Not your traditional clowns: ‘Drawn to Life’ performers talk unique artistry at Disney and Cirque show

Artists celebrate skills during International Clown Week

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When you think of a Cirque du Soleil show, you are likely to think about the groundbreaking acrobatics, beautiful costumes and some standing-ovation choreography.

You also might think of some of the comedic acts that are brought to life through clowns.

At “Drawn to Life,” these clowns are not your average red-nose artists traditionally found under the big top. In fact, they are crucial characters, helping drive the show -- and, at times, sparking emotion in the audience members watching from their seats.

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This week, the Cirque du Soleil clowns are celebrating their skills during International Clown Week.

“Drawn to Life” first debuted at Disney Springs in 2021. The story follows the character Julie, a determined girl who discovers an unexpected letter from her Disney animator father. As she dives into the inner world of animation, she is guided by a surprising pencil, which helps inspire her quest that is filled with childhood Disney memories.

Drawn to Life, Julie, Animators and Mr. Pencil (Disney)

“It’s very special -- there is enough to celebrate. There are so many types of clowns and there are so many clown techniques, schooling from different countries,” said Emily Carragher, who plays Miss Hesitation in the show. “You could say there is a clown for every person. There is a lot.”

Carragher’s character is a crumpled ball of paper compromised of Julie’s rejected drawings. During the show, her character feeds on Julie’s self-doubt and her mistakes.

Miss Hesitation and Julie in Drawn to Life (Cirque du Soleil)

“Clowns are not necessarily big shoes, red nose. Clowns can be anything they want to be, which is fantastic, and a freedom for any performer,” explained Carragher. “What I do is play a part of myself, and there is no fourth wall. I’m experiencing a story in a room with a couple thousand people every day, twice.”

Miss Hesitation is one of the characters that is considered, in the clown world, a “white clown” or “clown blanc,” a sophisticated character traditionally seen in white makeup, sometimes sad, with a pointy clown hat. One of the other prominent characters is Mr. Pencil.

“I’m like her guide in the show,” said Guerassim Dichliev, who plays Mr. Pencil. “In this show, I’m a clown – I’m clown blanc. I’m rich with so many experiences to be a mime, physical actor and a clown. It’s good to celebrate the profession of the theater, and it’s good to know the origin of where we came from.”

Dichliev, who originally wanted to be an astrophysicist growing up, is one of the roughly 60 artists on the show that have evolved their talents of clowning, or miming, in areas around the world.

Julie and Mr. Pencil (Cirque du Soleil)

“The audience members, when they come to this show, they come for the spectacle and the unique moment that they will see before they leave,” Guerassim explained.

Some of the other clowns helping Julie in her journey through the pages include four animators. They guide Julie through the principles of animation, teaching her how to complete her father’s unfinished drawing.

Ekaterina Pirogovskaya, who has a history of clowning in three Cirque productions and places around the world, plays one of the four animators.

“For me, a clown is a person who builds their own world with their imagination, and they invite the audience inside and, in this world, you can be imperfect and through this an atmosphere is born when you can’t see but you can feel – it’s beautiful,” Pirogovskaya said.

Pirogovskaya not only plays one of the comedic animators but also is the female animator that pays tribute to Disney Legend Mary Blair. During the Dream of Colors act, Pirogovskaya helps bring to life some of Blair’s concept art for Disney Animation classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Cinderella.

Drawn to Life at Disney Springs (WKMG)

“For me, I feel really honored for this trust that our director Michel Laprise has put in me,” Pirogovskaya explained. “When we do this scene, it’s like honey for your soul. I tried to look through her eyes and bring this to the stage.”

“Drawn to Life” has 10 unique acrobatic acts with all of them featuring original music and pieces of Disney animation. Back in April, the show evolved with all-new acts including aerial artists and a “flying guitarist.”

For a limited time through Sept. 22, guests can get tickets to the show for as low as $59 for adults and $44 for children. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.

Click here to learn more about “Drawn to Life” at Disney Springs.

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About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.