As a kid growing up in Kelowna Tim Hastings never dreamed he’d one day run off to join the circus and see the world.
But that’s what happened two years ago when Hastings, now 29 and a carpenter by trade, got the phone call from Cirque du Soleil officials that would change his life.
“It’s really a convoluted story,” said Hastings during a break prior to an evening performance of the Cirque show Varekai at the Maverik Centre in Salt Lake City, Utah. “When I lived in Kelowna I worked with a local company at Prospera Place and I also worked for the Kelowna Community Theatre doing stage work, lighting, anything I could get my hands on trying to find out how to make a living at this job I love so much.”
In 2008 and 2010 he was hired by separate Cirque shows to help out and the second time around he worked closely with the assistant production manager who he stayed in close contact with afterwards.
“Then a couple years later they needed a carpenter on a show that was touring Europe and I applied and was one of the people who was selected for an interview and two weeks later I was on a plane to Beirut,” said Hastings who is looking forward to his Okanagan homecoming when Varekai opens at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton on May 13. “The last tour I was on came through Kamloops and that was kind of fun because I got to see a lot of guys I worked with in Kelowna, so it’s always nice to come back. My mom (Joan Hastings) still lives in Kelowna and I get back as often as I can, probably not as often as she’d like.”
He admitted it was “heartbreaking” to leave his home town but realized there was little opportunity to find full-time employment in his career choice unless he did. Hastings currently lives in Vancouver when not touring with Cirque.
One of the first things he learned after joining the internationally-renowned entertainment giant is that it is much more than a job.
“It’s a lifestyle,” said Hastings who travelled to 14 countries his first year. “You’re on tour 10-12 weeks at a time and you can’t help but get to know people for good or bad, but mostly for good. If you can’t get along with everybody, if you don’t enjoy the travel, if you don’t enjoy the work and living this kind of lifestyle, you’re not going to last.
“You do miss object permanence, friends get on with their lives, you miss weddings and funerals and birthdays and births which is hard, but what I found is that the people who really matter to me understand. “
He finds spending about a week in each location, which is sometimes not long enough and others too long, is just right.
“You feel a little bit like a local, find something new everyday and then you’re gone again. It’s a nice balance between being a resident somewhere and just visiting,” he said. “There’s a very dedicated group of coffee drinkers on the tour and one of the first things we normally do is spread out in every direction and tell each other about all the coffee shops we found, that’s one of the highlights.”
On the set, Hastings described the job as a choreography of technicians working in harmony to get everything in place, especially setting up which, depending on the venue, can take up to 13 hours from the opening of the first of 18 semi trailers until the last tech goes out the door.
Take down is usually a lot quicker, usually less than four hours.
Circus life may not be for everyone, but according to Hastings: “Where I am in my life right now, this is the best thing I could be doing. It’s a dream come true.”