0

GDP takes a look behind the scenes of 'Totem'

If you go

• What: Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem”

• When: Runs through Dec. 23

• Where: Atlantic Station, 20th Street, Atlanta

• Cost: $36.50 to $153.50

• For more information: Visit cirquedusoleil.com

ATLANTA -- It takes an entire village to produce Cirque du Soleil's traveling show "Totem," which seats 2,600 people per performance at Atlantic Station.

"Totem" travels with 64 trailers carrying more than 1,200 tons of equipment for the tour and 120 touring employees with 50 official accompanying members -- spouses and family. The cast and crew have learned to live out of their suitcases in hotel rooms.

"I personally love traveling," acrobat Umihiko Miya said, who has been with the company for three years. "I've gotten used to it. When I stay too long (in a city), I get antsy."

And why wouldn't he love to travel? Cirque provides everything needed to live on the road.

From when the blue and yellow tent goes up to two months later when it's time to move, the employees are given everything they need to successfully train, eat and rest.

The entire site set-up takes eight days including the construction of entrance, hospitality and rehearsal tents, box office, administrative offices and kitchen. The permanent crew can't do all of that work, so Cirque hires more than 100 local laborers to help with the tent for assembly and break down.

The kitchen consists of four trailers that expand to six trailers to serve around 200 to 250 meals a day to the cast and crew. There are three traveling cooks and one kitchen manager.

"The performers need to stay in the best shape," publicist Francis Jalbert said. "And they have to eat well to take care of their bodies."

In a smaller tent behind the main stage, there is a backstage area where the athletes warm up before it's time to hit the stage, workout to keep their muscles toned, fix and maintain the costumes and watch the pervious performances.

"They film every single show we have here, send it back to Montreal to be monitored for training purposes, if there is an injury on stage, to assess the performance and to hold up the integrity of the show to make sure it is how it is intended to be," Production Coordinator Rowenna Jeffries said. "It helps us have a polished product."

For those performers with families, there are three teachers who travel around with the "Totem" cast to provide a traditional education to the children. While on set, they learn other abilities, too.

"It's good for the children because they are introduced to different languages and cultures," Miya said.

Behind the big top, the cast, crew and wardrobe have the ability to wash laundry because the site is connected to Atlanta's water and sewage lines, plus telecommunications. Other than that, the venue is self-sustainable. Four generators provide electricity, which is important for regulating the temperatures inside.

"We have to know the humidity because (the performers are) touching each other many feet in the air," Jalbert said about the reason for strict temperatures. "We also try to keep the tent at a certain temperature (to patron comfort), but it fluctuates ... the wind also makes an impact on the structure. There are a lot of challenges that you wouldn't find in a regular theater."

It may seem like "Totem" is taken care of by the touring cast, but the company also hired locals to help during the performance's tenure in Atlanta.

Around 150 people are hired in each market for a variety of jobs, including ushers, box office ticket sellers, corporate hospitality hosts, food and beverage attendants, merchandising sales staff, kitchen attendants, prep-cooks, janitors and a receptionist.

Plus, the tour relies on local suppliers for many essentials such as food, bio-diesel fuel, dry ice, machinery, banks, delivery services, recycling and waste management.

You never knew it would take so much work for one night following the evolution of man, did you?