete success story for that reason. The three founders have created a company that develops a new show each year. It starts with a Director of Creation and an idea passed down from creators within the company. The Director of Creation convenes the creative team (director, choreographer, composer, etc.); the Director of Creation is very important because the shows are completely unique. A director from the outside could not come in and put together a Cirque show. There are too many elements: acrobatic, structural, equipment, costume, etc. and we’ve learned so much in the past 25 years.
Scott: Broadway will often create multiple casts for a show that tour the country simultaneously. Is there more than on Alegria?
Tim: I love this part about company. There are 21 different productions traveling the world right now and all of them are different, and there is only one of each.
Scott: How long does it take you to move this show to a different city?
Tim: It’s a large production that will come to Louisville in 18 semi tractor trailers. We will set up in the KFC YUM! Center in 12–18 hours and we will break down Sunday evening in about 3 hours. We will hire about a hundred Louisvillians to help us.
Show times for Alegria are:
Thursday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, June 10 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 12 at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Tickets prices range from $28 to $79 and may be purchased at www.cirquedusoleil.com/alegria.