NY Clown Theater Festival: Clown Cabaret, September 21, 2011

By: Stanley Allan Sherman
© September 22, 2011

Have you ever wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes of the NY Clown Theater Festival? Festival directors Audrey Crabtree and Robert Honeywell, playing clown characters, gave us a window into their process of putting this festival together. If you are having problems being selected for the festival – clown sex bribery or flirtation could help. They cleverly wove their bits into flowing introductions that went very well. But there were also two others that helped in this process: Lynn Berg played the silent mysterious clown presence Audrey and Robert feared, and Katherine M. Horejsi cleaned up the stage between the acts and set the props. Katherine played a mean, stern, take-no-guff-from-anyone clown. All of her actions were truthful and to the point, and it is the best work I have seen her do. Just the simple acts of picking something up and how she did it were captivating. Each object got its own special attention. After the show she told me it is her Mean Mom Clown.

The acts this evening were not a promo of shows coming up this week, but clown acts in development, old pieces people are dusting off, or clowns in the community wanting to do a piece of their act.

Billy Schultz, “Matoida Sassrofkin at Work”. Billy let Matoida Sassrofkin do all the work, letting his clown out. Matoida’s actions were all truthful – one can tell when a clown is lying, and clowns do not lie. When they do, it is not pretty to watch. He was wonderfully funny. Discovering small plastic bags, he popped them, and let the audience pop some. He engaged the audience in very gentle non-manipulative ways, flowing easily with his act. Shaking a cardboard box with stuff on top of it was just plain fun and funny. Soon we discovered it was a cardboard radio. This is when the music came on and Billy started dancing. For me, when the recorded music came on the laughs dropped off. There is something about how one uses recorded music that can be wonderful, or it can kill an act. Usually it is closer to the latter. Billy’s dancing was funny. The way Billy’s clown does anything is what is funny.

“Lisa Lou” did pieces of her prop manipulations, walking on a ball, spinning objects on a stick, some juggling, and ended with juggling knives. The clown cabaret had a very nice audience that seemed to appreciate her act even with an occasional drop here and there – which does happen.

Alexander Kipp “Captain Napkin” : his piece started out slowly and built. Clown Captain Napkin is very unassuming. When he put on his electric bass guitar, the first thing that went through my mind was does he actually know how to play? The other thought: it does not look clown, but it is a red bass almost matching his clown nose. That was when the piece turned really funny. Playing and singing, “”I want to know what love is”, he started playing with the audience, trying to get a woman in the audience to help him with this question, any woman. In true clown fashion, he suddenly turned up a guy, and with audience encouragement, the kiss happened. Fun little piece that built up, and it’s always wonderful when clowns do their own music. It was great non-forced audience involvement.

“Mr. & Mrs. Clown”: combined acrobatic and dance skills. Entered as very beautiful/ handsome clown dancers. You can tell they both enjoy performing, and performing with each other. It was sexy, surprising, fast-paced and full of great one-liners combined with acrobatic positions and movements. They even put in some funny political humor that worked. It was great because it was clown comedy, not pounding some political statement. Mr. & Mrs. Clown, Mike Smith Rivera and Kelly Anne Burns are actually married, and this produced the funniest line of the evening. Mrs. Clown was in the middle of starting to climb up on Mr. Clown’s shoulders when Mr. Clown’s nose fell off and he started to pick it up. Mrs. Clown sensed something wrong, saw what Mr. Clown was trying to do, and yelled at Mr. Clown, “Your nose or your wife – make a choice!” They were beautifully fun and funny to watch. They also both have strong acting gigs going on. Kelly Anne Burns was nominated for ‘Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role’ for her work in “The Navigator” in the NY Innovative Theatre Awards this year. Which goes to show – clowns make great actors. They have fun.

It was a very fun funny evening for the last Clown Cabaret of this festival.

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