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TBA Online: News & Features: December 2016

The Business of Showbiz: Joining the Circus

Wednesday, December 7, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TBA Staff
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By Velina Brown

Contributing author Velina Brown breaks down how to use technology to set yourself up for success for getting exposure and landing auditions.

I’m a circus performer. I create my own bits of physical comedy and gags, including characters and specialty costuming that I came up with on my own. My dream is to work with Cirque du Soleil. I’ve sent in a couple of audition tapes but haven’t gotten anywhere with them. But the truth is I haven’t been sending in my best stuff. I'm holding back because I heard that if I submit an audition tape of my act I’m giving them the rights to it. My understanding is if they were to see my act in an audition tape Cirque du Soleil would then own it. So I’ve been holding back routines I don’t want to give up the rights to but doing so isn’t getting me anywhere. It’s such a catch 22. What do I do?

Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.

A: If it’s true then that is a catch 22. I’m not really a circus person but a surprising number of my friends are. So I‘ve asked a couple of Cirque du Soleil vets about your concerns. One source says that there is no company policy giving Cirque du Soleil ownership of the acts that their casting scouts view in audition tapes. However, they have heard of people feeling that audition tapes have provided “inspiration” for material that has gone into shows.

Therefore, they advice that, since most auditions these days are for replacement performers, the best way to protect your original material is to not audition with it. Instead look at different Cirque du Soleil shows and find an act that you can recreate well. Learn it and record that to demonstrate that you possess the skills required for the job.


If however, you have a truly unique act that you feel would be your strongest audition piece then you could do “the poor man’s copyright.” Mail a copy of your time-stamped audition tape to yourself and keep it sealed in case there is a problem. You can then prove that you were doing the act before it appeared in a Cirque du Soleil show.


Another Cirque du Soleil veteran says, “Fact is, once you get hired by Cirque they may indeed take your original routine and work you on it with a raft of advisors and experts.


“It may end up looking very different or very much the same as the original. Regardless, yes, they do own it once it's been thru their process. That way they can give it to the person who replaces the original."


“But as far as taking ownership of a routine that is used as an audition I don't think they can do that. But if you are chosen and your act goes through the CdS process it will only get better. I'd advise … go for it.”


And then finally, a veteran of Le Reve pointed out this YouTube video:


"At about 6:30 it talks about what a good demo for Cirque should include. I would add, that one should follow the instructions, but also feel free to "clown" the whole process. Really show who you are. Be an artist, not merely an submitter who follows all the instructions; make yourself memorable without being annoying or taking too much time. If you’re not getting any traction, then I suggest you find some clowns who regularly work for Cirque and take workshops with them. If you’re good, you should be able to improvise, or create a bit that shows you’re level."


These three seasoned performers have worked in the highest levels of circus performing and offer some great advice. While it’s always possible that someone may try to rip you off it doesn’t seem to be Cirque du Soleil’s policy to take ownership of audition material.


Learn more about the Cirque du Soleil casting process in this four part YouTube documentary called Clown Lab: It’s an incredibly arduous process but if you have what it takes definitely go for it!  It will be an amazing ride. I look forward to seeing you under the big top!


Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at