Mike Hirschbach



The Long Version

The (very) Early Years

Mike Hirschbach is a high octane physical funster; a clown, actor, playwright, teacher and circus arts performer. Most recently he was performing with the touring Cirque du Soleil show, "Dralion", but before that...
Young Mike !

"I grew up in the United States and Canada, and can't remember when I didn't feel at home in both countries. I had the gift of a loving, community minded family, where humour was our common language. My Dad was a social worker, and apart from my brother and sister, we *always* had a foster child staying with us, sometime for a few weeks, often for several years. 

From age 2 on, my parents knew that somehow, I'd be in the arts. I painted and drew for hours every day, a passion that has never left, and that still gives me great pleasure. I'm grateful for the way they nourished their black sheep son, and never discouraged my oddball ambitions.

After high school, I spent a memorable year hitchhiking around Canada and the U.S.; this was the beginning of my real education. On returning I studied drawing and painting for 2 years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal, then for 3 years practiced meditation at Zen Centres in Montreal and New York. I moved to the east coast, and studied painting further with Eric Fischl at the Nova Scotia College of Fine Arts., but left there after 2 years, needing to know whether I was painting because I'd been told my entire life I was going to be a painter, or because it was what I truly wanted to do.

Then, while casting about for work outside of the visual arts, I had an epiphany. I answered an ad for a children's theatre company, and despite an awful audition, miraculously got the job (the only one I ever got from a want ad). Long before the 3 months were up, I knew I was hooked.

Education & Early Work

 I worked with several small local companies in Halifax, but was frustrated by my lack of knowledge and skills. In order to get substantially better at theatre, I returned to Montreal to study for a year with Mime Omnibus, and Gilles Maheu of Carbone 14. My real theatrical education, however, began with my studies at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris (1984-86). I went there with a shopping list of skills I wanted to become better at - improvisation, ensemble work, directing, and character work - and graduated after 2 years with a wealth of experience that I still draw from.

I also did intensive circus studies in California, New York, and Montreal - juggling, unicycling, clownwork, and pratfalls. To this day I study and take workshops when possible; performers need to renew their resources, and teachers who aren't good students probably aren't good teachers either. I still practice physical training, circus work, and maintain my 5 fluent languages everyday.

I was a consultant for the Nova Scotia Buskers Festival for its inaugural 2 years, and later I took 2 years off from performing and became Artistic Director of the Nova Scotia Children's Festival. Though I soon realized that administration wasn't my life's goal, I gained a reputation as a troubleshooter, and became an adviser to several other festivals and organizations.

Serious Fun

For 6 years I was the Artistic Director, and one of the performers in Fool's Paradise, a circus arts trio specializing in complex juggling patterns, unicycling, and acrobatics wrapped around comedy. We performed mainly in the Atlantic provinces, but also toured in the U.S., and performed for 2 weeks at the '88 Calgary Olympic Games.

At the same time I was a founding member of ScriptWrecked, a 6 person improv group which performed weekly shows for over 6 years. We performed 5 sold-out shows at consecutive Halifax Fringe Festivals, and performed at Toronto's Harbourfront and other venues across Canada.

Wait, there's more. I also founded the Bluenose Juggling Club, and for several years taught people basic and intermediate circus skills on a weekly basis. The club is still going strong, and is the main venue for circus aficionados in the Maritimes.

While in Nova Scotia, I taught theatre at Neptune Theatre for over 12 years, at Halifax Dance, and Acadia University. During this time I came to realize the importance of imagination and play; states that are utterly natural to us during childhood. I developed a workshop and class approach that would assist in re-learning that state of everyday creativity and openness. I still love teaching, and watching that "aha" moment when something suddenly clicks. Most recently I've run workshops for the Cirque du Monde program of the Cirque du Soleil, and been a speaker at the San Francisco Circus School.

I've been interviewed by Peter Gzowski on CBC Radio about playing the musical saw (a skill I learned for my first professional theatre show), and was featured on David Suzuki's "The Nature of Things" in an episode exploring laughter. I appeared (briefly) in a movie with Kelsey Grammar, and more recently as a juggling surgeon with Valerie Bertinelli.

Did I mention street performing? I love the immediacy, intimacy and energy of busking. My education in Paris was partly funded by the money made performing in front of the Centre Pompidou and Sacre Coeure. Since then I've performed at festivals and events across Canada, throughout the U.S., in Europe and in Singapore.

As for the present, after successfully auditioning for the Cirque du Soleil, I performed for almost 2 years as a character clown with the touring show, "Dralion". I have no words for how much I enjoyed my travels with these great people. For the 5 previous years, I was touring my solo theatrical-circus shows. These performances, which I conceive, write and perform, have been seen across North America, most recently and memorably in the Yukon and Alaska. I've now performed thousands of shows, and taught uncountable workshops on 4 continents.

In the midst of all this I got married, then 11 years later got unmarried, but not before producing 3 great kids, who often accompany me on tour. We are grateful for, and adore, our live-in Hazel, who like her television name sake, keeps our household in tip-top shape.

Topping it all off, I was the 1997 Nobel laureate in Funnery. Everyday, I thank the Great Buffoon for the gift of this singularly wonderful life."Return to Top

Contact Mike
Visit us at Circus Circle