Arts in the Family: A Family of Artists Just Trying to Make a Living in the Wilds of Texas


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Next Stop, 24th Street Theatre !

Back in my "serious actor" days I appeared in a number of plays for the 24th Street Experiment Theatre Company at Our Lady of the Lake University.

I managed to get mentioned in a few reviews and they spelled my name right(always a plus).

The postcard sent out for one of their plays back before emails but I think were more effective than emails because they can't be deleted in the blink of an eye. Besides, it's nice to get regular mail.

Sorry for the late posting. I was laid out with a nasty allergy attack today. I didn't get to do all I needed to do today so now I'm up late catching up. Tomorrow morning I'll have to get up early because the kids don't sleep in so I'll be a wreck for the day but at least I'll have full use of my sinuses.

Just thought I'd share a few momentos from some work I did at the 24th Street Experiment Theatre Company, back in the early nineties. They were a fine theatre company that produced Latin American plays that were usually on the avante gaurde side and fun to do. I played a wide variety of roles including "Sigmund Freud", an ancient chauffeur and an extraterrestrial prince to name a few.

The company was headed by Ric Slocum, who always presented new and exciting works. He also gave a good deal of creative freedom to his actors. You could usually count on him to cast against type casting you in roles that you might not otherwise be offered at a different theatre company: It was actor's theatre and is greatly missed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Clown Door Confidential

The one and only clown door! It remained pretty much as I had left it thanks to the curse I placed on it it before I took off. You learn a thing or two watching those "Mummy" movies.

At Winter Quarters in December of 2000 adding a bit more to the door.

During the train runs for my first tour with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus I decided to paint portraits of clowns on the door to my roomette. It was a great way to pass the time on the longer train runs but a real challenge when the train tracks were a little rougher.

During the time we were away from the show I forgot all about it so I was very surprised to find out that the my "clown door" was still there five years later... but not for long. At that point in time most of the train cars had been totally redone which meant no more wood paneling, wood doors, etc. It seems kind of nutty when I think about it now but I couldn't leave the door at Winter Quarters to be taken far from the presence of any clown.

So one dark and stormy night a few of the hardier souls of clown alley went on a rescue mission on the old "clown train car" the night before the destruction would begin. Dressed in our stealthiest attire and armed with our trusty acme clown toolbox we gained access to the car via the unlocked door that also happened to be slightly ajar. Now the real work was about to begin. After a quick brainstorming session it was decided that the best way to remove the sliding door to my old roomette was to remove the wall encasing it. "Capitol idea, Stanley!" "If you do say so myself, Ollie. " Somehow, after some serious elbow grease and a healthy dose of expletives, we managed to remove the door and take it to its new home in Clown Alley. We sang a glorious victory song as we carried it back in triumph.

When the tour started we had to find a space to pack it because it would be on tour with us and reside in the alley each and every town. It had its proper place of honor in the alley and we would occasionally sacrifice a birthday party clown to it as needed. I also managed to add a few
more portraits to it but haven't touched it since then.

The door lives in our garage now and though only a few select clown buddies get to see it, it could make it's way back to the road if ever we get the hankerin' to again someday.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lost Another Great One

I just found out that Lorene Yarnell of the comedy mime team Shields and Yarnell died of a brain aneurysm on the 29th of July. She was only 66 years old. She was a great mime, dancer and clown and Pam idolized her. We both remember them from our childhoods watching their weekly variety show filled with wonderful comedy and dance routines my favorite of which was the robotic "Clinkers", who could never seem to get through a simple activity, like breakfast, without making a huge mess of themselves and their dining area.

While living in Dallas, we had the good fortune of not only seeing them perform live but thanks to Pam, we also got to meet them. It was either 1997 or 98 and I have a newspaper clipping somewhere to confirm it. We caught their show down in Irving and after the show Pammy said we should just wait around on the off-chance we could catch them on the way out the theatre and sure enough we did. I couldn't believe it.
There they were, two legendary performers, coming our way were: Shields and Yarnell. Pammy was tongue tied so I started the introductions, we told them how much we loved their show and how we loved mime as well a our background as circus clowns.

They were the nicest people you could ever meet and I forgot to mention that as we introduced ourselves Yarnell gave us hugs. It was like magic. After gushing about them we talked shop. We were just fellow performers chatting about clowning, circus, theatre and mime. It was only for a few minutes but those few minutes live on in our hearts.

Around a year or two later, we met Robert Shields at the North Park Mall in Dallas. We were working at Le Theatre de Marionette and were backstage when in walks Mr. Shields. He was in town(I can't remember why) and shopping around when he saw the puppet theatre. Apparently he loves puppets and wanted to check things out. Pammy and I were working on set pieces and marionettes when he showed up in our dusty backstage. We told him about the time we met them after their performance in Irving. He told us he was set to direct the Ringling Brothers clowns in Winter Quarters that year and was really looking forward to it. It made Pammy and I want to get back on the road so bad. He also told us about his art gallery in Sedona, Arizona where he sells his art. Then somewhere in the midst of or conversation he did the neatest thing of all. He gave us a mini workshop in mime. We were floored and loved it.
Shields and Yarnell were kind and generous to us and we feel blessed to have crossed paths with them. The world is a little sadder place with Lorene Yarnell's passing and makes one wish that if reincarnation is real they should put her at the the head of the line.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Barnum Museum Exhibit 1995

The invitation sent out announcing the exhibit. Neat!

Article about the exhibit in the New York Times.

A look into the exhibit area displaying the paintings and other art pieces for the show.

There are my pieces in the company of some really amazing circus art some of which made by some famous circus clowns like Emmett Kelly Sr. .

Here's a closer look at the section with my art. There's a really nice portrait of David Larible, who was the featured clown on the shop at that time and for many years later and to its right is the poster for the Big Apple Circus for that years tour featuring Barry Lubin's "Grandma" character and the world famous Mummenschanz mime troupe.

Back in 1995, while the Ringling Red Unit was touring the east coast, I got to show some of my clown art in an exhibit curated by the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As I recall, they saw a photo of me taken for the circus program holding a portrait of Pammy in clown- face. The idea that year was that they (Ringling) wanted to show the public what some of the performers did for fun or hobbies when not performing. It was a good gimmick and it got me included in the exhibit. I managed to get two pieces in the show. One was of Pammy and the other was of Barry Lubin, the featured clown on the Big Apple Circus for years and guest instructor at the RBBBC Clown College in 1993.

The exhibit happened a few weeks after our run in New York City and while we were still nearby a number of the alley, including myself, were sent to the Barnum Museum for a publicity event. I've got a clipping of an article with a photo of us somewhere and I'll post that as soon as I find it. It's surprising how easy it is to misplace things when they accumulate. Funny.

Anywho, the exhibit was popular enough to be extended beyond its run and I wonder if they ever did it again. If ever we're in that part of the country again and I suspect we eventually will, I'll have to pop in and ask them.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

National Clown Week

Letter to Pammy form a fan. Very cool!

Above is an article about Pammy performing in the circus in her stomping grounds of San Antonio. S.A. forever!

I forgot this was National Clown Week and should have posted something yesterday. It was, ironically, started by President Nixon with a proclamation issued on August 2nd 1971.

In honor of this important week I wanted to share this letter sent to Pammy while she was on her first tour with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1990. As clowns, we usually didn't receive any kind of correspondence from circus fans so it was always special when you did. In the middle of a three ring spectacle you often felt like you got lost in the color and lights.It made us remember that what we did mattered.

I also wanted to share an article about Pammy from the Express News when the circus played San Antonio the summer of 1990. I be posting more stuff as the week progresses. Now it's back to the drawing board. Oh, below is a link to the National Clown Week website. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

At the Woodlawn Theatre 1992

Pammy in her "theatre grungies" tickling a dragon's tummy. That was part of a fairytale mural I painted that ran down the length of the flight of stairs leading up to our theatre. We were working on sets and props for the next show which usually opened a week or so after the previous one closed.

Painting a roll drop for the same play that I can't remember at the moment. It might have been Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I didn't keep good records then like I do now.

Alex Rubio and I taking a little breather from painting the flat to pose for a photo in our serious artist manner for probably Pammy. As you can see by Alex's shirt, it got pretty hot in the there.

Alex and I were painting a flat for a play at the Woodlawn Theatre for either a fairytale or a Melodrama. Notice the various platforms and assorted set pieces around us.
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