Life Under the Big Top

Being a father takes more than just clowning around

Martin Stein

Most people think of Las Vegas as all glamour and neon and shows like Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. Those who live here know the city as all that, but also as a good community, full of families and fathers and daughters. And sometimes, Las Vegas is both.

François Dupuis plays a clown in Mystere. His daughter, Noemie Dube-Dupuis, works behind the scenes. Family bonds not only brought them from Quebec City and united them in Las Vegas, but those ties and shared experiences have changed both their lives.

François Dupuis: I have a character that’s part of the humor squad that sets a little storyboard in the show, that’s a young baby. And he has a huge red ball, and in the opening of the show loses his ball, and all through the show, will be looking for it. So it sets a little storyboard for people who need storyboards. And yeah, he’s a charmer. Also, it’s a character that brings the show to a very simple expression, which is no music, just a character on stage, a big prop, and the audience. So, that’s nice too, because the show is quite huge in moments, so it’s nice for it to go down to something very simple, to create a good contrast.

Noemie Dube-Dupuis: I’m a videographer for all the shows here in town, so I jump from show to show. It’s for the performers, the artistic team to study. It’s nothing that gets sold.

FD: Some of it would be great.

[ND laughs]

Like a blooper reel?

ND: Yeah.

FD: Oh God, would we have a lot of that!

Your father says he plays a charming character, is that his personality too?

ND: Oh yeah. He’s definitely a charmer.

With Noemie, do you think she’s well suited to the video job?

FD: She was in a different direction at a certain point, and that was cool, but she kind of manifested at one point. I said, “why don’t you come down to Vegas, check it out? There’s a lot of stuff happening at Cirque. You could continue your education here, and it would be a change of pace. So she was courageous enough to try it, but it put me on the spot terribly. Oh my God, what did I do? She’s coming down here and she’s going to try this! So all of a sudden, I felt a lot of responsibility, but she did some internships with Cirque and realized, OK, I’ll go get a degree. She did a bachelor’s at UNLV, and in the year following her graduation, this position opened up for a videographer, and she applied for it, and got it. There were other instances where there were applications for all kinds of stuff, but she was patient. It had nothing to do with the fact that her brother was head of the department. Absolutely not. [Noemie laughs] She was the best candidate at that time.

Is everything your father said true?

ND: Yeah, I was in child-care studies, and didn’t quite work out of me. I was pretty bored in Quebec [City]. It’s a small city, and I traveled a lot already and knew that this was a pretty cool place.

As a videographer, I’m sure you’ve had occasion to tape your dad when he makes mistakes. What is that like?

ND: I film him sometimes, but he’s pretty good at what he does.

Oh, you have to say that because he’s here.

ND: No, it’s true.

FD: That’s what I get for her having put a big dent in my budget while she was in college.

ND: No, it’s pretty cool. Some people think it would be weird to see their dad in a diaper on stage, but it’s cool. He’s a funny guy, so it’s always good to see him.

Tell me about a father-daughter moment. Something that brought you closer together, that you hold close to your heart.

[ND laughs nervously and stammers]

You didn’t study for the interview!

ND: I don’t know. I mean, he’s the reason that I’m here and he’s always been so supportive of what I do and always looking on the positive side of things.

FD: When she was facing her professional life, she would share moments that were particularly hard and her glass would be over-full, and she would share that. Because we’re related to her future in the way that I suggested she come down here, so I’ve been kind of a casual counselor. I really appreciated those moments where she got to be at ease to just be who she is as a woman, knowing that I’m not judging her or anything. I remember a moment. I do a lot of photography and I got this road case. At one point, she said to me, about pictures that I was looking for, “Oh, they’re right next to your road case.” and I realized that it was the first time I’d heard her say “road case.” And, if you’re not in the business, a road case is for somebody else, could be a gazillion things. Hearing your child use the theater lingo, and saying “road case” as if she’d been doing it since she was born, that was a moment. I remember I told you, I said, “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe this. You said ‘road case’ like [snaps his fingers].” To realize that some years have gone by and now your kid is in this as deep as you are, as deep into it as I was at that age. That’s kind of fascinating because I never pushed for that, I never dreamed of it, I just let it happen. And it all happened in the 10 years during this project. My decision-making of coming down here had a big effect on the whole family, but I always thought that as a young father, that I would provoke creativity in the kids, and of a bigger life than what you see around your 12 city blocks. That kind of provoked it.

I remember thinking when Cirque first approached me in 92 to do this, I thought, “This’ll be cool.” First of all, it’ll be full-time employment; it’ll be good money, that’s got to be cool; and this’ll be great for the kids. I had the opportunity to leave her with a brand-new vehicle in 1993, drive up to Canada, and bring them back here, and going through the whole United States. I felt so blessed as a father to be able to do that, so that provoked things. And I think that what they’re doing now is going to be a little bit inspried by the moves I made.

ND: Definitely the fact that he travels a lot and he took us on the road a lot. It just opens your mind. I never thought I’d live in Vegas, but here I am and it’s great. He really pushes the fact that change is good, and you can always improve and go in different directions.

Do you have any special Father’s Day plans?

ND: Not yet. Is it next week? Um, I don’t know. We’re overdue on going to lunch and catching up on things, so we’ll probably do that.

FD: We do stuff that’s not necessarily in the highlight moments. But we’re pretty steady on producing moments that are fun and that are special. Most of the time when everybody else, like Christmas and the big cue sheets of the year, we’re usually off on that. Our originality is on how sometimes we just don’t connect with major cues.

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