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Touring With Cirque Du Soleil: Kirby Myers

By Anna Robb

What’s it like to be on tour with a circus show? How do people land a job working for Cirque du Soleil? What do they love and hate about being on tour and what are the challenges? TheatreArtLife caught up with some of the cast of  TORUK – The First Flight to find out:

Kirby Myers: Puppeteer on TORUK

Where are you from and what was your journey that led you to the circus?

I am Australian and grew up performing but coming from a very small town didn’t have access to circus (or even know it existed until my teens). At University, I did a performance degree where I was introduced to a variety of things including circus and puppetry and fell instantly in love. It has been a lot of hard work but I have been fortunate enough to have worked as a puppeteer, character and circus artist ever since. Most recently I have joined the cast of Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight.

What is touring life like? What are the good parts? What are the not so good parts?

Touring life is amazing and challenging all at once! You get to see the world, including some places you may not think to visit as a tourist which is amazing. The cast and crew on TORUK are so wonderful and are a big family, which is helpful since you don’t get to have your real family with you most of the year.

What is your role/roles in the show and how have you trained to be in this role in TORUK?

I am one of 6 puppeteers in the show, and our characters are the Spirits of Eywa. We are responsible for bringing life to all of the creatures of Pandora and operating the 16 puppets in the show. Some of the creatures are from James Cameron’s AVATAR and some are new creations that were added when we created TORUK.

I had to train at Cirque du Soleil’s International Headquarters in Montreal to learn the movement of the Na’vi and Spirits before joining the tour and training with the puppets themselves.

Each puppet is unique so it is all about working with that individual puppet to see how to bring it to life.

How do you keep yourself performance ready?

Firstly, I do a lot of maintenance and stabilisation work on my body for injury prevention and strength.

I also enjoy a combination of cardio, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), circuits and weights as well as my regular stretching and aerial training. Being both a puppeteer and an aerialist mean a little extra attention to training a mix of things, but I like that as it keeps things interesting (and challenging).

Where has been your favourite location on tour and why?

I was lucky enough to join TORUK – The First Flight in my home country of Australia. I had been overseas for many years so my family hadn’t been able to see me perform in a long time. Being able to have them see me perform in a show I am so proud of was a definite highlight for me.

If you could have any skill in the world, what would it be?

To sing! I would love to be able to sing and have so many friends with amazing voices, but it has always been a fear of mine. I open my mouth and no sound comes out!

The singer on TORUK, Priscilia LeFoll, is incredible and even though I hear her every night, my brain still cannot believe that such amazing sounds can come from a human!

Where will you be in 10 years?

Still performing… you can’t get rid of me that easily!

Whose role in TORUK do you respect the most and why?

That is a tricky question… every role in its own right amazes me: from everyone on stage, to every technician and member of the management team. It is such a well-oiled machine of talent. It is so inspiring (and a little intimidating) being around so much talent every day!

What is an essential item in your suitcase on tour?

I have a candle so that every room I am in smells like home. I also have a stuffed fox that sits on my bed and makes my room brighter.

Who do you miss the most while on tour?

I miss my fiancé a lot and my family, but am really lucky that they are very supportive of me doing what I love. I think missing my nephew, Harrison, is hard since he is only 2 and I feel like I’m missing so much of him growing up. It might not be as difficult being away if he wasn’t so cute!

Who makes you laugh on tour and why?

Oh my goodness, I don’t know where to start. There are so many hilarious people on this show! The puppetry team are all connected during the show with mics and ‘in-ears’ so we can communicate, co-ordinate and make the sounds of all the creatures… but it also means a lot of laughs during each show!

Describe the biggest challenge you have had on tour.

This job is such a dream come true for me, being in an environment where I can be both a puppeteer and an aerialist! However, there is a certain sacrifice to touring and doing what you love, like being away from your partner as well as family and friends. Long distance relationships are never easy, especially missing holidays, birthdays, weddings and even just missing each other on a day to day basis… but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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