Cirque du Soleil returns to Chicago with OVO, a show about the world of insects. OVO translates to “egg” in English from Portuguese and that is where the plot begins as an egg appears among the insects. There is also a love story involving the ladybug played by Michelle Matlock. Gozamos sat down to talk with her and Marjon van Grunsven about the Brazilian influence of the show and the bugs that make this Cirque show tick.
Gozamos: Hello, ladies. I just saw a sneak peak at the Notebaert Nature Museum this morning.
Marjon van Grunsven: It was really early but lots of fun.
Michelle Matlock: There were many cute children.
Is it a kid’s show?
MG: It wasn’t when it was created but turned into a family show.
MM: It is very much a family show. There are enough spectacular things that happen for the adults and enough silliness and silly characters for the kids. It is really great for parents to take their young ones but everyone will enjoy it.
How is it different than other Cirque shows?
MG: The thing that strikes me the most is that in this show there is no human character portrayed; it is all insects.
MM: I would say that it is not as dark as a lot of the Cirque shows. This one is bright and uplifting.
MG: It is very colorful and very happy.
MM: It’s a joyful love story.
So a good summer show?
MG: It is a summer show but also very good in the winter to go and see since it is so bright.
What can audiences expect to see as far as tricks?
MG: We have nine different acrobatic acts. They are all amazing from trapeze to trampoline acts.
MM: We have contortionists…
MG: …High wire…
MM: Hand balancing, foot juggling…
So quite a variety. Are there singers?
MG: Yes. We have one. Her name is Marie-Claude and she is a cockroach. She has a wonderful, beautiful, soft voice.
Is she a Canadian cockroach?
How was the show created?
MG: Our show was created and opened in 2009 in Montreal. The creation process started a few years before that. Deborah Colker from Brazil created our show. Chantal Tremblay director of creation found all these people and brought them together to create the show from the set designer to the composer. Deborah became part of that process of choosing who she wants to work with so there were a lot of Brazilians involved. A cricket can jump three times its own height so thought that is great for a Cirque show. She was able to get acrobats that can actually do that. It was fun to work with that idea. For the ladybug she was very clear about what she wanted there right, Michelle?
MM: Yeah, she had a very definite vision of what she wanted with her being the romantic in the show. She was very content with herself but hadn’t found that love. She was the only one of her type of insect but looking for love.
MG: And she finds it.
Don’t spoil the ending (all laugh). What does a ladybug look for in the world? There are no manbugs…
MM: Well it turns out that there is but her love interest is a fly. The character is called the Foreigner. He arrives to this community of insects as a foreigner. He brings an egg that is very valuable in our world. It is a symbol of life. He is very attractive in the way he moves and looks. He is very appealing to the ladybug. It’s love at first sight.
What is your background?
MM: I grew up in Washington State. Prior to getting the Cirque gig, I was in New York for about fifteen years. I am a classically trained actress that moved into the clowning world from Big Apple Circus to Circus Amok. I fell into it from writing my own plays and doing stuff like that. I auditioned for Cirque and after five years got called back for the ladybug role.
For all of our ladybug fans out there, are you openly a lesbian?
MM: I am.
MG: Also, it would be cool to mention that Deborah Colker was the first female to create a Cirque show. That was really special, the first female Brazilian choreographer.
What is your background, Marjon?
MG: I was born and raised in Holland. I was trained as a professional jazz dancer. I moved to New York and lived there for almost 8 years. I started my own company there. I moved back to Europe and started my own production company there in Holland. I was called in 2007 by Cirque and they wanted an artistic director for Delirium. It was going to be a temporary assignment that became a permanent one. I always dreamed of working for Cirque ever since I saw their first show in 1992 in New York. It was a big blessing to be asked to work with this company.
Well, it has a huge reputation so I am sure that could be intimidating.
MG: I was at first but now we are in it and it’s our life, our family and what we know. There is not a day that goes by that I think it is great to work for the circus. You see the big top and it is just incredible. You hear the audience and roaring applauses. It is just fantastic.
Where do you go after Chicago?
MG: We go on to Calgary, Mexico City, Portland then to Australia after that.
Is it hard traveling and being away from partners?
MG: It is and it isn’t. We travel with about 126 people that is our community. We have 54 people in the cast. That is a big chunk of the 126. We live together so some of find mates on tour or travel with their partners and children. We have 24 little children right now.
MG: It is really a story about love and life. They weren’t all born in those two years that we started but there are actually a few that were conceived during our time on OVO.
So it really is circus life.
MG: Yes. We have beautiful apartments. People tend to think we live behind the big top or maybe in a caravan or something, that is not the case.
Anything else about the show?
MG: I highly recommend to come and see it. It is a wonderful experience. It has a very beautiful and simple message. It is the message of love and life. Love each other, be happy, love yourself and especially have fun.
Give a standing ovation for OVO when it runs from now until August 21 at the Big Top, Grand Chapiteau, United Center, 1901 West Madison St. Visit http://www.cirquedusoleil.com for tickets and details.