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"Cirque du So Pickle" - special entertainment in honor of commencement speaker Jerry Nadal

WINSTON-SALEM -- "The arts do make a difference," said Jerry Nadal, in so many ways.

The arts can change people's minds. "You have the ability to take people ... to a different place," he said.

"The arts can transcend everyday experiences," he said, referencing "the power of live performance."

"The arts can heal," he said, citing his own father's experience at beating esophageal cancer.

And the arts create jobs. "This is big business," he said, citing revenue from film openings and Broadway shows. "It's called show business, not show fun."

A show business professional who currently works for one of the world’s most creative entertainment companies, Nadal was the speaker at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts' (UNCSA) 47th commencement, which was held May 4 at UNCSA's Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem. 

Senior vice president of Cirque du Soleil’s Resident Shows Division, Nadal is responsible for every aspect of the seven live Cirque du Soleil shows currently in production in Las Vegas, and one show in Orlando, Fla., as well as the new production, Michael Jackson ONE, which premieres June 29 in Las Vegas.

Cirque du Soleil’s shows, known for their combination of powerful athleticism, high energy acrobatics, inspiring imagery and cutting-edge theatrical technology, have been seen by more than 100 million people in 40 countries on six continents.

Speaking about the "overwhelming volunteerism of the community you are joining," he urged students "give back to the people who are coming behind you."

He also urged the students to remember that when the going gets rough -- "and the going will get rough -- think back on what you do for a living and its impact."

Finally, he told the new grads that "you need to learn from every experience." Even failures can be useful in making the artist "you are going to be. ... Your contribution is important."


Jerry Nadal addresses graduating students and their families.

During his remarks, Nadal spoke highly of UNCSA's School of Design and Production, noting that it is one of only 13 schools worldwide to participate in Cirque du Soleil's educational outreach programs. He mentioned the school's Entertainment Innovation Conference, begun collaboratively in 2009, as benefiting both institutions.

Cirque du Soleil continues to hire from D&P, he added "in excess of 70 grads."

Nadal also received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.

Two hundred and twenty-one college students graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, representing 29 N.C. counties, 33 states and foreign countries/territories including France, Panama, Spain, and Bermuda.

Also at the ceremony, Geordie MacMinn, UNCSA School of Drama faculty member, was awarded the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. And Nancy and Paul Gwyn received the Giannini Society Award.

Jerry Nadal is a show business professional specializing in live performance; having worn many hats working over 25 years in the entertainment industry, Jerry currently holds the title of Senior Vice President, Resident Shows Division for Cirque du Soleil.  He is responsible for 2,000 individuals from over 40 countries around the world who strive for perfection working for one of the world’s most creative entertainment companies. Jerry sits on the Executive Board of Cirque du Soleil reporting to the COO and is responsible for every aspect of the seven current live production shows in Las Vegas (Mystère, “O”, Zumanity, , The Beatles LOVE, CRISS ANGEL Believe and Zarkana); and the soon to open Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino as well as La Nouba at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. His overall operational responsibilities include human resources, finance, IT, technical show support, merchandising and a large sales and marketing team that oversees annual revenues of $500 million dollars.  A large part of Mr. Nadal’s responsibilities also include the management of Cirque du Soleil’s operating partners which include MGM Resorts International, Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, Disney, Apple Records and the Michael Jackson Estate.

Having joined Cirque du Soleil in 1998, Mr. Nadal has held several positions including General Manager for the Resident Shows Division; Company Manager for the show KÀ during its creation period; Tour Manager for the Asia-Pacific touring production of Alegría while simultaneously holding the position of Managing Director for the Asia-Pacific regional division of Cirque du Soleil in Singapore; as well as Company Manager for Alegría, during its run at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino on the Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Mississippi.  He has also been responsible for the company’s advance into Asia opening shows in Tokyo, Japan at Downtown Disney and in Macau, China at The Venetian Resort and Casino.

Before joining Cirque du Soleil, Mr. Nadal gained considerable experience in show business and held a variety of positions with several companies managing operations for various Broadway shows.  He started out in the business as a stage manager which took him across the United States and Caribbean with productions of A Chorus Line, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, Fiorello! and Masquerade at the Movies, he also toured as company manager with productions of Grease! and Little Shop of Horrors.  Mr. Nadal’s first venture into the Las Vegas market was in the role of production manager for Starlight Express at the Las Vegas Hilton and he continued work as a production manager on national tours of Smokey Joe’s Cafe, 42nd Street and The Will Rogers Follies.

Mr. Nadal holds Associate in Arts and Bachelor of Science Degrees from St. John’s University in New York and an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix.  He also sits on the board of directors for Nevada Public Radio, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theatre, Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, In12Days and One Drop USA foundation of Cirque du Soleil where Mr. Nadal was most recently the Executive Producer for a one night only benefit performance in Las Vegas that included over 230 performers to highlight the worldwide water crisis.   Mr. Nadal and his partner Gene Lubas are the proud fathers of 6 year old twin boys, Harrison and Wilson and make their home in Las Vegas.


More scenes from the day follow.

Commencement 2013 Photos

Chancellor John Mauceri

Design and Production Dean Joseph P. Tilford hoods his M.F.A. graduates.

Student Artist Association President Nicholas Correa


                                                                                                        Photos by G. Allen Aycock