From YVR > YYC > YOW > FLL > SJU > PUJ > MIA > PBI > DTW > PHL > CLT > ORD > PHX > SEA > SFO > LAX > PDX > JFK > LGA > ATH > FRA > STN > LHR > ..and back! >YVR:
*phew* That’s a lot of airports! And a lot of mobility, which has played a big part in my recent world of work for these past 18 months with Showtime Pictures.
It began innocently enough, with an interview in Vancouver for a part-time gig as a photographer for a show that was rolling through town. But within very short order, I found myself accepting the offer of employment for the Tour Manager and Supervisor for the entire photography subcontract for ‘Cirque du Soleil’s’ North American touring production of ‘CORTEO’. I had no idea what I had just signed up for, but it sounded ‘fun’ and of course Creative Type that I am (mostly signifying perpetual searching for the next paid gig), I was ready and looking forward to a regular paycheck once again.
Working alongside CDS was—how shall I say—very "interesting" and insightful. I picked up the tour in Vancouver as we made our way across Canada with our final stop of the tour in balmy Miami, Florida. And what a whirlwind tour it was! We ran 9-10 shows a week in each city, with most stops along the itinerary being average 8-10 weeks. With my new-found title came many new responsibilities, some which I naturally expected, some coming as a total surprise. I was charged to hire and train all staff for each city which entailed organizing adverts for interviews, interviewing candidates for a couple of days, hiring and training them in the ways of Showtime Pictures and Cirque du Soleil, along with overseeing every single performance to ensure our contract and mandate was fulfilled. To that end, I interviewed over 100 possible candidates for the duration of the tour, and personally hired approximately 80 people (It’s approximate since I can’t remember them all, and the turnover in some cities became quite problematic with rehiring and retraining midstream). I thank Cirque for their benevolence in giving us all a "Dark day"—when there is no scheduled show—which was Monday for our tour. The rest of the time and the rest of the days were filled with shows and thousands of Cirque fans and attendees coming and going not unlike the frenzy of a busy airport terminal. We always had 6 shows back to back starting early Friday afternoon, and ending at 10:30pm Sunday evening by which time I was completely exhausted and my staff looked ready to jump off the nearest bridge!
Along with the running of these regular shows, Cirque added certain special performances for which I also needed to oversee and staff. (You can imagine the glee with which I had these conversations with the Showrunner and my already overworked/underpaid staff). But we rallied the troop (pun intended!) and in fact managed to have at least a bit of fun in all the chaos. Some of the "surprise" duties for me were also managing payroll for all my staff; all collating & reporting to both my own head office and the higher ups at Cirque du Soleil; and the complete troubleshooting of our proprietary software and camera configurations which generally were fraught with troubles from the very onset right through to the end of the tour. If this wasn’t more than enough for one guy to handle, I was also responsible for the complete delivery, transportation, set-up and maintenance of our systems, along with the striking of the same, POST-city.
Altogether, it was certainly wonderful to get to know some of these cities and spend significant time in each really getting to know them from living in them for extended periods of time. I especially enjoyed Ottawa and the region around our Nation’s Capital. Florida is always great but Miami is another world entirely. Easy to get lost with so many causeways and easy to get mugged—or at least, so I was warned: “Don’t wear your watch out on the Boulevard!”
I was thankful to have become friends with Ricky E. and his terrific staff from Spectrum Entertainment, who oversaw the wonderful smorgasbord of food and spirits presented in an exclusive tent for all VIP patrons, always delighted by the artful presentation in the inimitable Cirque style of mystery, wonder and hospitality. Often I didn’t have time to break for a proper meal but I was comforted knowing I could sometimes nip over to his side of the grounds and have a few bites and a few laughs. That was indeed a warm, welcoming feeling on those cold nights in the tents without much in the way of heating, especially in both Vancouver and Ottawa.
CORTEO itself is very entertaining show, one of over a dozen current Cirque du Soleil offerings. The Grand Chapiteau—where it is staged—seats exactly 2721 guests, and more often than not, performances were completely sold out days in advance. (Ed. note: the N. American tour wrap finished in 2008, but the show continues to tour overseas and is currently in Japan)
..And no, I didn’t get to try the trapeze! Yes, I did make some very cool new friends along the way.
Shortly after the CORTEO wrap, I was promoted by the Company to be the recruiter/trainer and IT tech guru for other operations + exhibitions coming online.
This is where things REALLY got interesting. Instead of returning home for a much needed repose, I was immediately dispatched to Puerto Rico to set up the Caribbean tour for ‘Bodies: The Exhibition’. Puerto Rico and Viejo San Juan is definitely a place I can recommend stopping if you happen to be travelling around that part of the globe. The highlight here for me was waking each day early and going for an amazing run along the ramparts of the 16c. El Morro fortress. Stunning and unbelievable vistas marked by lovely bougainvillea and exotic plants and of course the deep azure blue South Caribbean Sea.
For the latter few months and till very recently, I began implementing contracts in various Club Med Resorts. The first was Club Med – Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, a sprawling resort with one of the most beautiful beaches to be found anywhere in the world. The city of Punta Cana was a bit strange. There is still no infrastructure to speak of as the development of this area of the D. R. has for the most part been quite recent. The little strip mall next to my condo had only a few amenities which included a bagel shop, a corner store, a couple of very expensive restaurants and none other than the CIBC bank whose glowing backlit plastic sign I could see clearly—and the only thing I could see—from my balcony: Very sureal. From there I made my way back to Florida and Club Med – Sandpiper, located in Port St. Lucie, near Orlando. Being so close to Orlando I took the opportunity to visit NASA’s headquarters at Cape Canaveral and the highlight here was not only to be absolutely thrilled by an unforgettable ride on the astronaut-designed 80 Million dollar Space Shuttle simulator, but to enjoy lunch with APOLLO 13’s CapCon Jack Lousma too! Back at the resort, I managed to get our set up completed early on this assignment and wound up having a mini vacation for an extra week here, before being given the next and what became my final assignment, Club Med – Gregolimano, located about 4 hours north of Athens, Greece. Grego was one of the most challenging assignments with several failed attempts at setting up full interactive touch screen systems only to find our locally sourced computers were only able to communicate in one language—Greek—which none of us spoke let alone could read or decipher the complicated sets of instructions. Our third attempt (and 10hr return trip to Athens) we managed to install everything and run the entire system without any perceptible troubles thanks mostly to the sheer will, determination and technical savvy of Showtime’s VP of Operations, Eric Churchill.
I ended my almost 2 year long journey and subsequent employment with Showtime in Athens, which for me was one of the most fascinating and interesting of cities I’ve ever set foot in. A visit to the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the ancient Agora and many other of the pivotal sites of the ancient world kept me busy for the entire week. I was also thrilled to be able take several excursions out of the city to the center of the ancient world, Delphi, traversing the rugged mountainous terrain of Montparnasse and charming Alpine Ski village of Arachova. And to Meteora, where only a few of the over 30 Orthodox temples are still found perched precariously on the apex of many massive rocky points reaching the sky. Finally it was to Ancient Corinth and to stand in the middle of the bridge spanning the most marvelous of 20th century feats of engineering, the famous Corinth Canal.
A formidable experience and journey around the globe it has been and now onto new things once more back here in Vancouver! -Ty