Clowning

War of the Clowns

A Holiday Extravaganza

Illegal Aliens

A Love Story

War of the Clowns

A Love Story

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Razboiul Clovnilor / War of the Clowns

War of the Clowns
National Theater of Romania, Cluj
An original clown show
Eli Simon – Director
Vincent Olivieri – Composer and Sound Design
Cristian Rusu – Scenery and Costumes
Fall, 2012

Reviews & Press:

Bucurestiul Cultural | Editie scrisa Paper Print
The Cultural Bucharest

16.10.2012

Dialogul Est-Vest cu conotaţiile is­to­rice, culturale, sociologice de rigoare este un teren vast, plin de capcane, pe care Teatrul Naţional din Cluj şi ma­na­ge­rul său Mihai Măniuţiu nu şi l-au pro­pus când au stabilit acest generic pentru ediţia din acest an a Întâlnirilor inter­na­ţionale. Poate nu era cazul, şi pentru că globalizarea şi europenizarea ne în­­deam­­nă mai degrabă la comuniune, lăsând di­ferenţele pe seama specificului naţional, implicat şi el în acest dialog în alţi ter­meni. Vrem, nu vrem, cum spunea şi o colegă, fondul cultural comun prevalează în Europa secolului XXI şi în lume, spi­ritul planetar fiind mai apropiat ca vi­ziu­ne omului postmodern decât acela indi­vi­dual. Aşa încât conclavul de teoreticieni şi artişti de la Cluj, regizori, dramaturgi, scriitori, critici nu s-a ostenit în discuţii sterile despre cum sunt esticii şi ce-i deo­sebeşte pe vestici de ei, care sunt dife­renţele de tradiţie, şcoală, stil în teatru (putea la fel de bine fi vorba de Nord şi Sud), lăsând nuanţele pentru studiul in­di­vidual pentru care bibliografia s-a îm­­bo­găţit cu numeroase cărţi scrise sau doar traduse şi lansate la Cluj cu acest prilej.

War-of-the-Clowns-2Spectacolul surpriză a fost însă Răz­bo­iul clovnilor, al regizorului american Eli Simon, specialist în arta clovneriei, pro­fe­sor la UC Irvine.

The most surprising performance was the War of the Clowns, directed by the American director Eli Simon, a specialist of the art of clowning, a teacher at UC Irvine.

Cum i-a convins el pe actorii clujeni să intre în acest joc funambulesc destinat unui anumit tip de talent e, probabil, un secret profe­sio­nal. Rezultatul este însă la vedere şi ne-a cucerit pe toţi cei care am asistat la această reprezentaţie de o vervă in­cre­di­bilă, riguros monitorizată de regizor, care i-a învăţat pe actori şi toate tru­cu­rile clovneriei.
 
The performance gained over all, this performance has an incredible verve, rigorously conducted by the director, who had taught the actors all the clowning techniques.

spilcuiţi şi a-i lăsa pe planetă în acest război dintre naivitate şi calcul raţional, sfială şi tupeu, sărăcie şi bunăstare, binomuri cunoscute, care pun faţă-n faţă, în acelaşi timp, două stiluri de a practica arta clovnului. O echipă seamănă cu gimnaştii, iluzioniştii eleganţi din spectacolele de variété, alta cu personajele felliniene, perdanţii, păgu­bo­şii din circurile ambulante. Lupta lor e însă tandră, plină de ghiduşii şi nos­ti­ma­de, antrenantă, interactivă în raport cu publicul. Execuţia perfectă şi bucuria cu care se dăruiesc acestui gen, în pre­mie­ră în teatrul românesc, fac din spec­ta­col o încântare, folositoare tuturor, la minte şi la trup
 
The show is imagined as a story in which the clowns mother is an angel, descending from the sky. There are then scenes between poor and super clowns that are dapper. This leads to clown war on the planet between naive and rational calculation, shyness and guts, poverty and welathy, that put face to face at the same time, two styles of clown art practice. A team like gymnasts, illusionists of elegant variety shows, versus characters that are Felliniesque, losers, outcasts of traveling circus. Their struggle is, however, very tender, full of exhilaration, an interactive experience with the public. The perfect execution and the joy invested by the actors in this performance, which is a premiere of the genre in the Romanian theatre, transform the performance into a delight for everybody’s mind and soul.

ZIUA DE CLUJ

“În Războiul clovnilor asistăm la descinderea pe pământ, venită dintr-o îndepărtată galaxie, a unei femei însărcinate, cu o burtă enormă. Este Mama Clovn, cu aripi de înger, care alunecă uşor pe Pământ. Ea va naşte douăzeci de bebeluşi clovni. Fraţii încep să nu se mai înţeleagă între ei. Asistăm la o departajare a clovnilor. Între cele două tabere formate se va ivi o competiţie reală, care va degenera într-un război jucăuş, de un comic irezistibil – având în vedere costumele şi pantofii supradimensionaţi, precum şi feţele albe cu enorme nasuri roşii -, dar oarecum neliniştitor, dacă, prin extrapolare, ajungem să proiectăm aceste imagini în societatea actuală”, se arată într-un comunicat remis presei. 

“In War of the Clowns we witness the descent to Earth, of a pregnant woman, with a enormous belly, coming from a far away galaxy. She will give birth to 20 baby clowns. The brothers start not to get along one with the other. We then witness a splitting of the clowns. Between the two sides will start a real competition, which will degenerate into a playful war, which has an unresisting humour – considering the over-dimensioned costumes and shoes, and the white faces with big red noses. This is somehow making us anxious, if we start to project this image into the actual society today”…

artactmagazine.ro
June 17th 2012

Nu mi-au plăcut niciodată clovnii. I never liked clowns.

Chiar și în copilărie, când mai toți prietenii mei erau atrași irezistibil de spectaculozitatea colorată a circului, eu am păstrat o distanță precaută și, trebuie să recunosc, temătoare față de universul neînțeles al veseliei continue și exasperante. Ceva mi s-a părut întotdeauna în neregulă cu acele ființe care, sub stratul de grimă, în spatele machiajului grosolan care le lipea un zâmbet tâmp de buze și de obraji, ascundeau poate încruntări insesizabile de către spectatorii lor inocenți.

War-of-the-Clowns-1Așadar, întrucât abia acum, în pragul maturității, m-am hotărât să îmi reevaluez vechile antipatii, spectacolul lui Eli Simon mi-a trezit interesul încă de la aflarea titlului. So, now, coming to maturity, I decided to reevaluate my oldest dislike, and Eli Simon’s show rang a bell for me from the very moment when I found out the title of the show.

Un război purtat, sau mai bine zis jucat, de actorii de la Național, pe deasupra și deghizați în clovni, mi s-a părut încă din prima clipă o ofertă cât se poate de tentantă pentru sfârșitul de stagiune. A war, led, or better said, played, by the actors of the National Theatre in Cluj, all disguised as clowns, seemed to me a very tempting offer for the end of the season.

Surpriza mea a fost dublă, deoarece această montare a reușit să îmi demoleze nu doar prejudecățile față de un gen de reprezentație pe care l-am evitat întreaga viață, ci și față de trupa Teatrului din Cluj, ale cărei posibilități artistice le-am subevaluat până acum.

Efectul pe care mizează regizorul este acela de revigorare a spiritului ludic ce lâncezește, fără îndoială, în orice adult deprins cu greutățile existenței cotidiene. The effect, on which the director relies, is the renewing of the the playful sense, which, for sure, lies asleep deep down inside every adult person, accustomed with the difficulties of his daily living.

Bineînțeles, o astfel de inițiativă nu poate fi lipsită de riscuri, cele mai multe determinate de rigiditatea receptivă a publicului. Cu toate acestea, îndrăzneala lui Eli Simon, și a interpreților deopotrivă, nu a fost nicidecum diminuată ci, din contră, a forțat limitele impuse de convenționalismul tipic atmosferei din teatrul clujean, până la a le desființa complet. Într-o anumită măsură, insistența și ușurința cu care actorii s-au amestecat printre plătitorii de bilete au fost și rezultatul nevoii de a-i impulsiona pe aceștia, de a-i trezi din amorțeala lor tradiționalistă și de a-i face să reacționeze la ceea ce se întâmplă în fața lor și pentru ei. Măsura poate părea disperată și, din punctul meu de vedere, chiar este. Totuși, ea a funcționat cât se poate de bine și a confirmat pe deplin funcția de divertisment a teatrului, chiar și în lipsa pretențiilor intelectuale din montările metaforizate care supraîncarcă mediul artistic din zilele noastre.

Of course, such an initiative cannot completely lack risks, most of the time because of the receptive rigidity of the public. Nevertheless, Eli Simon’s and the interpretation’s audacity did not find itself diminished, but on the contrary, it forced the limits imposed by the typical conventionalism of the theatrical atmosphere in Cluj, eventually succeeding in making it disappear.

Odată cu ridicarea cortinei, a devenit evident faptul că accentul va cădea pe capacitatea interpreților de a susține spectacolul. În absența aproape dezolantă a unui decor, pe scena goală, deasupra căreia atârnau reflectoare, scânduri și alte obiecte în mod obișnuit ascunse privirii, și-a făcut apariția Mama-clovn, care a zămislit clanul clovnilor și, în același timp, a dat tonul spectacolului. Fără îndoială, intenția regizorală a fost aceea de a evita inducerea în eroare a celor st aceea de a evita inducerea în eroare a celor din sală prin fabricarea iluziilor teatrale și prin construirea unui univers diferit față de cel al publicului. Sinceritatea aceasta pe alocuri rudimentară mi s-a părut cât se poate de potrivită în contextul respectiv.

War-of-the-Clowns-smallInevitabil, însă, au existat și momente incomode din punct de vedere vizual. Unul dintre acestea a fost provocat de altminteri impresionanta scenă a nașterii multiple. Rochia Mamei s-a dovedit prea scurtă pentru a acoperi trapa din podea, prin deschizătura căreia își făceau apariția „bebelușii”. Din fericire, evoluția actoricească a reușit să compenseze inconvenientul.

Înfruntarea non-verbală dintre sub-clovni și supra-clovni a reprezentat sursa unui comic viu, pe alocuri brutal, permanent lipsit de subtilitățile cuvântului, însă perfect funcțional. Fiecare dintre interpreți a reușit să imprime personajului său anumite caracteristici distinctive (cele mai multe rizibile), în ciuda măștilor de vopsea facială menite, chipurile, să îi depersonalizeze pe actori. Din punctul meu de vedere, cele mai remarcabile performanțe au aparținut lui Ionuț Caras și Silvius Iorga, deși aprecierea este nedreaptă, dacă ne gândim că într-un astfel de spectacol se poate face referire la meritele echipei, dar mai puțin la cele ale individului. Fără doar și poate, principiul colaborării a funcționat în permanență, ceea ce a dat viziunii lui Eli Simon unitate și, nu în ultimul rând, substanță.

The non-verbal fight between the In Clowns and the Out Clowns, represented the source of a glowing laughter, lacking the subtlety of the use of words, but perfectly functional. Every interpretation of a clown managed to attribute to his character different distinctive characteristics (most of them risible ones), despite their white painted faces – masks which were meant to depersonalize the actors. From my point of view, the most convincing interpretations belonged to Ionuuz Caras and Silvius Iorga, though the appreciation is unfair, because when talking about this kind of performance, we can refer mainly to the virtues of the team, and less to the individual artists. Without doubt, the principle of collaboration functioned throughout the show, which offered to Eli Simon’s concept unity and substance.

Până la urmă, deși nu se poate vorbi despre Războiul clovnilor ca despre o realizare marcantă, menită să dinamiteze conceptul uzual de teatru și să clădească pe ruinele lui o nouă direcție artistică, experiența este cu siguranță una de neuitat. Nu spun asta pentru că spectatorii (în special cei mici) au ocazia de a se întoarce acasă cu suveniruri – cum ar fi bani tipăriți în Clownia și mingi de plastic – ci pentru că la sfârșitul serii vor fi rămas cu neprețuita amintire a unei participări reale, active, la procesul teatral. Eu, cel puțin, am învățat să iubesc clovnii, ceea ce este suficient pentru a aprecia montarea lui Eli Simon drept o victorie a copilăriei împotriva ideilor preconcepute, a intransigenței și, desigur, împotriva plictiselii pe care, de cele mai multe ori, maturitatea o aduce cu sine.

As for me, I learned to love clowns, which is enough to appreciate Eli Simon’s production as a victory of childhood against preexisting ideas, against the intransigency, and of course against the flatness that the maturity brings along.
 
Războiul clovnilor, Teatrul Național Cluj-Napoca
scenariu de Eli Simon
regia: Eli Simon
scenografia: Cristian Rusu
sound design și muzica: Vincent Olivieri
Distribuţia:
Adriana Băilescu, Ruslan Bârlea, Patricia Brad, Ionuţ Caras, Dan Chiorean, Cătălin Codreanu, Ramona Dumitrean, Anca Hanu, Cătălin Herlo, Silvius Iorga, Elena Ivanca, Radu Lărgeanu, Miron Maxim, Romina Merei, Angelica Nicoară, Dragoş Pop, Cristian Rigman, Matei Rotaru, Irina Wintze

TEATRU. Ne trebuie repertoriu?
 THEATRE. We need a repertoire?

Autor/ Author : Iulia POPOVICI 
Nr. 645 din 12.10.2012


War-of-the-Clowns-4Războiul clovnilor e un spectacol nonverbal, pe un scenariu și în regia lui Eli Simon, punctele nodale ale acestui scenariu („clovnița“ venită din ceruri ca să dea naștere întregului neam al clovnilor și plecarea ei pe altă planetă în final, „istoria armelor“ în două părți etc.) fiind indicate prin supratitluri. În mod evident, e bazat integral pe improvizații, e foarte solicitant pentru actori, în ciuda aerului de joc lejer, și e hiperamuzant pentru publicul de toate vîrstele. Din punctul de vedere al teatrului de repertoriu, e ceva mult mai provocator decît Hamletul anterior: le ia actorilor exprimarea verbală, ieșirea de urgență, forțîndu-i să comunice, între ei și cu publicul, exclusiv gestual, în situații scenice și de interactivitate necontrolabile 100%. Și mai are ceva. „Povestea“ e una a confruntării dintre două „clase“ de clovni: „corporatiștii“ în alb și cu nasul pe sus, care stăpînesc la perfecțiune yoyo-ul și pistoalele cu apă, și vagabonzii în zdrențe, cărora toate le scapă din mînă și care se resemnează să și-o ia veșnic după ceafă. Doar că… vagabonzii sînt cei natural simpatici, ei sînt adevărații învingători ai vieții, iar farfuria cu frișcă din final e răzbunarea tuturor – și așa, un spectacol în care niște actori se joacă de-a clovnii capătă mize sociale, de transmitere a unor valori (fără să arunce cu educația din amvonul scenei, cam ceea ce se înțelege în general prin „rolul educativ al teatrului“). Cam ceea ce ar trebui să se petreacă într-un teatru de repertoriu…

The War of the Clowns is a nonverbal performance based on Eli Simon’s scenario and direction. The key points of the script (the Woman Clown coming from the sky to give birth to the entire race of clowns and her departure to another planet in the end of the show, “the history of weaponry“ in two parts, etc.) were indicated on supra-titles. Obviously, the entire performance is based on improvisation, thus the actors have a demanding task, though they show us only the easiness of this hard work, and they are super funny for the audience of every age. From the point of view of a repertoire theatre, this performance is much more provoking than the previous one, Hamlet: because it takes the words away from the actors, this emergency exit, forcing them to communicate with each other and with the audience, with an exclusively physical interpretation, in scenic situations of non-100% controllable interactivity. And it has also something more. “The story” is one of a fight between two classes of clowns: “he corporate” in white, and with the duchess noses, which control perfectly the using of the yo-yos and water guns, and the hobos in rag clothes, clumsy, that are always hit on thei back of their heads. Just that…the hobos are, normally, the most likeable, they are the true winners of life, and the final plate filled with whipped cream gives them revenge in the end. This way, a performance in which the actors play the clowns, has social connotations, allows the power to transmit values (doing it without throwing education in the public’s face – what is usually understood by “the educative role of theatre”). This is something that is important to occur in the repertoire theatre.

Uj Magyar szo online

Cluj-Napoca: where East and West meet thaliana …
2012, October 08 Monday, Koos Imola
 
East and West Meet in The Theater: a four-day event theme this past weekend at the National Theatre in Cluj.
 

This year, the second edition of the International Meetings of Cluj-Napoca (Întâlnirile Internationale de la Cluj) is a mini-season, during which foreign directors work with the Romanian company, and authors and critics present the results of the co-operation.
 
American director Eli Simon staged War of the Clowns without text, using movement, dance, music, gestures, pantomime, in a word “antics” based clown productions. This is a show that is wonderful for little ones and the entire family, but the themes provide much more than just entertainment.
 
“I love you” – confessed a critic to the director in public, during the lecture the day after the performance. She continued the conversation, “I like the play because it made ​​me understand that clowns really are what WE are. Not those annoying masquerade dressed figures who force ust to laugh at junk when we do not want to laugh. It’s awkward and frustrated, and compete with, and something is still good at it. Both of them had something – and I have a mother who unconditionally loves them.’re like us “- summed up the Clowns war of the essence of which, indeed, everyone – actors and audience – the first to the last minute of pleasure and smiling involved.

“Lucian Blaga” University Cluj-Napoca
Posted on June 29, 2012 by Mirela Dimitriu
 
War-of-the-Clowns-5I said a couple of months ago that for me clowns were never a source of amusement. It wasn’t a horror or phobia triggered by a movie seen when I was too young. There was a drop of sadness that I wanted to touch. The trail of white and red hands made me hope that I might “steal” from melancholy. I could not watch clowns as masks behind which they hide and remain cheerful. I do not know why … maybe because the clowns did not seem to have any need of paint to be so fragile.
 
National Theatre season end “Lucian Blaga” called “War Clown,” was previewed ranking Eli Simon song, “specialist” clowning American art. Until recently, I never would have thought to exist only book dedicated to this kind of acting and even less would I have imagined that somewhere could be schools and courses to form personalities clowns. Individualization of these characters, the skills, and their vulnerabilities, is a strong point of “War …”. Do not meet an amorphous mass of characters (even if they are divided into two camps as in this case), but by every clown in hand, all trying to attract the most passionate appreciation and applause. Full distancing from verbal language enhances the visual expression of their interiority, Being outlined features and causing them hidden worldview reflecting both faces, and the gestures of the characters.

But, chronologically speaking, where they come clowns? The story goes that somewhere on a distant planet, lived a mother clown that has chosen Earth as … motherhood. Lowered the center of the universe (be it our planet and round red nose that stands out even from such distance?), It gives birth to children who will share in The Clowns [1] (super-clowns) and Out Clowns [2] (sub-clowns), depending on personality. Fight for supremacy and win the crown will boost the demonstrations (or failure) of understanding. If, in general, clown-like children-they want public attention and do anything to win in their division only super-clowns prove this kind of narcissism. Sub-clowns, with characteristic candor awkwardness and seem rather to be felt lost hundreds of eyes that concern them. However, masks can cheat so easily, especially when the public wants it … so do not be surprised if behind an elegant clown will discover a soul sadder than behind a more “shabby”.

Interactivity was perhaps what impressed me most in this play by play. Previous years, every time someone got to the parts where the audience got up on stage, I feared not happen to me. This time it was the very opposite impulse: to get my umbrella personal equipment when super-clowns “shot” with water to hit balls that reached the public, to catch a huge bill to make theater or to donate something personal when sub-clowns were large hats. Some of them have done, the rest stay next time. I will not get to first (scheduled for 6 October), but I promise to return-the public-including clowns in next season. The makeup included, why not.
I can not conclude without telling you to shave much at “War clowns”. But if laughter that I heard the loudest (and not because of the volume) was that of a blind baby that parents had brought him to the theater. I could not figure out which of the conflicting feelings that the family try to sit by me was stronger. I still do not know. But I think for me boy laughed. I left with memories of whipped cream smeared curtain … to fall. I’m gonna miss.

“War of the Clowns” season ending National Theatre in Cluj
Day of Cluj, June 11, 2012, 14:45 Read: 545 Comments: 1

Performing “War of the Clowns” 2011-2012 season ends at the National Theatre in Cluj. The play will be presented in preview on June 16th, at 19, in the Great Hall.
 
War-of-the-Clowns-7-smallWritten and directed by Eli Simon signed and scenography by Cristian Rusu. Music has occupied Vinnie Olivieri. The cast includes actors: Ruslan Barlea, Adriana Băilescu, Patricia Brad Caras Ionut Dan Chiorean Catalin Codreanu, Ramona Dumitrean, Cristian Grosu, Anca Hanu, Catalin Herlo, Silvius Iorga, Elena Ivanca, Lărgeanu Radu Miron Maxim, Romina Merei Angelica Nicoară, Dragos Pop, Cristian Rigman, Matt and Irina Rotaru Wintze.
 
Eli Simon is professor of Drama at the University of California Irvine, Department of Theatre, where he teaches improvisation, directing, and acting. He has directed numerous productions, specializing in entertainment with clowns. Since 2006 he is artistic director of the troupe of clowns, Clownzilla. He has led work-shops in America, Korea, and Italy. He is the author of volumes: Masking Unmasked, Four Basic Approaches to Acting, Power Speech, and The Art of Clowning. He has directed performances of classical texts of Shakespeare (As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice) and Goldoni (Servant of Two Masters).
 
“In war clowns we witness a descent to earth, coming from a distant galaxy, a pregnant woman with a huge belly. A Mother Clown with angel wings that easily glides on Earth. She bears twenty baby clowns. Brothers begin to no longer understand each other and we witness a shootout of clowns.Between the two camps a real competition is formed and out of that will come a war that degenerates into a playful, irresistibly comedy. We must regard the costumes and oversized shoes and white faces with enormous red noses – but somewhat disturbing, though, by extrapolation, we get to re,late these images in today’s society.

Warof-the-Clowns-8-small„Szeretem Önt” – vallotta meg a rendezőnek nyilvánosan, az előadás másnapján lezajlott beszélgetésen egy román hölgy, maga is színházi szakember: „szeretem, mert megérttette velem, hogy a bohócok igazából mi vagyunk. Nem azok az idegesítő, maskarába öltözött alakok, akik kényszeríteni akarnak, hogy kacagjunk, amikor semmi kedvünk kacagni. Hanem esetlenek és frusztráltak és versengőek és valamiben azért mégiscsak ügyesek. Mindegyikük ért valamihez – és van egy anyjuk, aki feltétel nélkül szereti őket. Olyanok, mint mi” – foglalta össze a Bohócok háborúja lényegét, amelyen valóban mindenki – színész és néző – első percétől az utolsóig élvezettel és mosolyogva vesz részt.

The American director, Eli Simon brought on the stage War of the Clowns, a performance without words, a movement performance, with dance, music and pantomime, in one word „clowning”. It is a performance that invites you to have fun, that carries along the audience.

In her intervention, the theatre critic, Cristina Sârbu said: „I like the performance, because I understood that we (the spectators) are the Out Clowns, frustrated in our competition with the clever ones. Every clown is good in doing something, and they have a mother that loves them unconditionally. They are just like us. War of the Clown, is in essence, our world.
 

Illegal Aliens

Illegal-Aliens-3-introAn original clown show
Eli Simon – Director
Holly Poe Durbin – Costumes

Alan Terriciano – Music
Vincent Olivieri – Sound
John Iacovelli – Scenery

Arezzo International Theatre Festival, Italy
Monkey Wrench Collective
Fullerton
Summer, 2010

Reviews:

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: ENTERTAINMENT
September 3, 2010
 
‘ALIENS’ IN FULLERTON CLOWNS ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
By Eric Marchese

Illegal-Aliens-1-smallOn its surface, “Clownzilla: Illegal Aliens” tells of a family of clowns who arrive on Earth from outer space following the destruction of their home, Clown Planet. It isn’t long, however, before we realize that Eli Simon, the show’s writer-director and the troupe’s founder, has a lot more on his mind.

These clowns, we’re told, are in “big trouble” because they have had the misfortune to land in Arizona. Thus begin attacks upon the clowns by humans simply because they’re different – and we follow the white-faced, red-nosed outcasts as they deal with such issues as assimilation and alienation.

Has a troupe of generic clowns ever been so used to zero in on bigotry, racism, xenophobia and cultural conformity? The fact that they generate laughs while doing so is all the more remarkable.

The short, allegorical play enjoys its world premiere at Fullerton’s Monkey Wrench Collective. During its days in Santa Ana’s Artists Village, Monkey Wrench’s predecessor, Rude Guerrilla Theater Company, played host to two previous Clownzilla shows.

Simon created his first Clownzilla troupe in 2007 on the campus of the University of California, Irvine. He has taken his students all over the world, developing the ideas seen in “Illegal Aliens” during a visit to Italy in the summer of 2008.

Fans of the troupe will notice two distinct differences between this and previous Clownzilla shows. First off, “Aliens” has a narrator, a wino (Greg Beam) who at first seems to have wandered into the theater by accident.

Secondly, though none of the nine clowns actually utters a word, they do have some “dialogue,” a clever bit of misdirection in that it’s Beam who is actually speaking while the various clowns mouth the words.

Beyond that, “Aliens” is a typical Clownzilla show in that it depicts alienation – how insiders and cliques always try to keep the upper hand over outsiders. More so, “Aliens” is about oppression, as the terror-stricken clowns are almost instantly hunted down by humans, pressed into slavery or forced to live as refugees.

Simon also encourages his clowns to improvise and to interact with audiences, and they prove well skilled at both. In fact, all nine are expert mimes, using their faces and bodies to express a wide range of emotions. Despite the outwardly serious subject matter, they also garner plenty of well-deserved laughs, displaying well-honed clownic timing.

Illegal-Aliens-2-smallThe clown family is portrayed by Adrienne Mueller as the saucy Mom Clown, Will Cranmer as the frequently ticked-off looking Dad Clown, and seven white-faced Clownzilla troupe members as their various offspring.

Though dressed similarly in green tee-shirts and brightly colored, mismatched high-tops, each “child” clown is given a distinctive trait or two. Hannah Conway is a cheerfully clueless ballerina wannabe. Mikkei Fritz is happy-go-lucky. Wielding a large rubber hammer, Nicholas Law is the enforcer. Joel Shura, with one eye blackened, is the perennial outcast.

Alexa Teal Green is featured as Baby Clown, a bewildered little character distinguished by her sweet, shy smile and single, short-cropped ponytail sprouting from the top of her head a la Pebbles Flintstone. Like her castmates, Green makes the most of her moments in the spotlight.

The story’s humans are depicted as sullen, suspicious and cruel, played by the cast members in black coats, with flesh-colored noses over their red ones.

Simon uses the themes of aliens trying to assimilate to work in priceless bits about fast food workers, gardeners, surgeons, talk-show hosts and politicians. A not-so-couched moment has an interviewer bluntly suggesting that the clowns “go back to your own planet” and asking them why they don’t learn English.

John Iacovelli’s set design features a large planet (alternating between Earth and Clown Planet) surrounded by colorful stars and planets against the upstage wall, with various spheres and asteroids hanging from the ceiling. Lonnie Alcaraz’s often red lighting highlights the story’s otherworldliness.

Holly Poe Durbin’s costume designs make it clear whether cast members are portraying clowns or humans and, when clowns, which character they’re playing. Alan Terriciano’s original jazz piano score is often crazily discordant, the ideal accompaniment to the cast’s dancing, which ranges from wild, free-form stylistic ballet to jumpy, hip-jivey moves.

For the last two Saturday nights, Simon’s first clown show, “Clownzilla: A Love Story,” will be presented at 10 p.m. following “Illegal Aliens.” Featuring two original cast members (Mueller and RJ Romero), the bonus show will give existing and new fans a chance to delve into a little bit of Clownzilla history.

BACKSTAGETHE ACTOR’S RESOURCE
Monkey Wrench Collective
SEPTEMBER 08, 2010

Illegal-Aliens-4-smallLeave it to Clownzilla, the U.C. Irvine–based clowning troupe, to write a show that not only features each troupe member’s signature comedy and pantomime skills but that’s also a not-so-subtle critique of Arizona’s recent war on immigration.

Actually, leave it to Eli Simon. The troupe’s founder, and this show’s writer and director, devised the ideas for this striking world premiere while with his Clownzilla troupe in Italy two summers ago. As such, the evening is a skilled mixture of scripted bits, off-the-cuff clowning, slapstick, Theatre of the Absurd, and social and political satire poking fun not just at Arizona’s posture toward immigrants but at the entire human race. The first Clownzilla show to depict nonclowns shows them as hostile and paranoid, dashing around wearing black coats while shining flashlights onto their targets: the clowns they hope to enslave or chase off.

A substantial part of Simon’s script covers the process of assimilation, as various clowns, having been branded “the most wanted criminals on Earth,” try to adopt the appearance and mannerisms of humans to avoid persecution. “Illegal Aliens” also addresses themes of alienation: Those who are “in” try to remain there while trying to keep outsiders “out” at all costs.

The clowns’ talents are so polished and so similar that no single clown stands out. Making a lasting impression, though, are Adrienne Mueller and Will Cranmer as the clown family’s often-sour mom and dad; Hannah Conway, a girl clown and ballerina wannabe; and “enforcer” clown Nicholas Law, with rubber mallet always at the ready. Alexa Teal Green’s Baby Clown is a focal point of the story, and Green uses a combination of sweetly shy demeanor and “out clown” poses to pull maximum audience sympathy. Indeed, all nine clowns are eminently sympathetic, even while evoking gales of laughter.

Several supporting elements are an especially good fit, including Greg Beam’s work as the story’s narrator, Holly Poe Durbin’s costumes, Alan Terriciano’s jazz-piano score, John Iacovelli’s scenic design, Vincent Oliveri’s sound, and Lonnie Alcaraz’s lighting.

Clown Macbeth

Clown-Macbeth1An original clown show
Eli Simon – Director
Vincent Olivieri – Sound

Tuida Theatre Company
South Korea
Summer, 2009

In 2009, I was invited to work with TUIDA Performance Group in South Korea on a new adaptation of Macbeth. I created this piece with Vincent Olivieri, my clown sound designer/composer/ collaborator, and seven TUIDA company members – three men and four women. Prior to commencing rehearsals, Olivieri and I divided the play into manageable sections. This allowed us to maximize time during our short rehearsal period by focusing first on clown development and then on key sections of the play. Olivieri knew where we were headed and brought with him various sound samples and snippets of music. These were then layered, textured, and edited as rehearsals progressed.

For starters, I tried to invert expectations in order to generate a clown logic that worked for TUIDA. For example, after observing the clown personas that emerged during early rehearsals, we cast the three men as the witches, and the women in the rest of the roles, including Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Banquo, Duncan, and the murderers. The most vocal female clown played Lady Macbeth so that during climactic moments she could utter words like, “Kill,” “Courage,” “Blood,” and “Death.” Another Macbeth inversion with was clothing the clowns in white rather than in typical CLOWNILLA black. This choice was based primarily on the need to see blood against the fabric of the costumes (and there was a lot of blood). The affect of being draped in white accentuated the physical action of the clowns. Black clothing tends to accentuate white-face. White fabric accentuates the body. Clowns are more luminescent in white and this lends a ritualistic feel.

Clown-Macbeth2In Clown Macbeth we ventured into dark corners of clowning. I was seeking a mixture of funny and scary moments in order to see how the clowns and audience would react to an unpredictable array of actions and emotions. There were death scenes where wave upon wave of clowns died (once dead, the clowns picked themselves up, got back in line, and died again). The clowns portrayed death in all its individualistic glory and collective insignificance. Some of the deaths were horrifying but some were funny. It took a while for the audience to process the combinations of gruesome and entertaining moments. You could see them thinking, “Ah, ha, you’re a king that’s dying. No wait a minute, you’re not a king at all, you’re really just a clown. Oh, wait a minute you’re an actor playing a clown playing a king. Now you’re being poisoned and dying a terrible death as your innards deteriorates. Ah ha! That’s very funny. But sad . . .” People around the world understand that clowns thrive on laughter; it lets them know they are bringing home a message and that a strong clown/audience connection is in place. I surmised that our audiences in South Korea laughed because things were funny but also as a sign of appreciation for what the clowns accomplished on stage. The wildness of clown chase scenes, swordplay, puppetry, and witchcraft stirred the performer and audience’s emotions.

Ready Set Dead

Ready-Set-Dead-smallAn original clown show
Eli Simon – Director
Vincent Olivier – Sound
Jaymi Lee Smith – Lights
Holly Poe Durbin – Costumes

International Theatre Festival
Shanghai, China
Spring, 2009

Ready, Set, Dead was a two-clown experimental workshop production that Vincent Olivieri, Jaymi Smith, and Holly Poe Durbin and I put together based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle. We were invited to tour a new piece of theatre to the Asia Pacific Expo of Theatre Schools in Shanghai, China and were told by the artistic director to base our work on either one of these famous plays. We thought it would be an interesting challenge to take on both plays with a troupe comprised of two clowns, a director, a sound designer, a lighting designer, and a costume designer.
 
Both clowns were male but one was a cross-dresser and so he/she took on the roles of Juliet and Grusha. The other clown played all of the remaining roles including Romeo, Mercutio, Grusha’s baby, the Ironshirts, and Adzak. We combined scenes in the interest of promoting thematic connections: war, greed, teenage love, maternal instincts, persecution, and salvation. The clowns systematically illuminated these themes throughout the 45 minute romp. It was a jagged storyline but the clowns, in no small part due to the fact that their roles and actions were disparate, created a haunting and majestic piece of theatre.

Clownzilla: A Love Story

A-Love-Story-4-introAn original clown show
Conceived and Directed by Eli Simon

Gwacheon Hamnadong Festival, S. Korea, 2008
Sage Studio Theater, 2009
Muckenthaler Institute, Fullerton, 2010, 2011
Rude Guerilla Theater, 2008
Arezzo International Theatre Festival, 2009

This is CLOWNZILLA’s signature clown show, included in this period of review because it has continued to tour internationally and play at various theatres in California. For each performance, I re-investigated the piece, often re-casting different clowns, fine-tuning the story, and re-directing the action.
 
Over the years that the troupe has been together, the constituency of our core clowns has changed. For example, we’ve enjoyed four different actresses in the role of our baby girl clown. Each actress incorporated her own inspirations and, in some measure due to these unexpected changes, the show found new life.
 
A-Love-Story-3-smallFor each performance, we invited newly trained clowns to perform a short solo piece as a guest clown in the “High School Talent Show” section. This served a dual purpose:

  • Infusing our troupe with fresh inspirations.
  • Providing valuable stage time for up-and-coming clowns.

One thing I’ve learned is that long-running clown shows must be allowed to transform. If you try to control anything essentially creative, you risk squeezing the life out of it. A clown routine is palpably alive during those precious moments of inception. After that, it must either evolve or die.

Reviews:

LA Times – Critic’s Choice*

  • Clownzilla is staged like a silent movie, juggling darkness, light and fun.
  • It walks a tightrope between absurdist angst and daft parody.
  • Feewheeling festivities offer a slapstick valentine to geeks everywhere.

OC Weekly*

  • Clownzilla is something else entirely.
  • The comedic performances are uniformly excellent.

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Backstage West*

  • The art of classic whiteface clowning is preserved by Clownzilla.
  • The performers deliver a lighthearted look at the pronounced differences between the cool “in” hipsters” and their awkward counterparts.

OC Register*

  • They give us a chance to laugh wholeheartedly while thinking about the perennial tendency of humans to form cliques.
  • All five performers prove expert in sight gags, mugging and pratfalls, upholiding the circus-clown tradition.
  • Clownzilla offers a whirlwind of wordless clowning.

*these reviews predate this period of research. The show was advertised and seen with these reviews in place

Clownzilla: A Holiday Extravaganza

Rude Guerilla Theatre
Winter, 2007

Reviews:

Backstage West

  • The conceit of a family of sad clowns discovering joy in an A to Z Book of Holidays in inspired.
  • The humor ranges from all-out slapstick to political commentary.
  • These clowns are physically agile, preserving the art form with stylish twists.

OC Register

  • Just a little of the troupe goes a long way.
  • All seven clowns are easily capable of switching from frantic activity to more sedate goofing.
  • If you think that clowns are not your cup of tea, give this troupe a look anyway because they may surprise you – they may also touch something inside you relating to your own holiday experiences.

A-Holiday-Extravaganza-1-small

OC Weekly

  • Clownzilla exorcises your clowndemons.
  • The interpretations are often exquisite.
  • This type of clowning has roots deep in the human experience.

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