In a publicity preview, juggler/performer Patrick McGuire of Cirque du Soleil's Quidam visited Gambit's offices yesterday and performed a short impromptu juggling exhibition. McGuire is one of the original cast members of Quidam, which debuted in 1996. He was fresh out of high school when he auditioned for the troupe, but he was already an accomplished juggler. Renowned juggler and artist Michael Moschen picked him for the show, and he's since worked with Cirque du Soleil on several shows and tours. He spent two years in Las Vegas in Mystere, and he currently plays Papa in Quidam, which is at the New Orleans Arena March 13-17.
In Quidam, a young girl named Zoe is bored and wants to experience more excitement in life. She conjures an imaginary world full of exotic performers, and the jugglers, aerialists, acrobats, singers and other circus arts performers tempt even her distant and apathetic parents to find new wonder in their lives.
Cirque du Soleil was about 10 years old when McGuire first joined the company. It was just beginning to gain wider exposure for its elevation of circus arts and performance into its precise, grand-scale dazzling shows. The company now employs more than 1,300 artists/performers from 50 nations. The company estimates that 100 million spectators around the world have seen one of the shows since its founding in 1984.
McGuire won juggling contests in high school and knew he wanted to pursue a career performing. When he joined Cirque, he found himself working with many performers with an athletic background, including olympic gymnasts. Directors often auditioned performers by asking for spontaneously improvised pieces and also frequently used the pieces to develop shows. The approach rewards people without inhibitions, or those who can easily shed them, McGuire says. He says that the show characters become strong representations of the people who created them.
"You're not acting," he says. "You're just being."
But Cirque has developed the concept of circuses in North America. Circuses used to be traveling shows that featured large animals as much as performers. Cirque obviously features no animals, but it adds a lot on the dramatic side.
"There's not just skills," he says. "There's a story; there's a lot of symbolism; there's a lot of thought that goes into why things happen.
"It made people appreciate that it is not just for kids."