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


Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Roundup

Pamphlet for World Water Monitoring Day.

This week Doc Ed visited Beacon Hill Elementary and Crestview Elementary performing a total of eight shows. Since mid- September we've done Aquifer presentations as part of World Monitoring Day, a international program that strives to educate and inspire the public to protect water around the world.

I'm still working on the set pieces for "Hansel and Gretel". I haven't taken any pictures yet but I'll be doing so this week.

This week the Edwards Aquifer Authority will be signed up to take part in "Chalk It Up" on Saturday October 9th at 10a.m. The family event takes place in downtown San Antonio on Houston street. Teams lead by an artist will create a super-sized sidewalk chalk mural. It's our first time participating and I'll be taking plenty of photos.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Clown College Chronicles Part 3

Schedule for the first three days of week one at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College.

Chad and I were both accepted to Clown College in 1993. I had to scramble quickly to raise the money for my greyhound bus ticket and for my food and lodging. I don't like buses but it somehow seemed fitting that I should travel to the Mecca of clowning in America by bus. In fact, Chad and I both traveled together by bus. It was a long, miserable journey with plenty of stops between San Antonio and Baraboo to make us wish we'd walked instead. There was a lengthy delay somewhere in the south when I.N.S. came on board and we changed buses once, maybe twice. We kept each other company on the trip but I seem to recall sleeping as much as possible to avoid the reality of the bus.

We finally made it to the Pine Aire Motel and checked in. Chad and I, as it turned out, would be roommates too. We hung out at the motel the remainder of the day watching as the other Clown College students arrived. Besides, without a car and very little money our options were limited. We did walk a couple of blocks to the corner store where we bought a can of a "Spam" knock- off called "Treat" which was to be consumed only in the case of extreme need. We never opened the can of "Treat". I think it was mostly because we were afraid to eat what was essentially generic "Spam".

I remember both of us out in the parking lot talking to a couple of my fellow students when the Clown College bus pulled up with the better part of the class on board. I couldn't help but notice how young they were compared to me. In fact, I had turned thirty years old the day of my audition. Only one other student was older than me. Most of them looked like they were fresh out of high school because they were.

The next morning, after a quick "continental" (definitely a misnomer) breakfast we were taken to the grounds of the Circus World Museum for our first day. Steve Smith, the director of Clown College, had made it a very memorable morning. The entrance to the building where the orientation was to take place had a giant balloon arch over the doorway. Bubbles filled the air from every direction and there was music too. I was just happy to be there but Steve had taken it up a notch or two and made you feel like you'd gone over the rainbow. We sat we sat on a ring curb as the faculty and staff introduced themselves then we were sent to wardrobe to be measured for our Ringling jumpsuits that we'd wear whenever we'd be in the public eye.

We did a number of other things after that including getting our life masks cast by Ruthy Chaddock. I'd never had that done and I have to admit it made me a little uncomfortable after a while.It took around thirty minutes for the material to set. Towards the end of that time I was ready to rip it off. I'm happy to report that I kept my cool. Someone, I think it was Karen Rylander (now the better half of Greg De Santo), actually fell asleep during the casting. We ended the day with a shopping trip at the Kmart. Keith Alexander bought some Oshkosh overalls in order, I think, to blend in with the locals.

It seems cliche to say but there was an abundance of good vibes that first day it made you feel like anything was possible. That feeling never diminished.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Clown College Chronicles Part 2

The summer I was accepted into Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College was the same summer that the Clown College moved from it's decades old home in Venice, Florida to Baraboo, Wisconsin on the grounds of the Circus World Museum. Baraboo was the hometown of the Ringling Brothers as well as the Winter Quarters for their circus. Needless to say the move there was historically significant. Below are a few artifacts I kept from that period. It was amazing to attend Clown College at the museum. I was surrounded by classic circus wagons, giant circus banners, old circus train cars and a one ring circus. It was one of the best times of my life. I often dream about it.

Above: Postcard announcing the big move Venice, Florida to Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Circus World Museum was the new location for Clown College in 1993.

The Pine Aire Motel in Wisconsin Dells was home to the thirty Clown College students in 1993.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Clown College Chronicles Part 1

Yesterday I posted a clipping of my Clown College audition but along with the audition you also had to fill out a six page application. It came in a booklet, basically their school catalog which described what you could expect if you were accepted into the school. Truly, though, unless you had experienced a similar program even the description below couldn't fully prepare you for the coming adventure of circus proportions.

Below are a number of the pages found in the bulletin, including two pages out of the six page application form. It's all self explanatory and you can click on the images to magnify them. I hope it gives you an idea of what it takes to be a circus clown and perhaps encourages you to read up on circus and clown history.

Mondays with John Belushi

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Be A Clown !

It's been seventeen years since I attended the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Right around this time seventeen years ago I was in the middle of some intensive circus clown training. We had classes in mime, clowning, acrobatics, juggling, make up and so much more. In honor of this anniversary-ish time, I'll be posting photos, clippings, notes and anything else from the class of 1993. Mind you, it wasn't easy taking many photos at clown college because your in class so it would have been kind of awkward to try but we managed a bit.

I'll start with a clipping from the San Antonio Express News covering the audition for Clown College at the Freeman Coliseum. I went to that audition very prepared. I had been to a Clowning workshop in Virginia just a few weeks before that was taught by several circus clowns including Glenn "Frosty" Little and Leon McBryde, both of whom had attended the school and toured with Ringling. Frosty had, in fact, been in charge of both the Red show and Blue show unit clowns for Ringling as well as teaching for many years at the Clown College. Frosty taught us several gags at the camp. I performed one at the audition that required two people so I taught it to Chad since he would be auditioning too.

The props were simple as was the premise. One clown is sitting on a chair reading a newspaper while the other is sweeping. The gag is a pantomime that requires perfect timing. You see, the clown that is sweeping soon becomes obsessed with killing a fly that is tormenting him. All the while the other clown is so involved in reading the paper that he's completely unaware as clown two swings his broom dangerously close to his head, not once but several times. He only misses hitting him because the sitting clown will reach for something to his left or right or lean forward at just the right time as the broom swings over his head.

The trick was that the clown reading the paper never looks in the direction of the second clown. Each and every move we did was choreographed right down to the number of pages turned before Chad moved to the distance I stood from Chad as I swung at the fly. Both of us had to be clueless to the other person because we were so focused on the task at hand. My swings had to look very real too. I couldn't hold back otherwise the gag would no longer work. The audience had to believe that there was a real element of danger. If we missed the timing by just a second Chad would get clocked by my swings that would make Babe Ruth proud.

We did the gag perfectly that afternoon. And as we were doing it I could hear sounds of recognition coming from the clowns watching as we did the gag they knew so well, especially Greg De Santo who had worked with Frosty for many years. I had a great overall audition that day and I felt I had really nailed it, as they say. But I think what may have gotten me in was that gag I learned from Frosty Little and I guess the fact that I didn't crack Chad's head open helped too.
Thanks Frosty. I owe you big. Hatareenee!!
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