"The Friends of Cirque"
Text by: Richard Russo | November 2002
Fascination! Newsletter, Issue #15
Are you a friend of Cirque du Soleil? As a fan you'd probably answer
"yes" without any hesitation. But would you be surprised if I told you
the answer was most likely "no"? Before you wrinkle your forehead in
confusion or yell out in protest let me ask you another question: Have
you ever come across a page dotted with star-like shapes accompanying
names within your Cirque du Soleil programmes and wondered what that
page was all about?
If you've seen such a page then you've stumbled upon the recognition
for "The Friends of Cirque du Soleil" and the reason for this line of
questioning. The page described can be found in many of Cirque's
earliest printed programmes, from its first organized tour through
Quidam's original North American Tour (1996-1998). Yet, the
purpose of the page is rarely described.
We are going to take a look at some of the treasures that lurk within
some of the earlier Cirque's programmes, beginning with "The Friends of
Cirque du Soleil" program.
So, what is "The Friends of Cirque du Soleil"?
"The Friends..." was a special club created by Cirque du Soleil to
recognize its greatest sponsors and most generous contributors in its
earliest days. Cirque du Soleil wasn't always the multi-million dollar
company it is today, and Cirque initially relied on 3rd-party funding
to put on its shows. In the beginning the majority of the troupes
operational budget came from the Canadian Government, but that just
wasn't enough. For example, the table below is a cross reference of
Cirque's operational budget, the percentage subsidized by the Quebec
Government, number of shows that year and the number of people
Operational Budget % Gvt # Shows # Empl.
------------------ ------- ------- -------
1984 $1,328,655 CDN 97% 50 45
1985 $2,332,867 CDN 50% 160 72
1986 $4,000,000 CDN 27%-32% 208 77
1987 $5,400,000 CDN 15%-17% 276 120
1988 $6,000,000 CDN 10% 312 150
[Source: Cirque du Soleil]
In order to keep up with their needs, another percentage of their
budget was donated from companies and citizens within Canada. It's
those donations that are honored on "The Friends of Cirque du Soleil"
And how did you become an honored "Friend" of Cirque du Soleil?
Simple, by "purchasing" a seat under the big top for $500.00 CDN or
more, placing you in one of three categories: Silver, Gold or
Platinum. Each one had a different price bracket: Silver at $500 CDN,
Gold at $1000 CDN and Platinum at $5000 CDN. And depending on the
amount you donated you received a plethora of unique gifts.
For a donation between $500.00 CDN and $999.99 CDN, you were
considered Silver Status and received a permanently affixed nameplate
on a ringside seat under the big top with the donators name on it.
For a donation between $1000.00 CDN and $4999.99 CDN, you were
considered Gold Status and received the same rights and privileges as
a Silver Status member and two other perks: the donator's name printed
every year in the Cirque du Soleil souvenir program, and the donator's
name posted on the "Friends of the Cirque du Soleil billboard affixed
within the confines of the big top.
And for a $5000.00 CDN donation or more, you were considered Platinum
Status and received the same rights and privileges as a Gold Status
member and two additional perks: an honorary certificate attesting to
your support of the Cirque, and two complimentary tickets for a show in
every city on the tour. Wow!
Through the years many individuals and companies donated outright to
Cirque or contributed to their "chair buying program". Chair buying
programs are nothing new and are put into place to help raise money
for a cause - such as keeping a museum running or in this case, a
new circus. Some of Cirque's givers include:
- Groupe La Laurentienne (1985)
- Air Canada (1986)
- René Lévesque (1986)
- LOCAM (1986)
- UltraMar (1987)
- Dominion Textile (1988)
- Bombardier, Inc. (1988)
- Lowes Hotels (1989)
- Lavery O'Brien (1990)
- Leon Constantiner (1993)
- Alban Asselin, Les Coopérants (1986)
- Gabriel Groulx C.A. (1986)
- Alan B. Slifka (1987)
- MicroFlex (1987)
- Mount'n Seal (1988)
- Mary Calder Rower (1988)
- Zurich Canada (1992)
But with Cirque du Soleil emerging as a major player on not only the
circus scene but the performing arts scene, the company no longer
needed to rely on government funding or patron donations to keep
afloat and "The Friends of Cirque du Soleil" all but disappeared.
Today, Cirque du Soleil is self-sufficient and blossoming, no longer
needing donations to keep itself operating. In fact, the last mention
of this program came in the Quidam 1998 programme and with it
"The Friends of Cirque du Soleil" became nothing more than a memory.