18-year-old Sami Matthews will be traveling to Memphis, Tennessee this weekend to audition for the producers of America’s Got Talent, a popular television production hosted by NBC, showcasing a variety of talents from singing and dancing, to circus performances, aerial routines and everything in between.
In December of 2016, Pegi Wilkes, director and founder of Portsmouth’s Cirque D’Art Theatre, was contacted by a producer of the show. The producers had come across the Theatre’s YouTube channel while searching for circus performers and fell in love with their performances.
“We were in the middle of rehearsals one day when one of our volunteer moms brought me the phone and said there was someone on the other line insistent on talking to the owner,” said Wilkes. “I just kind of rolled my eyes because I thought it was a telemarketer and when I got on the line she told me she was a producer for America’s Got Talent and asked if we could make it auditions in Cleveland.”
Unfortunately the theatre had the performances of the Le Nutcracker Cirque that same weekend. The producers told Wilkes to send over some more videos and they would consider them for the next auditioning round. Wilkes submitted videos of student Sami Matthews, which piqued the interest of the producers.
Matthews will have been with the theatre for 13 years this coming June, she said she has fallen in love with all things circus, but especially enjoys aerial routines and working as an instructor for the younger children.
“I love flying in the air. I love coming here after school. People ask me why I come here every day, they ask me if I’m tired and I just tell them that I’m not only a student, I’m an instructor. I love being a role model for the kids. They really look up to me,” said Matthews.
Matthews had to go online and fill out a performer profile and included two videos, one featuring an Arabian horse routine and an aerial snowflake routine. A few weeks later she got a call-back, she was on her way to the next round of auditions.
“I was in tears,” Matthews explained. “When it happened I didn’t think they would call me back. But when they did I was so excited.”
Matthews said that her family, friends and her Cirque family have all been very supportive of her journey and have helped her become the performer that she is today.
The auditions held in Memphis will be in front of the shows producers. If they select Matthews to continue on, she will travel to California to perform in front of Simon Cowell. Cowell is known for his role as judge on both American Idol and America’s Got Talent. He’s notorious for giving harsh critiques. From there, Matthews would continue for a televised audition in front of the rest of the judges.
Matthews is determined to advance in the audition process and has hopes of competing on the show, making her way to the final rounds and winning the million dollar prize.
She has been hard at work perfecting her routine, which blends aerial circus performance, dance and contortion using the horses. The horses are a large prop, similar to the design of a rocking horse, which can be hung from the ceiling and used aerially or used as part of a floor routine. “Every time I’m in this building, I do my routine at least two times. I have Pegi or Trish watch me and give me advice like ‘you need to point your toes here,’ or ‘you need to watch your facial expression there,’” said Matthews.
Matthews will be performing to the hit song, “Dark Horse,” by Katy Perry.
To see videos of past Cirque D’Art performances, you can visit www.youtube.com and search “Cirque D’Art Theatre.” To follow Sami’s progress, please visit the Cirque D’Art Theatre’s Facebook page by searching, “Cirque D’Art Theatre.”