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Success Story: The Show Goes on for MCC Graduate

Summer 2008 | Archives

Aaron Bush Aaron Bush spends his days tending a beach for two 5-foot crabs and a young princess. It may sound like a fantastic and larger than life job, and it is—Bush is a show carpenter for Cirque du Soleil´s Ka at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The MCC graduate and Omaha native claims his gig is "not too glamorous", but from one of the 1,951 specially designed seats in the Ka theatre, his work is part of the imaginative world and reputation of Cirque du Soleil. Bush´s story springs from a traditional theatre background. Born and raised in Omaha, Bush went to high school at Omaha North where he was a part of the drama club.

"I encountered a gang of strange, wild outcasts like me; I thought this is awesome," he said. He initially joined to pursue acting, but his interest was drawn to the technician´s role. He joined MCC´s Theatre Tech Apprenticeship Program with the Omaha Community Playhouse where he could specialize in the technical side of the theatre. He completed his Associate of Arts in Theatre Technology (specializing in carpentry) and Videography.

"I´m one of the few that has taken my training and really run with it. I started my first professional job the day after I turned 18," Bush said. The program was—and still is—registered with the U.S. Department of Labor to earn a certificate of apprenticeship after successfully completing 1,500 labor hours. But to Bush, the training and education proved more than a degree and a piece of paper.

"It was a good solid jumping off point," he said. His first professional contract as a technician was for $130 a week working 60 hours a week for eight weeks. Bush leveraged that experience and moved on to regional theatre, including a stint with the Utah Shakespeare Festival. He believes the apprenticeship trained him to the professional standards, making him able to apply these high standards to other places of work beyond MCC and the Omaha Community Playhouse.

"The thing that differentiates the people who come through the Apprenticeship Program and hit some important heights and those who don´t is their drive," said theatre tech apprenticeship coordinator Steve Bross. "Aaron was a keen observer and figured out early on into his career that he had to be incredibly good at what he did, and he had to determine how to move up the career ladder by taking some risks."

Bush credits his successful journey to more than risk-taking and his apprentice training.

Ka "Working in theatre, you´ve got to be persistent," he said. Before too long, his persistence and hard work paid off, leading him and his costumer wife to Las Vegas and Ka.

And of course, back to that beach for the giant crabs. Ka is the only Cirque du Soleil show with a set plot. Opened in February 2005, it uses martial arts, acrobatics, pyrotechnics and a massive rotating stage platform to tell the tale of imperial twins and their journey to fulfill their destinies. Bush´s main priority during setting up and running the show is the beach. The sand is created using 350 cubic feet of granular cork from Portugal, a material that must be maintained at all times by corralling the particles and controlling the moisture level. Other responsibilities include assisting with the circus nets and the airbags. He arrives at work at 4:30 p.m. to preset the show, works one show, resets the beach and all else needed, and runs the show again. Definitely not the typical day at the office for some, but for Bush, it´s become just a day in the theatre life.

"I knew there was a future, but not how limitless it was," he said. "The things (the apprenticeship program) teach you are invaluable."

Bush occasionally comes back to Omaha to visit family; and he´s returned to his alma mater to present three lectures in the past. His success is a story Bross and the apprenticeship team are proud to hear and to share.

"Aaron is a role model we use in the Apprenticeship Program," Bross said. "He still is paying us back—something not every successful person does, but one that reflects his appreciation for the program MCC and the Playhouse have established."

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