The behind-scenes-blog of Bare Theatre and its affiliates.

Posts tagged “clowning

Looking back on 2012.

2012 was a challenging year in many ways for a lot of people.  The economy was still a bit shaky and we all endured a grueling election cycle.  There were challenges for us in Bare Theatre – the most notable being the unfortunate closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players, which had seemed to be the perfect new home for us in Raleigh after Much Ado About Nothing.

It’s always interesting to me to look back at what we’ve done and where we’ve been.  2012 brought a lot of firsts for us, and it saw our “little company that could” transitioning into a more established company here in Raleigh and in the Triangle as a whole.

Here’s a brief look back:

February.  Winter One-Acts: One Night of Absolute Dismay

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Jeff Buckner as Lawrence and Joanna Herath as Amanda in “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls.” Photo by Jason Bailey.

February held our third collection of one-acts, a mix of short plays from playwrights new and well-established.  We presented new works by Lucius Robinson, Rajeev Rajendran, Ben Ferber, Donnie McEwan, and Mora Harris, as well as a favorite by Christopher Durang.

We premiered three installments of “Hot Greek Porn,” a mashup of Greek tragedy, the European debt crisis, and well…porn.  We bloodied the stage with “Everything Seems So Plausible at 1 A.M.,” and explored a couple’s faith being tested by a homeless person.  The show wrapped up with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls,” a twisted retelling of Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie.

Notable firsts included Jason Bailey’s first time directing on stage and Olivia Griego’s first time directing with Bare!

May.  We had so much fun with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” in Absolute Dismay that we decided to mount the entire collection from which it came, Durang/Durang.  That show, originally scheduled for May, had to be postponed because of the closure of REP.

We had already rehearsed well over a month by the time we got the sad news, so rather than cancel the show entirely we moved it to July, thus canceling our summer youth conservatory, Rogue Company.

June.  Let Them Be Heard

Justin Smith as Dave Lawson and Phillip B. Smith as Reverend Squire Dowd in Let Them Be Heard

Justin Smith as Dave Lawson and Phillip B. Smith as Reverend Squire Dowd in Let Them Be Heard.  Photo by Jason Bailey.

Our first location-based production, Let Them Be Heard, took place at Historic Stagville in Durham, NC.  The seven monologues taken from the Slave Narrative Project were staged in actual slave quarters and a hand-built mule barn at the site.

Let Them Be Heard was a powerful experience for us.  The fact that the narratives came from men and women who lived in Raleigh and Durham and grew up as slaves made already compelling stories even more meaningful.

Among many firsts with this show was our first Kickstarter campaign, which successfully raised over $1,250 to cover the costs of the production.  This in turn helped us donate 100% of ticket sales – over $1,800 – to Historic Stagville to support their mission of historic preservation.

It was also our first appearance on WUNC 91.5 FM’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio.  It was also our first (of hopefully many more) production that was audio recorded and broadcast with the help of Kurt Benrud and Triangle Radio Reading Service.

Additionally, the sold-out show was recognized by Byron Woods and The Independent Weekly as among the best of 2012’s Triangle Theater, receiving recognition for best achievements in ensemble, directing, production, and a special achievement in the humanities.

July.  Durang/Durang

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Clockwise from left: Jason Bailey as Wesley, PJ Maske as Mae, Richard Butner as Jake, G. Todd Buker as Beth, Lucinda Gainey as Dr. Martina, Hilary Edwards as Meg, and Julie Oliver as Ma in “A Stye of the Eye.”  Photo by Andrew Martin.

July saw Durang/Durang finally get its run (with a few new cast members), and it was a blast.  Olivia was a fantastic director, and we even got her husband Drew onstage with us!

Not only did this show have the honor of being our first-ever production at Burning Coal’s Murphey School, it was also the second-highest grossing show in Bare Theatre history (after our 2011 run of Much Ado About Nothing).

September.  SPARKcon 2012

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Cassandra Wladyslava, Matthew Hager, Patrick Cox, Matt Fields, and G. Todd Buker making friends at SPARKcon. Photo by Patrick Campbell.

SPARKcon 2012 was Bare’s second appearance at the huge four-day creative explosion in downtown Raleigh.  TheatreSPARK wanted to go bigger and better, so local theatre companies took to the streets with an interactive scavenger hunt.  With our upcoming clown-centric show, The Leader, rapidly approaching it was time to send in the clowns.

October/November.  The Leader

Matt Fields, Jeff Buckner and Matthew Hager in "Excuse Me, pt. 2"

Matt Fields, Jeff Buckner and Matthew Hager in “Excuse Me, pt. 2.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

The Leader involved several firsts.  Using Eugene Ionesco’s short 1953 play by the same name as a jumping-off point, we explored a creative process unlike our typical process.  The devised short plays and sketches that filled out the show were created by the ensemble, with several pieces written by Chuck Keith, and Todd Buker.

Our pals, The Nickel Shakespeare Girls, came to participate in our clown workshops, and we took what we learned out onto the streets of downtown Raleigh to field test it.  The Leader was our first production in an art gallery, too – at the wonderful Visual Art Exchange.  We also got to visit Frank Stasio at The State of Things again to talk a little about political theatre!

What a year.  There were so many unforgettable moments on stage and back stage.  We had the pleasure of working with a ton of great new actors, and trying new things with old friends.

Here’s to 2013, which we’ll discuss more on the next post!  Wait ’til you hear what’s in store!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

– GTB

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Clown Incident.

It was October 31, Halloween.

A woman and some of her employees or coworkers went to lunch at a local restaurant where Matthew Hager, one of our actors from THE LEADER, works.

Being that it was Halloween, the employees of this restaurant had decided to dress up in costumes.  This was fully condoned by the management as a fun way to celebrate the day with patrons.  It just so happened that Matthew decided to dress as a clown.

Matthew Hager sets the table…for comedy! Photo by Diana Cameron McQueen (Dianamcqueen.com).

Matthew played several roles in the show and he also did quite a bit of clown work.  He showed a real aptitude for clowning and he seemed to enjoy it.  He is not only very funny and creative, but he is also able to juggle and has various other talents.

He engaged patrons as a non-verbal clown.  This is not uncommon in the world of clowning, however it is worth noting that this is different from a mime – the clown can make noises, but does not use perceptible language.

Today’s specials.  Photo by Diana Cameron McQueen (Dianamcqueen.com).

Overall, Matthew’s clowning was a hit that day.  He received good tips.

His performance was not mean-spirited and his service did not suffer.  He was able to creatively answer questions about the menu through pantomime and a little assistance from his co-workers, who were happy to participate.

Apparently there was a woman who disliked his avoidance of language so much that she repeatedly called and wrote the management of the restaurant to complain.

Now, in fairness she may have had a bad day that day.  I can appreciate that.  I don’t know what her circumstances were and it could be that she just really was not in the mood.

However, this incident got me thinking about why we need clowns in the world.

It strikes me that this woman’s day might have improved if she had simply joined the others at her table in some laughs and enjoyed the experience.  Certainly this was a story to tell, was it not?

I believe that all of us in this world need not take ourselves so seriously.  We need to laugh once and a while.  We need to be reminded that we all have the right to be silly on occasion.

This was a spontaneous opportunity for the woman and her co-workers/employees to enjoy lunch together, have fun, and share a unique experience that they could not have received in any other restaurant on any other day of the year.  Moments like this do not happen all the time, and I believe any person can benefit from being open to such moments, letting them happen, and taking whatever joy in them we can.  Life is too short to do otherwise, is it not?

Obviously I don’t know all the circumstances of this incident.  It’s not my place to criticize, I simply want to suggest we might all find a little more happiness if we relax a bit and don’t take things quite as seriously.

And please, if you ever see a clown out in public – take a moment to laugh!

-GTB

The clown snaps to attention. Photo by Diana Cameron McQueen (Dianamcqueen.com).


Thanks for THE LEADER!

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Joanna Herath and Matthew Hager in “The Leader” at SPARKcon 2012 – photo by Patrick Campbell

There is a lot to say about this show, and I wish time had allowed me to write while we created it.  Two new jobs that immediately decided to increase my hours made an already tight schedule even tighter!

First, I need to thank all the people that made it happen.  The nine actors in the cast were phenomenal.  Not only did they co-create the show and contribute many ideas that went into it, they brought tons of energy and comedy to a very demanding evening of entertainment.

Loren, Jeff, Patrick, Matt, Matthew, Joanna, Diana, Stephen and Cassie are amazing people.  They took this odd little idea I had and ran with it.  What’s remarkable to me is that each of them said yes to the project in the beginning without really knowing what it would be!  That level of trust is pretty humbling.

I tend to ask a lot of my casts.  I push them.  With THE LEADER, I pushed them in a lot of different ways.  For some, they had to overcome clown phobias.  Many of them had to learn a lot of lines very quickly as scripts developed.  Loren even had to learn a monologue in French!

Others found the challenge to be improv and devising.  Working with no script is a tough task!  To take it even further, the core group that performed at SPARKcon had to go through a series of street performing exercises right on Fayetteville St. downtown, without costumes or makeup or any other way to indicate they were performing.  There was no script – they had to create on the spot and interact with passerby in a variety of ways that can only be described as insane.

Not only did the cast bring their talents, but they also served as their own set and running crew.  Almost every night they performed at Visual Art Exchange, they had to convert an art gallery into a theatre – and then convert it back.

I want to commend Emily, who performed the role of stage manager for the first time in her life.  None of us could tell she hadn’t done it before, she was so good!  Despite a rather deep clown phobia, she stayed with us even though THE LEADER was chocked full of clowns.  She was also the person I knew I could count on when I couldn’t be at the shows because of day jobs.  I am tremendously grateful to her for all her hard work and dedication.

The creative team also included some very important individuals.  Chuck Keith is a great friend and a hilarious writer, and I love his contributions to this show.  I knew  I wanted to include “Cult Layoff” – the only piece that existed in addition to Ionesco’s “The Leader” when we started.  The pieces Chuck wrote for the show, “Lemmings” and “Excuse Me” in particular absolutely killed us in rehearsal from laughing so hard.

Matt Fields, Jeff Buckner and Matthew Hager in “Excuse Me, pt. 2”

The climax of the show was the big fight in the end.  All along I knew I wanted to end with a game of “king of the mountain” that spins out of control and gets horribly violent.  I knew that Heather was going to bring her excellent fight choreography as she always does, but I think she topped herself this time.  She also gave me some really valuable feedback on some of the short plays and bits that made up the rest of the show.  I wish she hadn’t had a real campaign going on to get a leader re-elected – otherwise I would have picked her brain more!

I also want to mention Olivia and Jason for their valuable ideas and feedback early on in the process.  When you create a show from scratch, it’s hard to tell which concepts and bits are going to be good in the end, but they helped me shape the overall show and get some perspective on certain bits.  In addition, Jason singlehandedly shot THE LEADER video trailer and video of our security clowns at SPARKcon 2012, both of which look fantastic.  I’m always impressed with his camera work.

Also want to give a shout out to Mollie, who did not shy away from the challenge of creating sperm tails for “Excuse Me!”  Her artistry and ideas are always very exciting.

I have to give Katie a big thanks for stepping in as part of the cast that went to SPARKcon – she also overcame a deep clown phobia and even donned the makeup herself to join us in the streets downtown!  She did this on top of having a new teaching gig, two young children, a rock band touring its new album, and weekends away doing Nickel Shakespeare Girls at the Carolina Renaissance Festival (still two more weekends, if you haven’t been yet)!

As with every show, I need to thank my parents for indulging me and helping me do completely silly things.  This time around, they helped me build a fake metal detector, lemming ears and a weasel tail, cult uniforms, and they created the look of The Leader himself, in all his headless glory.

We absolutely must thank Common Ground Theatre and Visual Art Exchange for having us and giving us such great places to play!  Also, I want to thank the Universalist Unitarian Fellowship of Raleigh for allowing us to rehearse there for this show and several others.  THE LEADER was our final show to rehearsal there, and we cannot thank them enough for the time and space they have given us.

I love this show.  I love what this group created together and I had a great time with these people.  I hope we were able to present our audiences with something different and enjoyable, and I think we all needed a break from the election!

Now, just repeat after me and keep chanting, “Father is all, all is father…”

G. Todd Buker making friends at the final performance of THE LEADER!  Photo by Matt Fields

– GTB