Four years ago, Laura Silverman joined the circus. Next week, her act is coming to town.
From June 22 to 26, “Toruk — The First Flight” will converge on Consol Energy Center. The touring show from Cirque Du Soleil (the Canadian entertainment company) is inspired by James Cameron’s “Avatar,” a 2009 science fiction movie, explained Silverman, a publicist at Cirque Du Soleil.
“It is a prequel to the film and takes place thousands of years beforehand,” she said.
With its use of large-scale puppetry, lighting and video technology, “Toruk” creates an “immersive experience” entering Pandora (a fictional moon in Cameron’s created universe), she added.
For those wondering, “Avatar’s” 161-minute cinematic journey is not a prerequisite for seeing “Toruk.” “It’s a stand-alone story, but if you have seen the show, you’ll have a little more insight into it,” Silverman said.
Silverman began traveling with Cirque (the world’s largest theatrical producer) in April 2012 as a publicist for “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.”
“It was perfect,” she said.
The rock concert-like experience enabled the Jewish publicist, who lived in Pittsburgh as a child and still counts several family members locally, to travel globally for two-and-a-half years. When that tour concluded in April 2014, Silverman served as a publicist for “Kooza,” another Cirque show and spent the following year traveling again. Including her 11 months as a publicist for “Toruk,” Silverman has spent nearly four years traveling with Cirque to four continents, where she has worked in over 29 countries and 150 cities.
“It’s probably easier to say the countries I haven’t been to,” she remarked.
Although able to rattle off names of faraway sites, scheduling demands have often restricted Silverman from seeing little more than what a human cannonball sees in flight.
“You are pushed to maximize your time,” she said.
Accordingly, Silverman is choosy about her tour breaks. “You have to prioritize your time.”
So in China, she climbed the Great Wall. And in New Zealand, she trekked through rainforests and observed glaciers.
While each destination differs like a trapeze artist from a fire breather, what has amazed her most is local behavior.
“The thing that always sets each city apart, is how different countries and cultures react to the shows we are presenting.”
While touring in Japan, Silverman was told not to be surprised if no one applauded. The culture is different than here, she explained.
Similarly, in Moscow, she said, for some reason attendees all held up their cell phones at one particular part of the show.
Making sense of such divergent cultures is one of the challenges of living on the go, said Silverman. “You learn very quickly just how to get by, and you learn just a few local words like ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and the locals will translate much else.”
While simple communication has alleviated some concerns, finding suitable food presents other difficulties abroad, such as during a previous trip to China.
“I don’t eat meat so it was harder there to figure out if [what was served] was something I wanted to eat.”
Also tough on the road is just being so far from home, she said. “You lean on the people you are with because they are also missing birthdays and weddings. These people are seeing you at your best and your worst, so you become very close.”
Couple the aforementioned inconveniences with the fact that Silverman spends much of the year living out of two suitcases, and the allure of global travel potentially wanes.
“Literally, we are allowed two large suitcases and a carry-on,” she said. “You are responsible for bringing them from the hotel to the luggage room. You have to take them with you on tour breaks; it’s beneficial not to have too much stuff.”
As partial assistance to such a situation, two or three times a year she returns to Chicago, where she keeps a storage locker and swaps out items for upcoming tours.
And although work has forced Silverman to practice minimalism, certain items are always in hand.
“I started bringing my pillow with me, and that’s changed everything,” she said.
She also carries her own collapsible camping wine glass.
“Drinking a glass of wine from a plastic cup in a hotel room versus from a wine glass makes all the difference,” Silverman said.
Lastly, Silverman has a wireless Bluetooth speaker for playing music or podcasts while staying in occasionally drabby rooms.
While the initial luster of Silverman’s globe-trotting ways may seem scuffed by the realities of life on the road, she said that traveling the world is an “invaluable opportunity.”
“You learn so much about yourself: what you are capable of both literally and emotionally,” she said.
Traveling to a new country each week requires you to deal with certain challenges, she maintained. And despite problems presented by unfamiliar food, indiscernible languages and distance from family and friends, Silverman is thrilled to keep going.
“There are perks to being everywhere,” she said. “Some places are more fun than others, but that’s what makes it interesting.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.