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


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Clown Alleys On Ringling

Francesco Villares' trunk space. There's a blanket on the floor for naps when possible. We usually had metal folding chairs but it looks like Francesco found himself something more comfortable. Nice.
I've been meaning to post more circus material. This time around I'm sharing some clown alley photos from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus 2001 Bello and Bo Tour. That was last time Pammy and I toured with circus before settling down, at least for a little while, to be parents. 

Every clown alley was different depending on the arena we'd be playing on a given week. Some were large enough to comfortably fit all of us, our steamer trunks, wardrobe and entertainment center/ tool box./kitchenette. Others were very cramped and unpleasant. The women and men each had their own alleys, of course, but often times the ladies would end up in our alley since the majority of clowns hung out there.

 The entertainment center consisted of a color t.v. and a vcr. The tool box was a set of drawers containing hand and power tools we employed making or maintaining our assorted clown toys. In years past, room had to be made for the trunk containing the pyro goodies which was always stationed at the Boss Clown's trunk. The Boss Clown's trunk was always at the entrance to the alley. Yes, there was, at least at that time, a heirchey in the alley. First of Mays generally were at the very rear of the alley. 

In Rosemont, Illinois,  where the First of Mays traditionally have joined the show for rehearsals in November, the alley was a narrow hall that ended in a ramp that rose up 30 degrees ending with a concrete wall.. The trunks on the far end of that alley were at a tilt as a result.  The plus side was that of that particular alley was it's proximity to the backstage curtain where we would make most of our our entrances and exits. The drawback was that it was also a few steps from arena's freight entrance where the cold winter winds would always enter making ours a frosty clown alley.

One of the smaller alleys. You can see my trunk on the upper right of the photo. There's a black and white striped shirt draped over my chair. The communal table is on the lower right.

Whatever the size or location of the alley, it was our second home so we tried to make it as comfortable as possible for all of us. We tried to make as much room as possible between trunks even when space was at a premium. More important than the space was placing the trunks according to who got along best. We're all human and you can't always get along with everybody. Setting the alley usually fell to the Boss Clown.

 A clown's trunk space could also become a refuge of sorts too. If you had walls rather than a curtain forming the boundries of the alley you could open your trunk so the inside would face the wall. You had a little more privacy that way which was always nice in the smaller alleys especially on three-show-days which were very long and tiring. In New York City you had "nine packs" which were three-show-days three days in a row.

More clown alley stuff later. Got to get movin'.     

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