Former Clark State Community College student Ryan Knox says the most challenging part of being in the entertainment industry is “waiting your turn.” On June 30 of this year, it was Knox’s turn to land his dream job.
Knox, a graduate of Springfield High School, is now a follow-spot operator and technician with the Cirque du Soleil show KÁ. “A lot of people work as entertainment technicians, and there are not a lot of entertainment jobs this day in age,” said Knox. “But the key is to keep doing what you can and build that resume, so when your time comes, you are ready for that dream job.”
Knox, who now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, attended Clark State to obtain an Associate of Arts degree in Technical Theatre. He later transferred to a college in Ithaca, New York. “When Ryan started at Clark State, he was already very theatre focused through his work in high school and with the Ohio Performing Arts Institute,” said Theresa Lauricella, associate professor and theatre program coordinator at Clark State.
Lauricella said Knox told her in one of their first conversations that he wanted to work for Cirque du Soleil. “Being a huge fan of Cirque's art myself, I championed his goal to make it happen,” she said. “During his years at Clark State, Ryan jumped in with both feet working backstage at the Clark State Performing Arts Center through the college work-study program.”
Knox said Clark State helped him understand what he wanted to do with his life after college. “I think the best thing about Clark State that really helped me get to where I am today was the opportunity to work in a professional theatre while attending class. Doing shows in the Kuss Auditorium was amazing to put on my resume, and you can never have too much experience.”
Laura Everling Mulchay was an artist with Cirque du Soleil’s KÁ from 2004-2010. She performed as an acrobat, aerialist and character performer. She said the spot light operator is important aesthetically because light is responsible for showing the audience what to look at and also for the safety of the performers. “Light creates space, and in a theatrical ‘void’ such that there is at KÁ, the spot operator is inherently a part of the act.” Mulchay said the operator and the performer “do a dance” together, one informing the other almost intuitively. “The operator must know the track and be able to respond when things go differently,” she said. “At its best, the two dance in synchronicity. Although the audience sees only the one on stage, there are at least two that make the image happen.”
Knox learned the practical side of technical theatre by crewing the shows in the Kuss Auditorium. “He had the opportunity to receive real-world, paid training like building sets, hanging and focusing lights, engineering sound and much more,” said Lauricella. “As a student, Ryan stage managed shows produced by the Clark State Theatre Arts Program, and he co-designed lights for Eurydice.
Following college Knox began working with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus as a lighting technician. While working there a friend employed by Cirque du Soleil’s Believe informed him they were looking for lighting technicians for KÁ. Knox applied; and so began his new career with KÁ, which performs ten times a week at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
“I'd like to say that when I found out he took a job with Cirque du Soleil that I was surprised, but I wasn't,” said Lauricella. “As his teacher, I knew Ryan would meet his dream eventually, and when you get the chance to see a former student meet their dream, it is actually a pretty phenomenal moment.”
Knox said he is grateful for the opportunities he had and credits Clark State for helping him succeed. “The teaching staff at Clark State is amazing,” he said. “They teach you as much as they can in the short amount of time they have.” He encourages theatre students to network and meet other technicians and to never quit learning.