Thursday, August 03, 2017

Cirque du Soleil’s Lovely Ladybug Lands in Charm City

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
Love bugs– Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Ovo’ Love bugs– Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Ovo’

Audiences are invited to enter the enchanting world of Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” this month at Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena. Running from Wednesday, August 23rd – Sunday, August 27th, “Ovo” is a headlong rush into a colorful ecosystem teeming with life. A world where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight, and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement. It’s love at first sight when a gawky, quirky fly arrives in this bustling community and a fabulous ladybug catches his eye– and the feeling is mutual.

“Ladybug is kind of this symbol of love in the show,” explains Ladybug performer Michelle Matlock. “She is the only ladybug in the show. A lot of other families of bugs have other groups with them. She starts off as a pretty lonely ladybug looking for love. But she’s confident and secure with herself just looking for that right bug to come into her life.”

Matlock works hard to peel back the layers of Ladybug’s character in order to translate the meaning of the character for audiences. “For me, Ladybug is always just about the joy of life and finding the love of your life. She’s a symbol of what we all go through. It’s a very simple story but it’s a love story. Ladybug meets ‘the fly’ and they instantly fall for each other. Throughout the show, they go through the ups and downs of dating. He’s not doing what she wants him to do and so yes, it’s kind of a reflection of what people go through on their way to finding love in a relationship.”

The show, which premiered in Montreal in 2009, started production with Matlock as Ladybug. “It was about nine years ago that I was asked to create this role.” Matlock explained. “I was part of the creation of this character. We did about 6 months of creative work before the show opened.”

Prior to Matlock joining the show, the Seattle, Washington, native had been performing in New York. She shared how an “accidental” gay march changed the course of her career and life. “This happened during my first visit to New York City. I’d come to New York to do an acting program in the Catskills for the summer. That weekend a teacher had invited us down to see a show she had written. I’d absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I was trying to make my way back, but the taxi was stuck in traffic. There I was, sitting and watching the meter going up and up. The driver told me that there was a gay march taking place. So I got out of the taxi, somewhere in the West Village, and in Washington Square Park guys on motorcycles were revving engines. That year the parade was going from Washington Square to Times Square, and it was a celebration in honor of Stonewall. It was a particularly important march that year. I just went and I ended up marching all the way up 5th Avenue.”

Matlock laughed and continued, “This was a wide-eyed 20-year-old’s first day in the city; not even knowing that anything like this even existed. And I marched the entire parade up to Central Park.” Matlock paused. “It changed my life and trajectory. I knew that this was going to be the place for me and I wasn’t going to go home. I was going to stay in New York. It was one of the most incredible surprises and moments in my life. It changed me big time.”

After her accidental gay pride march, Matlock performed in all kinds of shows in New York. Eventually, she wrote her own show called The Mammy Project – a “one-woman show that I created which came out of this desire to blow the stereotype icon of ‘Mammy’ out of the water,” Matlock explains. “As a young actress, I felt that this was a stereotype that kept prevailing in our industry for African-American actresses. I was called to audition for an Aunt Jemima commercial once. That was a tipping point for me: why was that icon so popular but created so much pain for the African-American community? So, I started researching where it all began and I wrote a show.”

Matlock went on to perform all around the country, travelling mostly to universities and colleges for women, as well as for Black History Month. “In the show, I tell her story and her journey and how black actresses of that time were fighting to be part of many of the things in the US. I played here in New York, and that’s what kicked off my solo career.”

The August performance of “Ovo” will mark Matlock’s first performance in Charm City. “I’ve never been to Baltimore before, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

For tickets, visit


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