Dec. 16 2015 11:15 AM

Holt native tours the country with ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’

Known for its daring, Broadway-meets-balancing-acts performances and magnificent costumes, “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” relies on a cast of behind-the-scenes workers to keep everything running smoothly. One of the many cogs in this well-oiled theater machine is Holt native Rachelle Hough.

Hough, 25, is the sound engineer for the holiday-themed touring show. She landed the job two years ago through an interview over Skype. Since then, the show has taken her everywhere from Atlanta to Ontario.

“I tour with this show,” Hough said. “Wherever they go, I go.”

(“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” comes to Wharton Center Thursday through Saturday. See the event highlight on page 23 for details.)

The best part of the gig, she said, is being part of a show that brings people so much joy.

“My favorite part of my job is when the show ends,” she said. “The audience begins to leave, and everyone is smiling and laughing and talking about the show on the way out. The glow on people’s faces that they get when they come to a show is the best thing about my job. This show allows people to forget about life’s problems for a few hours and enjoy the magic.”

When she was younger, Hough wanted to be a nurse. It wasn’t until high school that other possible career options entered her life. Theater became a strong interest during her years at Holt High School.

“I got into theater when I was a sophomore,” she said. “My experience there changed my life forever. It was the building blocks that got me into my career now. Theater really saved me and gave me a wonderful future. It was the only reason I liked to be in school.”

Not only did theater give her a purpose, it also provided her with a role model.

“My mentor was Jeff Miller. He ran the theater program (at Holt High School) and really was the one who encouraged me to go into sound engineering for a career,” Hough said. “He taught me a lot and got me started and really supported me.”

After graduating in 2008, Hough attended Lansing Community College and studied technical theater, specializing in sound engineering. She earned her associates degree from LCC in 2011.

High school theater was a transformative experience for Hough, but she worries not all students will get the same opportunites. School funding and budget cuts often lead to cuts in performing arts and music programs, programs that she sees as crucial parts of a balanced education.

“People underestimate the arts and the power and influence it has over young minds,” she said. “Without the theater in the school, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

While audiences only experience the show for a few hours, Hough said that mounting a stage show like this is a full day’s work.

“The day begins with the load-in. We unload the truck, and set it all up on stage. The performers come in and we do a sound check, and they all warm up and practice. We do the show, pack it all up and head to the next city,” she said.

And while she loves the job, Hough admits there is a lot of stress during the live show.

“My job is to control what everyone hears and to appease the whole audience,” Hough said. “(It’s) no easy feat, because everyone’s senses are vastly different.”

While touring the country has been a great experience, Hough is looking forward to being back home with her friends and family in Holt.

“Everyone always wants to work on a tour show that goes to their hometown,” she said. “I’m glad I get to do that.”