Cirque de Soleil changed Apriah Williams’ life. Visiting New York in 2012, the then-16-year-old from Turks and Caicos experienced her first-ever theatrical production. “I was mesmerized,” Williams recalls.
A few years later she was studying architecture at a small college outside of Boston when she approached an advisor about a career in theater. “I would love to know what goes into it. I would love to be a part of that,” she explained. Soon Williams was ushered into a class where her interest in architecture and her newfound fascination had her building sets, hanging lights and pulling props.
Williams eventually transferred to FIU, formally became a theater major and designed her first set, for the absurdist play Ubu Rex, during the 2017-2018 season.
“When I first read the script, I had no idea how this could be staged,” Williams says. “One minute they’re in a castle, then the next minute they’re in a cave. Then all of a sudden there’s a horse. It’s all over the place.”
She settled on creating an elegant banquet hall—long, beautifully set tables and tall columns and curtains enclosing the audience in the space—that the play’s monstrous king and queen would destroy. The audience walked into an opulent setting only to see it torn apart.
Her attention to detail paid off. When the production took the stage at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional competition in Georgia, Williams beat out more than a dozen others in the set design category. A few months later, in Washington, D.C., she won national honors. The prize included $500 and a trip to a workshop in Las Vegas, where she had the chance to go backstage at—wait for it—three different Cirque de Soleil productions. Meeting the creative teams laid the possibility that Williams one day could land a job with the company.
“That’s my dream,” she says, still true to the show that ignited her passion. Whatever the future holds, one thing is for sure: This award-winning student has set the stage for her success.