West Kelowna  

He ran away to the circus

At some point you may have wanted to run away and join the circus – and one West Kelowna man did just that.

Born and raised in West Kelowna and now based in Vancouver, Tim Hastings has spent the last two years on the road as a stage carpenter with Cirque du Soleil.

“It is a lot of work,” laughs Hastings from their current location in Portland. “You travel together, you work together, you eat together – you get to know each other really really well. It is pretty impossible to explain what touring life is like to people who haven't done it.”

“You send a lot of emails to friends at home, you pray for good wi-fi everywhere you go so you can stay in contact with people. Your world really does become very work-centric.”

Hastings joined the team with Varekai four months ago and says he is extremely excited the show is coming to his home area.

“After being across the world for so long it is really fun to be back,” says Hastings. “I am really excited to show people who aren't from the area some of my favourite things. I am definitely going to take some people to do a little bit of wine touring. If the weather is warm enough I'll let them float down the channel.”

He laughs that it is likely going to be a little too cold to enjoy the channel this early in the year.

“I am not planning on doing it,” says Hastings. “But, I wholeheartedly support their efforts to go have a local experience.”

"My mom is really excited to have me back in town for a week,” adds Hastings. “It will be fun just getting to show everyone where I grew up.”

Hastings and his team assemble the entire stage and their intricate designs before the show. During the performance, they work to ensure the talent stays safe.

“We handle the movement backstage of props and opening trap doors and keeping the artists safe in the dark,” explains Hastings. “Then, at the end of the week, we take it all down and put it back in the trucks.”

He says the safety of the artists and everyone on set is always the focus.

"Ideally, we want the artists to be comfortable in what they do and have nothing on their mind other than putting on a fantastic performance, and to do that they have to feel safe.”

With his role at Cirque, Hastings has had the opportunity to travel all over the world including 14 countries and most of North America.

“You get to see a lot,” says Hastings. “You learn how to order a beer in a lot of different languages.”

While Hastings says he has picked up a lot of French since joining the show, the majority of these performers are Russian. 

“The working language of the tour is English. A lot of the technicians are from Quebec and members of the band are from Quebec as well. So, French is widely spoken on the show, as is Russian and English,” says Hastings. “It is a very multicultural experience.”

The entire Varekai team consists of 23 technicians, about 53 artists and 20 support staff. When they hit the road they require 17, 53-foot semi-trailers and a 18th catering truck with their own refrigerated trailer they bring along. The staff require at least two tour busses or a plane.

Once the technicians get to a local venue, they hang approximately 86,000 pounds off the roof of the arena, including 650 feet of 22 inch box truss (a modular truss system they suspend their equipment from).

“If you come to the show and look up, there is a lot to look up at,” says Hastings.

Hastings says after two years working with Cirque, the work of the performers still blows his mind.

“The sheer athleticism is phenomenal, it is just phenomenal,” says Hastings.

“They make so much of what they do look so incredibly easy. You watch them stand on top of each other in a tower and you think wow thats so great, and then you realize what they are actually physically accomplishing with their bodies and it makes your head hurt a little bit.”

Varekai by Cirque du Soleil is based on a dormant volcano, a mystical forest and an ancient prophecy.

Varekai is performing in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre from May 13 -17.

Tickets are available at www.cirquedusoleil.com/varekai or by calling 1-250-276-2144.  

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