While over 3,000 people sat in the audience of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino watching Cirque du Soleil’s “O,” Alan Perez was working behind the set as a technical rigger.
Now Perez is making the change from Las Vegas to join the Ball State Department of Theatre and Dance staff.
“I had heard about Ball State’s Theatre Department and the great things they’ve done,” he said. “So I had to take this opportunity.”
As an instructor, one of his goals is to teach his students these values of safety and precision in the world of the performing arts. Both traits were vital for success with Cirque.
“Working in theatre, safety has always been a concern, but my mentality changed at Cirque because people’s lives were literally hanging on the line,” Perez said.
“O,” featuring acrobatic stunts from both air and water, is a world-renowned production and served as Perez’s job for over two years.
“As soon as I walked into the space, it was immediate — I wanted to work there,” Perez said of "O." “It’s arguably the best show in the world and I definitely wanted that experience.”
While working to complete his MFA at the University of Virginia, Perez began an independent study with a metal working company.
“In doing this independent study, Alan put himself in the position to compete for the Cirque du Soleil 'O' position as Rigging Department Welder,” Steve Warner, the Technical Director at UVA and Perez’s boss, instructor and mentor during graduate school, said.
Perez performed a variety of tasks while working with Cirque, such as training artists, experimenting with new acrobatic tricks and working on maintenance of the equipment.
Perez's coworker on the rigging crew, Jacob Nathan, started at Cirque du Soleil on the same day, giving them the chance to get acclimated to the overwhelming nature of the show together.
“Working with him was easy,” Nathan said. “We started the same day so we were able to learn the ropes together. We were both a little overwhelmed by the sheer size and complexity of the showroom.”
Whenever Perez would be working the performance, he would go from being 110 feet in the air straight down to the bottom of the pool. Since Cirque’s “O” is a water show of immense proportions, it requires a 1.5 million gallon pool—almost three times the size of an Olympic swimming pool. In order to be able to work underwater for the show, Perez had to become scuba certified.
Even though he expressed having a very unique experience at Cirque du Soleil, Perez explained that he had always wanted to get back into educational theatre.
Perez will now be the new interim technical director for University Theatre. His responsibilities will include building all sets for main stage productions and teaching several classes.
“Alan will instill a sense of organization and process to the production and class environments. The students will go away feeling empowered to do more by having learned to plan an effective process,” Warner said. “Alan is also a stickler for safety and creates an environment that leaves those working with him feeling confident and secure.”
Perez also hopes to teach students about the importance of gaining real-world experience in order to gain an appreciation of what professional theatre is really like. However, he is still looking forward to going back to his roots in educational theatre.
His ability to bring knowledge and experience from an advanced production to the classroom will be a great way to inspire students, Nathan said about Perez.
“He will hopefully inspire students by telling them some of the incredible opportunities there are out there in the entertainment production world, not only with Cirque, but with other large scale production companies as well,” Nathan said.