Cirque du Soliel’s first black featured player performs in upcoming Detroit show

irque du Soleil’s OVO – “ovo” is Portuguese for egg – arrives at Joe Louis Arena this month, a bug-based tale of insects working, playing and finding love in a busy ecosystem, while also cracking the mystery of an egg that appears in their midst.

True to Cirque style, the traveling show is an exercise in extravagance: Bright colors, ornate costumes, intricate movements. One of the show’s central characters is Ladybug, played by Michelle Matlock. “She’s the romantic of the show,” Matlock tells BLAC. “She’s the only bug of her type, she’s looking for love, and this fly enters the community one day and the love story begins.”

Matlock’s role in the Cirque enterprise is notable, as she’s the first black featured player to be invited to create her own character for a show. The vast majority of the Cirque du Soleil – based in Canada – players are drawn from circus troupes around the world.

“I didn’t know that when I was going into this gig – I was going to be the first African-American,” Matlock, an actress who created a one-woman show called The Mammy Project prior to joining Cirque, says. “But it’s kicking the door open for others to see themselves doing something like this when it wasn’t viable before.”

OVO, Dec. 22-25, Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Drive, Detroit.


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