One Drop Foundation
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte practices for his space mission at Russia's
Star City cosmonaut training complex.
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte's multimillion-dollar trip to the international space station will feature a two-hour global extravaganza highlighting water conservation on Oct. 9, with personalities ranging from Al Gore to U2 putting in guest appearances from 14 cities on Earth.
During today's webcast previewing the gala, the Canadian billionaire slated to become "the first clown in space" joked that he won't be allowed to do fire-eating tricks in orbit. He does plan to wear his trademark red clown nose, however.
The October event, announced at Russia's Star City cosmonaut training complex on Laliberte's 50th birthday, will be the highlight of the Cirque founder's $30-million-plus, 12-day-long round trip to the space station, due to lift off on Sept. 30. Its theme, "Moving Stars and Earth for Water," meshes with the mission of the One Drop Foundation, which Laliberte founded two years ago with $100 million of his own money.
Laliberte told reporters that the event will feature music, dance, visual arts and photography - woven together by a poetic tale on water and the environmental threats facing water resources, written by Canadian author Yann Martel ("Life of Pi"). Although Laliberte didn't lay out the whole story, he said the tale would focus on "the moon, the sun and a drop of water."
Celebrities will read parts of the tale from the various venues on Earth, and Laliberte will act as the event's emcee in orbit. The headliners include environmental leaders such as Canada's David Suzuki and former Vice President (and Nobel laureate) Al Gore, plus musicians and music groups including Peter Gabriel and Shakira in addition to U2. Space station astronauts (Belgium's Frank De Winne and Canada's Julie Payette) and Laliberte's own Cirque du Soleil are also on the guest list.
The planned venues include Montreal, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, New York, Mexico City, Sydney, Marrakesh, London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Santa Monica, Tampa and Moscow. In some cases, the audience may become part of the act, Laliberte said. The event is to be webcast via One Drop's Web site in partnership with AOL.
Laliberte will help record the event for a documentary that's being made about his training and spaceflight. "I will be the extended arm of my cameraman, my director and my sound guy in space," he said.
Laliberte said he asked some of the well-known people he has met in the course of Cirque du Soleil's 25 years of existence to take part. "To our great surprise, it was an amazing response - and there will be more surprises to come," he said.
The Quebec native, who started out in the entertainment industry as a street performer and now has a personal fortune valued at $2.5 billion, said the mission was already serving multiple goals, ranging from raising awareness about water issues to promoting space travel, publicizing One Drop and Cirque du Soleil - and getting a healthy dose of adventure in the process.
"I'm throwing a stone, and I hit three or four bounces on the water," he joked.
He said he's wanted to go into space ever since he witnessed the Apollo 11 moon landing on television 40 years ago, when Laliberte was on the verge of turning 10. "I then realized and I started to believe that fairy tales were possible," he told reporters.
He said he probably wouldn't engage in any acrobatics outside the usual zero-gravity maneuvers during his trip to space, and noted that "I can't breathe fire up there." But he said that he would probably wear his clown nose and would try to persuade fellow spacefliers to wear clown noses as well.
That won't be a first, however: Way back in 1999, Canadian astronaut Julie Payette brought a Cirque du Soleil clown nose into space - and chances are she'll be wearing one during Laliberte's visit as well.
Here's the current list of guest stars for Laliberte's gala, set to start at 8 p.m. ET Oct. 9:
- Al Gore, former U.S. vice president and Nobel laureate.
- Indian musician-composer A.R. Rahman ("Slumdog Millionaire").
- Cirque du Soleil.
- Avant-garde artist-musician Claude Challe.
- Canadian environmentalist-broadcaster David Suzuki.
- Fnaire, a Moroccan rap group.
- Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne.
- Quebec singer Garou.
- Brazilian fusion musician Gilberto Gil.
- Filmmaker-photographer Gregory Colbert.
- Biologist-filmmaker Jeane Lemire.
- Canadian astronaut Julie Payette.
- French mariner-environmentalist Maud Fontenoi.
- French artist-actor Patrick Bruel.
- Musician Peter Gabriel.
- Australian nature photographer Peter Lik.
- Shakira, Colombian-born singer-songwriter-dancer.
- Quebec composer Simon Carpentier.
- Japanese artist-singer-filmmaker Tatuya Ishii.
- Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Japanese actress and TV host.
- Australian soprano Tiffany Speight.
- Rock band U2.
- Indian eco-feminist Vandava Shiva.
- French photographer-environmentalist Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
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