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Theatre-Dance student heads to Vegas for Cirque du Soleil

Jake Nathan

Theatre student working 'dream job' as Cirque du Soleil automator.

By Adam Pulchinski, Free Press Correspondent [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 8/12/2011]

The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” once aired an episode featuring one of the largest stage lifts in a theater production. Jake Nathan, in high school at the time, had one thought.

“I thought, ‘I bet I could do the software program for that.’”

Even in high school, Nathan had a pretty good idea where his interests were, and what he might want to do with them. He was always into welding, machining, building things, and, as he put it, “problem solving.” Since the airing of that television show, Nathan — a Minnesota State Mankato Theatre & Dance student — has gone from wondering what it might be like to work for a theater.

On a campus visit, Nathan ended up in the Performing Arts Center, ran into Steve Smith working on some lighting in the theater, and decided then he wanted to attend Minnesota State Mankato.

He began working on the productions in the theatre department.

“We did two a year (in high school), and they were a lot less technically involved,” Nathan said. “(At Minnesota State Mankato) it’s a zillion a year, it feels like. It goes fast — opening one as you’re closing another.”

Nathan enjoys figuring out what hasn’t been done.

He attended a trade expo, inspecting various booths, when he happened upon the Cirque du Soleil booth. He asked about internships and was invited to a social gathering to meet with people who worked for the company.

He was called the next day to come in for an interview. Halfway through he showed Cirque interviewers pictures on his laptop of some of the things he’d done.

There was an opening for someone with welding experience, and eventually he got a job offer — before he graduated.

His days are spent working and living in Las Vegas on “O” at the Bellagio hotel and casino, as a rigger, working with cables. Nathan said he connects automation to whatever moves, such as pulleys.

“O” is different from other Cirque shows; it includes a 1.5-million gallon pool. Nathan has become a certified rescue diver and took scuba and oxygen training, among other things, as a member of the production team.

He hopes to continue with Cirque, but he won’t forget where he came from.

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