The circus is coming to town! Not just any, the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. From August 16-20 at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, you can slide into the magical and joyful world of Ovo. There is something a little extra special about this show though. One of the main characters, Michelle Matlock, is a queer woman of color in a show directed by a woman and a Brazilian for the first time.
We caught up with Matlock, a 44 year-old from Tacoma, Washington, to ask about her journey and this incredible show.
I hear your journey from Washington to New York was an interesting one.
This story is about my first day in New York City. I went to do a Shakespeare acting program in the Catskills. It was an eight or ten week course. One weekend one of our teachers invited us down to the city to see a show that she was in. So we all traveled to New York City and saw the show. That next morning I was trying to get to Port Authority to get back up to the Catskills but the cab was stuck in traffic and it wasn’t moving. So I asked, what was going on? He said, “the gay people are marching.” I got out of the taxi and walked across Washington Square Park. And right in font of me was the parade. That year the parade was going up Fifth Ave. up to Central park. I walked the entire thing, it changed my life. I had no idea there were that many gay people anywhere.
It sort of solidified that I needed to be in New York.
Sounds like you were in the right place at the right time and being there changed the course of your life.
Yea that’s true. I was originally supposed to do just that summer program and then go back to Washington.
How did you get to Cirque?
I was in New York. I created a one woman show that traveled quite a bit around the world and was playing in New York. One of the casting people from Cirque came to a show and afterwards they asked me to audition. I guess I did pretty well and made it through to the end. They said that they liked what I did and they would keep me on file. About four years later they called me and asked me to create the role of Ladybug.
What was the audition like?
It was incredible. I actually flew to my hometown of Seattle to do it. It was a two day audition and it was more of a two day workshop. I felt I left that audition a better performer.
Tell us about Ovo.
It’s the first show when you have a woman, the first woman, to direct it. Ovo is definitely Brazilian themed with the rhythms of Brazil and the colors of Brazil.
My role in the show is Ladybug, who is the romantic of the show. I don’t know if you knew, but ladybugs are both genders, but she’s referred to as she. She helps tell the very simple love story of a city fly called the Foreigner, who comes to the community. The story unfolds and follows their antics and how they fall in and out of love throughout the show.
Tell me a little bit about Ladybug. How did you develop your character?
Pretty much she’s the romantic of the show. I think she symbolizes hope in Ovo. She’s the only one of her kind. There are many families of bugs but Ladybug is the only ladybug. She finds confidence in herself but she is in search of love. I think she finds it as the show unfolds. When I was developing the character it seemed very natural that she would be full of joy, not be very negative, very innocent, childlike but not childish, and ready to accept whatever comes her way. I think that’s probably why I’ve enjoyed playing the part for so long because no matter what’s going on in the world playing her is this moment of pure joy and happiness.
What’s it like being a member of the LGBTQ community and in Cirque du Soleil?
Well, I mean Cirque is the LGBTQ community. Gosh, I don’t know how to answer that question. I mean it’s fine, it’s good, it’s fun. There’s nothing that stands out as a positive or negative about that, it just is. LGBTQ is here just like everywhere else. It’s just fine, it’s great, and I’ve enjoyed it.
For anyone who’s going to see Ovo next week, what are somethings people should be looking out for or paying attention to?
Just come and enjoy the show. It’s colorful, it’s bright, unlike a lot of other shows that have dark overtones. The costumes are amazing, the acts are amazing. Yea just check your adult at the door and have a great time. With all the crap that’s going on in the world this is a moment you can escape and enjoy looking at tricks and fun times.
Still not convinced? Check out the trailer and get your tickets for this incredible adventure. There are only seven performances so don’t miss out!