Stage manager Marisa Vest, who grew up in Vernon, at the controls during rehearsal last week for the Cirque du Soleil production of Crystal at the Valley View Casino Centre in San Diego, Calif. Mark Brett/Western News

Okanagan woman living the dream with Cirque du Soleil

A Vernon woman is currently touring with the Cirque du Soleil show Crystal as stage manager

Growing up in Vernon, the theatre became a passion for Marisa Vest very early, but little did she realize it would one day land her under the very big top.

While her initial interests were being on stage, it turned out what was happening behind the scenes that would become her vocation of choice.

Related: Cirque du Soleil returns to the South Okanagan Events Centre

Vest, who graduated from W.L. Seaton in 2000, is currently one of three stage managers for the ice-breaking Cirque du Soleil production of Crystal coming to Penticton and Abbotsford next month.

The Western News caught up with Vest last week during the company’s stop in San Diego, Calif. where they spent four days at the downtown Valley View Casino Centre.

“So from my humble beginnings in B.C. to being on one of the newest shows in Cirque du Soleil, it’s just been a wonderful journey,” said Vest during a break in her rehearsal schedule. “This journey has taken me all over the world.

“I’ve been with the company for almost eight years and, quite honestly, I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else.”

Related: On the set in San Diego with Cirque du Soleil

Part of the stage managers job involves the rehearsals that take place on the day of the show where performers work on their various routines.
Mark Brett/Western News

She credited her Seaton drama teachers Dave Bronsky and Monty Hughes along with her work at Powerhouse Theatre for steering her in the right direction.

“They (teachers) were sort of my big champions at the time and they showed me there are not only opportunities in acting, but there was other opportunities backstage,” said Vest who decided to go to the University of Victoria to study fine arts upon graduation.

After getting her degree, she decided to spend a couple of summers at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

From there, Vest made her way to Ontario where she began apprenticing in the Toronto (where she now lives) theatre community, putting in a couple of seasons at the nearby Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Some friends of hers were working with Cirque, which intrigued her and so she decided to go to Hamilton where there was a Cirque production playing to see what it was all about.

“I probably asked them a million questions and they were great and answered every single one of them,” recalled Vest. “I sent my resume into Cirque and a couple days later I got a phone call and they interviewed me to see if I would be a good fit for them and they put me on their pipeline.”

That was a list of potential employees the company was interested in when a suitable position came up.

A year later she got the call that would change her life.

“I interviewed again and got the job,” said Vest. “The show that was going out was Dralion (in Penticton in 2011) and I toured with them for four and a half years.”

After that, she went to Europe for the production of Quidam before coming back to North America.

Related: On the set in San Diego with Cirque du Soleil

It was then, in Montreal, she expanded her role, working on the creation of TORUK the First Flight, James Cameron’s collaboration with Cirque to build a prequel to the Avatar films.

“It was a massive production, it’s the biggest show I’ve ever worked on and I spent two years there,” said Vest. “And then, once again, I was asked if I would do another creation this time in a totally new format in the world of ice and acrobatics. I said absolutely and I ended up here on Crystal.”

Marisa Vest relays instructions to crew on the set of Crystal in San Diego, Calif.
Mark Brett/Western News

Crystal is the title character and the name of Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever experience on ice and is unlike anything else the company has ever done. The show is a fusion of the troupe’s patented circus arts and the graceful gliding disciplines of figure skating and just about everything in between. Blurring the boundaries and melding the two into a timeless storyline is the goal of this 42nd production by Cirque directors. Work on the production began last June with the first previews in October and the world premiere in Montreal in December.

As stage manager, Vest’s duties are all-encompassing, co-ordinating all aspects from rehearsal to show time.

A solid understanding of both the artistic and technical aspects of the show are a must, as well as being able to solve problems.

“That’s really what I enjoy the most, I guess a lot of people might not like that but I think that’s where my strengths are,” said Vest.

She added whether you are a performer or crew member living in close quarters on the road for as much as 40 weeks a year requires a very special personality type. That is particularly evident off the set, where the greetings usually include a hug.

“Absolutely it’s like family, it’s sort of like travelling with a 100 of your closest friends and family,” said Vest. “It’s quite wonderful that way because there’s always someone to go out and have an adventure with. There’s someone to have a quiet day in with and there’s always a lot of people you can find that share your interests at work every day.”

Rehearsal of the first number of the second act under full lights.
Mark Brett/Western News

Crystal will be at the Abbotsford Centre for eight shows April 11 to 15 and at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton April 18 to 22.

Tickets for the Penticton show are available in person at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC) over the phone at 1-877-763-2849 or online. Tickets for the Abbotsford show are available at the Abbotsford Centre box office, by phone at 1-855-985-5000 or online.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Western News Publisher Warren Smith takes a look at the 2020 Best of the South Okanagan supplement appearing in today’s (Wednesday, Oct. 21) paper.
Hot off the Press: The Best of the South Okanagan

Check out Wednesday’s Penticton Western News for winners and favourites

Swimming lessons are returning to the Penticton pool. (Western News file photo)
Swim lessons return to Penticton pool

Registration starts on Thursday

Penticton RCMP have been cleared of any wrongdoing following the July 31, 2020 death of an elderly woman. (Black Press file photo)
Police watchdog finds Penticton RCMP not responsible for woman’s death

The investigation stems from an incident in July

Penticton law courts. (Black Press file)
Osoyoos man in court for alleged shooting

The Oct. 11 shooting left a man with non-life threatening injuries

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

(Kelowna Capital News)
B.C. Labour Board orders Peachland cannabis company to reinstate laid-off employees

The B.C. Labour Relations Board determined the employees were laid off due to their plan to unionize

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Curtis Sagmoen
Public warning issued to North Okanagan sex trade workers

RCMP warns workers to stay away from Salmon River Road area

Two pigs roam the Salmon Arm Walmart parking lot during a prior visit photographed by Danielle Burgi. (Danielle Burgi photo)
Pigs trot over for a visit at Salmon Arm shopping centre

Employees say this was the second drop-in from the temporarily free-range porkers

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Princeton man on motor scooter refuses to provide breath test to police

The scooter did not have a license plate and was not insured

The Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP located a hidden compartment in a vehicle, leading to a significant drug seizure, police said in a media release Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (RCMP photo)
Vernon RCMP find illicit drugs in hidden vehicle compartment

Police seized 4 kg of methamphetamine from a Jeep involved in a violent hit and run March 24

Most Read