Cirque du Soleil Founder Guy Laliberté Dishes On His Las Vegas Charity Event Of The Season, One Night For One Drop

Guy Laliberté
Guy Laliberté

Photo Credit: One Drop

Each year, a visual extravaganza descends on Las Vegas in the form of One Night for One Drop, an annual philanthropic event in which Cirque du Soleil cast and crew donate their talent and time to create a unique and breathtaking theatrical in support of One Drop, an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing access to safe water.

Tonight is the night for that extravaganza, as the 6th edition of the fundraiser—this year inspired by the life and music of the artist, Jewel, takes place at the Michael Jackson ONE Theatre at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It will benefit those without access to safe water around the world as well as local projects in Southern Nevada focusing on innovative educational programs through tickets sold, as well as auction items like an exclusive Audemars Piguet timepiece that was custom-made for One Drop; ticket to the Monaco Grand Prix; ten flight hours on the Bombardier Challenger 350 aircraft; and an exclusive getaway at Guy’s Hawaiian estate.

In advance of the event, we sat down with Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté—a visionary, accordionist, stilt-walker, fire-eater, creative guide, philanthropist (he’s helped to raise $30M to support One Drop’s mission since creating the event in 2013), and first Canadian private space explorer: His mission was dedicated to raising awareness on water issues facing humankind on planet earth. Under the theme Moving Stars and Earth for Water, this first Poetic Social Mission in space aimed at touching people through an artistic approach: a special 120-minute webcast program featuring various artistic performances unfolding in 14 cities on five continents, including the International Space Station.

Here, this creative genius speaks to Haute Living about his event, giving back, and how he manages to consistently find so much wonder in a world that seems darker every day.

One Night For One Drop rehearsal
One Night For One Drop rehearsal

Photo Credit: Erik Kabk

Why did you decide to create your own foundation?

Giving back is an essential aspect of my desire to help build a better world. This mentality has always been a part of my DNA. Deciding to build my own foundation in 2007 was a natural decision at that point in my life and in Cirque du Soleil’s. I truly believe that philanthropy and social responsibility should be an integral part of any business and should be treated with the same result-oriented approach as any other line on the budget. At Cirque, from day one, we started laying the groundwork towards becoming a truly responsible corporate citizen and we started finding creative ways of giving back. Since the inception of One Drop, Cirque has always been instrumental to the foundation. Our One Night for One Drop annual event in Las Vegas is the best proof of it and shows how much Cirque continues to be involved in our mission.

Why is the cause so personally important to you?

Needless to say, water is essential to life, and knowing that so many people around the world live without this resource at hand has always been unimaginable for me. Every single minute a child dies from diseases caused by contaminated water and poor hygiene. And worldwide, 2.1 billion people don’t have access to safe water at home. Can you stop for just one second and imagine what it would be like to live without water? Or to watch your child get sick because there’s no fresh water around? The United Nations recently defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals that could transform the world. Goal 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all by 2030. But as the situation stands now, there is still tremendous work to be done. At One Drop, we’ve made it our mission to do our part in providing access to safe water to as many people as possible in the world’s most vulnerable communities. Because we know that water is an active and powerful force; and that when it is used wisely, it can change the world.

When and how did you make the conscious decision to create One Night For One Drop?

Because Cirque has such an important and predominant presence in Las Vegas with seven different productions on The Strip, there is an incredible variety of talent available; and Las Vegas being in the desert and having its own water related issues, the community is very aware and close to the problems of water. So, it became obvious that we had all the right elements aligned to create a successful fundraising event over there. One morning, in 2011, I met with the team and asked what can we do collaboratively for One Drop, and we decided that a one-night performance would be a great way to celebrate the power of water. So I said: “Let’s paint the strip blue!”, and we did! In 2013, the first One Night for One Drop event took place and it was a huge success. Because all the other productions go dark for one night, everybody can come together to create, perform, collaborate and volunteer in this global philanthropy event. This year, we’re proud to be celebrating the 10th year anniversary of One Drop and the sixth edition of One Night for One Drop.

This year’s event is inspired by Jewel. What in particular speaks to you personally in terms of Jewel’s life and music?

I don’t know Jewel personally but I know part of her life story. Starting at a young age, she had to survive and thrive under extremely difficult circumstances. Nothing came easy and she had to put in a lot of hard work from living on the streets to becoming a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter. That resonates with me. But furthermore, it’s her awareness and investment in the cause of water that made her a perfect ambassador. Having grown up on a farm where she didn’t have water at home, and as a homeless person with kidney problems that required her to drink a lot fresh water which she didn’t have access to, that made her realize the importance of this resource and she started Project Clean Water to give people around the world access to clean water. This year, Jewel has partnered with One Night for One Drop, to donate funds, and offer her music and life story to help bring this precious resource to those in need.

Last year’s event was a circus narrative involving time travel. What’s in store for guests at this year’s event?

Last year’s performance had and evocative theme, a grumpy old circus ringmaster, representing mankind, looking back on his life hoping there would be a way to right his wrongs, in a way showing how we as people are mistreating the earth. The show was created by writer director team Nicky and Laetitia Dewhurst, and after the enormous success of last year’s show we asked them to take on the challenge of creating One Night for One Drop 2018. This year we can expect something completely different because the show is inspired by the life story of Jewel. Nicki and Laetitia have taken relatable themes from her life such as love, family, betrayal and the courage to forgive and have woven them into this incredible new production with the landscape of Alaska, where Jewel grew up, as the background.

How do you keep testing yourself, and keep your life full of wonder in the way of Cirque du Soleil?

For me, it’s always been about using our imagination to create amazing things, allowing people to let their creativity flow and to come up with new ideas and new projects with very limited boundaries; and eventually, being able to reach the next level because you’ve tried something no one else dared. At Lune Rouge, the new company I founded in 2015, the guiding principle is to promote innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. We invest in the development of projects with a focus on technology, arts, entertainment and real estate, as well as on initiatives that generate positive social and environmental impacts.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

At the risk of sounding mortal (laugh…), spending quality time with my family, being around my kids, that is truly the ultimate luxury. At the end of the day, it’s the only thing that makes you feel complete.

A Cirque du Soleil performer at One Night For One Drop rehearsals
A Cirque du Soleil performer at One Night For One Drop rehearsals

Photo Credit: Erik Kabik