November 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm EST | by Steve Fox
Endurance performance

Mark Ward as the ringmaster in ‘Quidam.’ It plays Washington for eight performances next week. (Photo courtesy of Cirque Du Soleil)

Mark Ward always knew he wanted to be out professionally.

The Cirque Du Soleil vet plays the ringmaster in the company’s latest show “Quidam,” which comes to the Verizon Center next week. Ward says coming out is an individual choice that each person should make for himself.

He joined Cirque du Soleil as a performer in 1993. Not wanting to keep aspects of his life hidden, Ward let the company know that he wanted to be out. He says that there was never an issue with the hiring managers and that the company was supportive from the start.

He says he always wanted “to lead an authentic life.”

“I think that it’s an individual journey, so I couldn’t say that it’s good or bad [to come out],” he says. “I just know that as far as people — gay and lesbian people — accepting themselves, that’s a personal journey. My time may not be your time. If I saw someone and I felt like, ‘Oh you shouldn’t be in the closet, you shouldn’t be hiding yourself,’ I think that’s wrong of me because I got in that person’s shoes. I like to support that person, try to give them the tools they would need to come out and not be hidden or behind the veil, of course, but I think that’s an individual journey, I really do.”

Since joining Cirque, Ward has performed in about 6,500 Cirque shows, without missing a single performance.

“For me, the challenging thing is also the thing that has kept me around for this amount of time,” he says. “I have to be in constant communication with the audience and I have to be adaptable … what works in Milwaukee, when I come to D.C., may not get the same responses. I have to be open to the public and the information they are feeding me. So I have to have a keen sense of awareness. That keeps me focused.”

In “Quidam,” Ward plays ringleader John, guiding the audience through the performances that tell the story of Zoé, a young girl searching for something more to her life. Her parents, distant and apathetic, ignore her. To her, life has lost meaning. Seeking to fill the void of her existence, she slides into an imaginary world — the world of Quidam — where she meets characters who encourage her to free her soul. The international cast of “Quidam” features 52 acrobats, musicians, singers and characters.

This being his first time to Washington, Ward is looking forward to catching up with local friends and exploring Washington.

“I’m first hoping to go out and eat at some really cool places … and I’ll probably just run myself ragged trying to see everything.”

“Quidam” is at the Verizon Center from Nov. 16-20 for eight performances. Tickets start at $35. Visit for information.

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