Joining the Circus

What is a typical work day like for you? For John Gruber, it’s a circus. Literally. Gruber is the General Stage Manager for Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Zumanity, dubbed ‘the sensual side of Cirque’, is a cabaret-style provocative production filled with amazing acrobatics, stellar musical performances and enough nudity to make your mother blush. But what do you expect? It’s Vegas!

How did Gruber land this seemingly perfect job? He worked diligently along a career path that ultimately began at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). After graduating high school, Gruber joined the Apprenticeship Program at OCP and was the first apprentice to ever go on tour with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan. While on tour with the Caravan, he worked on shows such as A Christmas Carol, The Ice Wolf, Forever Plaid and Romeo and Juliet. In addition to the Caravan shows, Gruber also worked on an array of Mainstage shows at OCP, the first and probably most influential for him was La Cage Aux Folles.

Gruber’s time at OCP served as a networking launching pad for him. After graduating from the apprenticeship program and a brief stint at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Gruber enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) majoring in Carpentry and minoring in Sound and Electrics. While at UNO, he began stage managing and found his true theatre passion. He even received the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Young Designer and Technician Stage Managing Award.

In addition to his education at OCP and UNO, Gruber’s career path brought him to places such as the Santa Fe Opera, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, further education in Delaware, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and to Cirque du Soleil twice.

In addition to the technical skills Gruber learned in the OCP Apprenticeship program, he developed a strong work ethic and most importantly learned to always put his best foot forward. “Every time you go to work you need to make sure your doing the best job possible because today’s day of work is tomorrow’s interview,” said Gruber—a philosophy he views as vital to the earlier theatre jobs that launched his career.

So if you’re thinking about running away to join the circus, think twice before entering clown college or being featured as the bearded woman. You may have a different career opportunity in the circus—one that can begin at the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Apprenticeship Program.

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