As far as he can remember, Matthew Whelan always saw shows from the side, never head-on like a regular spectator. That is because his father, Robert Whelan, former head carpenter at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, would sometimes take him along to the theatre and sit him in the wings while he was busy working backstage during shows. It is not surprising that, a few years later, Matthew would follow his father into the live entertainment business – a field he has been working in for 25 years, but one he has been around most of his life. Interestingly enough, Matthew’s father, brother and wife eventually followed him into Cirque du Soleil after he joined the company.
Before going on to create large-scale productions in various theatres around the globe, Matthew Whelan studied stagecraft at the National Theatre School of Canada and at the Banff Centre for the Arts during the 1990s. At the latter institution, he worked alternately as an intern in stage carpentry and as a teacher.
In 1996, Matthew was hired by Cirque du Soleil to work on Alegría as Head Carpenter, which lead to a contract on the remount of Saltimbanco for the Australian tour in 1998. Two years later, he was made Technical Director of the production, joining the team on its Asia Pacific and European tours. In 2002, he became Associate Technical Director of KÀ in Las Vegas, an experience that lead to a series of mandates as Technical or Senior Technical Director on resident shows The Beatles LOVE (2005-2006) in Las Vegas, ZAIA (2006-2008) in Macau, IRIS (2008-2011) in Los Angeles, and Michael Jackson ONE (2011-2013) at Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas.
As Technical Director, Matthew is responsible for finding and hiring the right expertise, carrying out research and development, as well as developing and integrating the infrastructure, technical systems and machinery that will capture and materialize the original artistic intent of the production design. He sums up the Technical Director role: “I take ideas scribbled down on cocktail napkins by members of the creative team and build the teams that will turn these sketches into reality.”
Matthew Whelan has been a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Local 471, since 1998. He was born in Ottawa, in Canada.