Alumni: Erik Smith
Erik Smith, M.F.A. ’19, got his start with Cirque du Soleil back in 2013 as an undergraduate in the UCI Department of Drama. Smith took a class in advanced stage management where he met Emily Carr, a guest lecturer from Cirque du Soleil. It was always a dream of Smith’s to work for Cirque, so Carr recommended that he apply for the Stage Management Internship the company offers. He applied and was accepted to be an intern at Zumanity in Las Vegas.
Fast forward a few years to when Smith decided to return to the Claire Trevor School of the Arts as a Graduate M.F.A. student in Stage Management. “I knew going back to graduate school that I wanted to use my time at UCI to propel my career forward and work for my dream company, Cirque du Soleil,” says Smith. “In the middle of my first year, I proposed to create an education program in partnership with Cirque as my M.F.A. thesis project.” Smith’s vision paid off, and both Cirque and UCI agreed to support his ambitious project. Together, they created a three-part program that took place in Fall, 2018.
The program included a class on Theatrical Innovation, taught by Smith, a single-day educational symposium at UCI, and a three-day trip where he took 55 UCI students and professors to Las Vegas to experience the behind-the-scenes inner workings of Cirque du Soleil. It was a massive project that took hundreds of hours to create and was ultimately a huge success.
"Think long term. While the program may be three years, use it as a launching pad for what you want to do."
It was while working on his thesis project that his dream came true. “At the beginning of my third year, I was asked to be an on-call assistant stage manager for KÀ by Cirque du Soleil. During that time, I was finishing up my thesis project, taking classes, teaching classes, and commuting every week to Las Vegas to work at KÀ! It was a hectic and exciting time.”
Since then, Smith has worked on three different Cirque du Soleil productions under six contracts. He is currently the on-call assistant stage manager for KÀ in Las Vegas. He works with artists, technicians, and staff members from all around the world, in a truly international environment.
Smith credits much of his success to his time at UCI and specifically to his mentors in the stage management program, chair of the department of drama Don Hill, and professor Joel Veenstra. He felt they valued his ideas and supported his unique academic and professional goals while at Claire Trevor School of the Arts.
When asked what advice he would give our current students, Smith says, “Think long term. While the program may be three years, use it as a launching pad for what you want to do. It is never too early to explore opportunities and make the most out of your grad-school experience. It goes by fast!”
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