Creating magic under the big top

Cirque du Soleil “conceptor” one of this year’s Alumni Award recipients.


(Edmonton) Running off to join the circus isn’t just a catchphrase for Krista Monson, ’91 BA. After years of training as a dancer, studying ballet and choreographing musicals, Monson decided to take a risk and move to Los Angeles. She sold everything and headed south in search of something bigger. Opportunity knocked in the form of Cirque du Soleil, the theatrical entertainment juggernaut that performs around the world.

Monson began her career with the company as an artistic director and is now what she calls a “conceptor,” or an author who creates the concepts for shows. As a writer and director, she is involved through the entire creative process. Her years of experience, combined with her sensory nature and the opportunity to travel the world, means Monson is always open to inspiration.

When I was working on a pitch for Expo Milano 2015 in Italy and a show about feeding the planet, I would go into a farmer’s field and just lie there and look at the clouds, then talk to people and learn their stories,” says Monson, who calls Las Vegas home. “It’s the sensory experience of smelling, touching, trying to find the flow of ideas and come up with concepts that will move people.”

Monson is one of 28 University of Alberta alumni being honoured at the 2015 Alumni Awards. Other recipients include Dan Riskin, ’97 BSc, science journalist and Daily Planet host; Harold Eist, ’61 MD, an advocate for the mentally ill; Francis M. Saville, ’62 BA, ’65 LLB, a retired lawyer, businessman and community leader; and Tim Melton, ’69 BCom, real estate developer and volunteer.

The award recipients are part of a community of alumni who make a difference in more than 140 countries in a variety of disciplines. Organizations started by U of A alumni generate almost $350 billion in revenue every year—greater than the GDP of Alberta. There are more than 70,000 such organizations and they employ one in five Albertans. U of A alumni are also dedicated to giving back to their communities. More than 77 per cent of alumni have volunteered locally.

Monson and her fellow award recipients will be recognized at the Alumni Awards ceremony Sept. 24 in the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium as part of Alumni Weekend. It’s a free event and everyone is welcome. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Meet this year’s Alumni Award winners