Carnegie Mellon University

Drama in Vegas


Architecture Theater Class Goes Backstage at Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas

lasvegasThe fourth-year architecture theater studio is an interdisciplinary class of eight architecture students and six drama students. Dick Block, associate head of the School of Drama, co-teaches the course with Kevin Wagstaff, an architect and partner at Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel in downtown Pittsburgh. Both instructors were looking for a trip that would be of equal interest to both architecture and drama students.

The class is sponsored by Carnegie Mellon alumnus Leonard Auerbach (A'66, '67). Auerbach was the theater consultant for three Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas: "KA," "The Beatles LOVE," and "Elvis." Auerbach offered to give the instructors and students behind the scenes tours of these purpose built theaters.
The class visited the Mirage in Las Vegas, where Auerbach gave the group an introduction to the Cirque de Soleil shows. The group toured the "LOVE" theater at the Mirage, where they were given a demonstration of the sound system, lighting, stage lifts, projection system and other features of the theater. They also had access to the backstage spaces, including the grid.

Students toured the "KA" Theater at MGM Grand, and learned how the theater technology works. The group was able to attend opening night of "KA" and also watched the reset of the complex stage between the first and second show.

Wagstaff said the students really got to see their learning in action: "following up the tours with seeing a Cirque show live put the technology in context with the artistry, and made it all make sense."

Pictured above: Students in the architecture theater studio class visiting "The Beatles" set in Las Vegas.

Eric Sloss