The Essential Scenario – Actors Freedom ~ Commedia dell’Arte

by Stanley Allan Sherman
© copyright September 2010
This article was originally published in Soul of the Actor 2011

Why and how Commedia dell’ Arte is special becomes more evident each year.  Roving Classical Commedia University* (*totally unaccredited) founded the summer of 2001 teaches classical Commedia dell’Arte as close to how we believe it was performed in the mid-late 1500’s.

Theater as well as our whole entertainment industry uses Commedia dell’Arte.  You can see Commedia dell’Arte through out the two 2010 summers Shakespeare plays performed in NYC’s Central Park at the Delcourt Theatre, “Winters Tale” and “Merchant of Venice”.  Auditioning for parts in film and commercials, several elements of Commedia dell’Arte come into play. Our industry uses Commedia dell’Arte improvisation, stock characters, history, scenario, movement, prop object manipulation, voice work and an actors wide variety of knowledge, all elements of Commedia dell’Arte.

Being on both side of the casting table – people that cast any project juggle many facts and talents to cast that one part, for the hundreds or thousands of actors that want it.  How does this art form from the mid late 1500’s help almost five hundred years later?

A basic element of Commedia dell’Arte is working with a scenario. The Commedia dell’Arte actor improvises from action point to action point.  Finding a good translation of an Italian scenario in English for the actor is not easy.  Explaining a working scenario for the Commedia dell’Arte actor is necessary.

  1. Take a play, remove all the dialogue, keeping or replacing it with condensed basic motivated action and what each character is tasked with performing on stage.
  2. Replacing and condensing lines further with specific action points.  What each character needs to accomplish to inform and move the story in each scene.
  3. Include lazzi moments that are a required, sometime included or hinted at. Lazzi is a bit of rehearsed stage business, which can be physical, musical, verbal, acrobatic or otherwise. My understanding it is almost always well rehearsed choreographed and memorized.
  4. Include who is in each scene listed on the margins edge. The actors will easily know when they need to come on stage and what they are tasked with.
  5. If you have a 70 to 90-page play the scenario would be about 5 to 7 pages. This tells you how condensed scenarii are along with how free the Commedia dell’Arte actors is to create within the scenario. Take this freedom into your work today.

The Commedia dell’Arte actor knows and is, his or her character along with their unique habits and eccentricities.  Seeing their assignment in the scenario, each beat or action point that needs to be accomplished on stage.  Actor’s jump into the improvisational void always saying yes to any and all action their counterparts throws at them.  Remembering story line points to hit in each beat in order to move the plot and actions forward.  Actors can go off on a tangent but always accomplishing their action points that are needed with their fellow actors.  It is a bit like a Talmudic debate.  One makes a point and everyone can go off on far reaching tangents.  Always listening to each other they come back to the central point and/or action.  It is a must to work with and not against your fellow player.   There are those wonderful times when you work “with” your fellow actors as the Commedia dell’Arte actors did in the 1500 and 1600’s. Most Commedia dell’Arte companies, like the scenarii had 10 characters or players.   Working with each other is not a choice, it is vital.

We know Commedia dell’Arte was improvised from scenarii because of the church censors of the 1500’s and 1600’s. The church censors letters of complaints talk about how it is impossible to censor “them”; because every show is different and they come up with the most unbelievable things to do that one would never think of, when you tell them not to do something.  Also from the Commedia dell’Arte actor letters, complaining about, lets call them straight actors in the late 1600’s, the unbelievability of going on stage and saying the same words every show!  This was unthinkable for to the Commedia dell’Arte player!  There are schools, people teaching and writing today that are now saying Commedia dell’Arte was not that improvised, everything was pretty much set.   Historical evidence contradicts this.  In theater of today it is always safer to set things, to make sure they will work and be successful on stage, plus it take away the “risk” of failure.   The word “risk” is key.   If you are not risking what the “&%#*” are you doing on stage, in the theatre arts, why are you doing theatre and not real-estate if you want safety?   It is theatre, live theatre, not dead theatre.  Theater is risk weather you are performing, writing or producing, on stage, film or television.  Enjoy the improvisational void and risk.

In an audition, look at a script in terms of scenario and what needs to be accomplish using the author’s words.  Being real is vital, when using Commedia dell’Arte masks, if you are pretending rather than being totally in the moment or void, the mask will fall.  Meaning it will look like there is a mask coving your face, you will not be the character. When one is totally in the masks or carrying the mask all the audience/casting director sees is your total character.  This is the state being one wishes to be in with or without a mask.  In some good auditions at some point the casting director may ask you to improvise.   Commedia dell’Arte tools come in very handy at that point. For you to be great yourself you must work with your fellow auditioner’s.  This requires several skills.   An example, there were 5 people all auditioning together.  No one was paying any attention to the any of the other 4 actors except one, who was doing something funny, trying to play/communicate with the other actors.   The casting director actually stopped the auditions and yelled at the four actors in disbelief, “It is ok you can react to him!”  Him, being the one actor playing and risking.

Another central tool for the Commedia dell’Arte actor; a fellow actor never directs or tells their fellow actors what to do.  Why? Because it limits possibilities of improvisation, improvisation with goals can result in the best drama and comedy.   The Commedia dell’Arte actor always builds on what is present and given in the moment.  They never say no.  Always say yes to all action and situations.  Commedia dell’Arte players live in risk in the void like all theatre should.  In a film audition go over the script. Memorized it. Memorized its action points so you will be able to play within the scenario of the script.  One moment during an improvisation based on the script can get you the role.  Risking and risking wisely is vital.

Read some of Flaminio Scala’sScenarios of the Commedia dell’Arte” you will quickly begin to say, this sounds like Shakespeare.  Yes, everything but Shakespeare’s histories.  Take NY Shakespeare in the Park 2010 Winters Tale. The second act is almost a different play straight from the Commedia dell’Arte with Brighella and Arlecchino. Autolycus played by Hamish Linklater an excellent Brighella.  There was Arlecchino played by Max Wright in the guise of the Shepard’s son with the two performing a lazzi of Brighella stealing everything from Arlecchino including his pants and glasses.  You also had Brighella with his many women he is known for.  In Merchant of Venice you have Dottore Graziano from the Commedia dell’Arte who is known for talking endlessly – his name is even the same.  Pantalone worries about his daughter and his money; of course the daughter running off with her lover that her father object’s to and his money is taken as well.  Everyone is always trying to steal Pantalone’s money; in this case it is Shylock as Pantalone played by Al Pacino. Then you have the women at the end of the play dressing up as men and saving the men, their lovers from a bad situation.  A woman turning the situation is very Isabella Andrine. She is known as the first professional actress, dieing in childbirth in 1604 with her 7th child.  Isabella who always turned the tables and situations in the Commedia dell’Arte and her writings inspiring women of the 1500’s and 1600’s to use their own power to change situations to the better and their advantage.

During film shoots when you are playing a character with the director giving you the freedom you may experience Commedia dell’Arte improvisation within the scenario of the scene.   Taking what the director tells you about the character and scenes, working within the lines, knowing your parameters and key points to hit.  Then the call, action!  “Curb Your Enthusiasm” the television show is improvised using a scenario.  On the set you will see the actors improvise the same scene several times always hitting the same point that are needed. Some directors will have you use their film script as a Commedia dell’Arte scenario. The actors must know the key points and lines that must be hit.  Jumped into that void with your fellow actors, letting the lines come where they need to resulting in driving the action with real moments, on film. If you are given a prop, use it.  Commedia dell’Arte prop manipulation is vital.  You must investigate your prop. Play with it.  Get to know it. Even if the only time you have is while they are reloading the camera. Improvising within the scenario of the script and being in the mask of the character.  Not a physical mask but the essence.  Suddenly many elements Commedia dell’Arte actors used in the late 1500’s you are now using in film.

These are a few points of what is special about Commedia dell’Arte. Played by it self it can be the most powerful side splitting moving theatre.  Using Commedia dell’Arte in our entertainment industry today, it is part of it.   Enjoy your actor’s freedom risking wisely.


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Creating Original Material

By: Stanley Allan Sherman © 2013

What! Me?  I thought there was nothing new. 
“If that kind of thinking prevailed we would still be naked on the ground looking at two sticks – not even wondering about creating fire.” Stanley Allan Sherman 

This class comes from the heart, built on doing my shows created from original material. I am a strong advocate of artists creating their own material, rather than the other options:

1.      Waiting for the great piece to be written for you.
2.      Doing reliable bits that everyone else does and has been tested for decades if not centuries.
3.      Stealing bits, pieces and whole shows from other performers.

When you rely on these options it does damage to you.  Stopping you from getting to your true creative original material, which can be the difference between getting by and genius.  Yes I have seen good performers stuck in a rut; friends that have told me they hate their own material and shows.  Not knowing or be able to live on that creative artistic edge.  You want to live in, as Carlo Mazzone-Clementi says, “A constant stage of becoming.”  Which is why I am doing this lab Creating Original Material.  My teacher Jacque Lecoq told all of us as we were about to graduate, “Do not wait for the piece to be written for you.”

In this lab we will get into:

  • Inspiration and the beginning of turning it into material
  • Building your show on inspiration or other theme elements
  • Development time
  • Techniques for creating your show and material
  • Using failure
  • Beginning, middle and end
  • Different things to get you started
  • Being stuck
  • Discovering your show
  • Trusting yourself
  • How to listen and use criticism
  • What advice and criticism to ignore
  • Testing out your creation – it is part of the process
  • Risk and fear
  • Performing: where, how and the business of booking

There is a wonderful independence of having your show.
Once you have created one, you realize you can create more.

You control your destiny. 

I have gone from the world of independent and solo performing with “Critic Choice” reviews and where I was always paid, to the sketchy corporate world of entertainment SAG AFTRA and AEA.  Working in Film, Television and Off Broadway. As an independent performer and actor I’ve used my skills well in the three corporate entertainment mediums.  Several times on the set of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” fellow actor/performers in the green room would often say, “Stanley how did you do that? That entrance exit?”   It is called years as an independent performer, creating solo shows and performing in the streets of Paris and New York, to bars on postage stamp size stages starting in 1970s to doing 3,000 seat theaters.  I must say, the world of independent on-your-own theater is healthier, more satisfying and can be much more profitable.

You’re a performing artist?  Live on the edge-dance on that line of fire. 

Creating Original Material Theater Lab will run from June 17 – 21 in NYC at
Centro Esponal on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

Sign up for this theater lab email or call 212-255-2882

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“Perfect Catch” – Loving Juggling Show – Catch It!

By: Stanley Allan Sherman © 2013

Written and Performed by: Jen Slaw & Michael Karas
Costumes and Set by: Elizabeth Barrett Groth
Lighting by: Lisa Soverino

Jen Slaw and Michael Karas holding unbrellas while bubbles are coming down.

Jen Slaw and Michael Karas
Photo by Victoria Sulewski

Both performers are sleeping on stage and we hear a morning radio announcer and these two young single office workers get up in the morning readying themselves for work. Jen Slaw and Michael Karas are both master jugglers, winning awards, appearing on National Television and many other venues.  Everything is juggled to music and choreographed.  Jen has a captivating charming character and Michael plays the office jerk, which makes for some nice theater.

What is wonderful is these two have put together a show that is character based with the juggling and prop manipulation growing out of their situations.  Plus it is two juggling theater people working together, which is wonderful.  Here is how good this show is; last year when they did a short run the great Hovey Burgess master teacher of circus came to all four shows of their run.  Hovey only comes to shows again if they are good and if they are great he sees all of them.

Jen and Michael’s characters play with paper, balls, boxes, umbrellas and more.  They have magical moments with their umbrellas, balls and bubbles while dancing.  This is a romantic boy and girl getting together and finding they enjoy one another rather than annoying each other.  The movie clip has a nice classical uncomfortable first date feel and of course Jen takes charge advancing the situation.  It is their acting, which makes all the juggling work.   There is one really romantic moment where they are hugging and juggling.  We could have done without the cheep laugh of Michael’s character quick take of looking at Jen’s rear end.  It did get a laugh but the theatrical romantic moment is so much stronger, they might think about trying it without that take.

There are many magical moments that I will not spoil by describing them.  Funny reactions to office sounds that are played several times and each time it is funnier.  The audience was international, so you do not need to understand the English language to get everything out of “Perfect Catch”.

Jen Slaw & Michael Karas juggling and eating apples

The set and costume, cleverly simple by Elizabeth Barrett Groth serving this show very well.  Lisa Soverino’s lighting is excellent, not getting in the way and over powering it, but enhancing the show.  Whoever did the sound did a master full job and it would be good to see some added credits for all the sound.

My only real complaint was not the show but with the theaters choice to show a video preview of their next up coming show, which takes people out of the mood and magic of sitting looking at the set and listening to the music getting ready for the show they paid to see.  It is a hard way to begin your show and hard for the audience having to change their energy from a totally different rhythm of a show video ad you’re forced to experience.  It might work in movie theaters but this is live theater, which is a different rhythm.  There are other ways to promote the next show.  The best one is if people have a great experience from beginning to end at the show they came to see.

Performed at the Canal Park Playhouse, 508 Canal St, New York NY 10013 through February 24 playing Saturday and Sunday at 1 PM and 4 PM.  Tickets $20 and it is worth it.

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The Night Circus – Laughing Joyful Fun + Dancing

By Stanley Allan Sherman
© 2013

Produced by: Burning Clown Productions in-participation with WorkShop Theater Company

One-audience members after the show I heard saying to Mister and Missus Clown, “Thank you this is just what I needed!” Which is what entertainment is required to do.  Give the audience a place to forget their troubles, laugh with and at the truth in our world or just laugh.

Fools School Academy Players

A great variety show has a variety of elements, moods, edginess and this one was loaded with plenty.  A very full house for their opening of this late nigh show everyone was laughing from begin to end.   The show starts before it starts.  As the audience is coming in the troupe of fresh clowns of “Fools School Academy Players” were playing a version of a game of 1,2,3 stop, a kind of tag game that I have not seen since I was in grade school.  Mind you when I was studying at Ecole Jacque Lecoq in Paris, France in the early 70’s we never played games like this.  The game helped transfer everyone into a having fun time.  There was a clown named Hambone (Margo Hammond) that was giving out slices of ham as people came into the box office area.  Another Peppermint Patsy (Clare Patterson) was giving out candy.   There was also CurlyBurly (Stefania Diana Schramm), Crump (Richard Kent Green) and of course Mister Clown (Mike Smith Rivera) and Missus Cordella Clown (Kelly Ann Burns).  With Missus Cordella Clown and others giving out free popcorn to the audience throughout the evening.   You also got a free drink for the price of admission; an interesting drink called Fun or beer and the usual.

Three Clown Richard Kent Green, Mister Clown and Missus Cordella Clown singing with Missus clown in a shower cap

Crump, Mister Clown and Missus Cordella Clown

The show starts with the MC’s of the evening Mister and Missus Clown and the full moon.  It was a full moon on this late night show.   But from the back curtain we see Crump mooning us with his pants part way down with a plastic bare ass butt.  This is my only real criticism of the evening.   It is a late night 10 PM show.  If you are going to moon the audience, really moon the audience with real bare ass – it is so much more effective and funnier.


Ronda Hansome comic

Comic Ronda Hansome

The first act was Rhonda Hansome, who was truthfully hitting that sharpness of funny.  Commenting about the, “second term of our half black President” and much more.  Joked about how her race changes what is appropriate to call ourselves, African American, Black or ______. We where laughing throughout her hard hitting comedy and it was a very strong opening for the show.   How do you follow this act?

Will Shaw with a top spinning on his hand

Will Shaw

There was a nice transition into Will Shaw, whom I have seen many times. But tonight Will was especially great with a very relaxed right on timing.  Performers improve and the more they perform the better they get.  Will has the experience and talent of being funny no matter what he does.  He is one of the true world masters of spinning tops*, all kinds and sizes of tops.  (*Point of information I only know two top spinners that use tops in their performances, Will and Keith Nelson and I have heard Keith give praise that Will is top of the tops in NYC.)  He does things with tops that you should not be able to do.  There were hoots, ahs, ooooooooohs and laughing from beginning to end.  Another funny transitions by Mister and Missus Clown.

Solomon the Peculiarist magician holding five pink balls

Solomon the Peculiarist

Next up was , (Tanya Solomon) who has been performing in the New York area for two or three years now.  This was the most comfortable show I have seen her do and the funniest.   Using her magic skills she was very classy with a special type of humor that only she can get away with.   She had her special  tool that helped an audience volunteer to read the thoughts of a gentleman in the upper row of the theater was amazing.  You crank the apparatus one way you read minds, cracking the other way you send out all your thoughts. So one must be careful which way you turn it according to Solomon the Peculiarist.  A funny magical performance by Tanya followed by Mister and Missus clown ending the first half of the evening.


Missus Cordelia Clown

Missus Cordelia Clown

The second half opened with the “Fools School Academy Players” and our hosts, then Solomon the Peculiarist made another appearance.   There was a piece where three clown witches came out – MC by Mister Clown and the three clowns collected various items from the audience like, ear wax, sweat, something else along with clown witches pee which was put into a black caldron mixed up and the clowns suddenly changed into some of the sexiest clowns I have seen in a long time.  Missus clown did have the best out fit.   To cap it off a fourth female clown came out realizing she missed the brew.  Which seems to have happened before.

Next up was Richard Kent Green singing two songs on a very small banjo, which was a great change of tempo for the evening.

Juliet Jeske holding a rubber chicken

Juliet Jeske

There was another “Fools School Academy Players” piece and then top bill of the evening Juliet Jeske with her humor, music and song.  With Juliet everything is there to make fun of… but like a true comic or theatrical fool, it all has an edge and at the same time makes you smile with a very sharp tone, which makes it great funny theater.   She is not afraid to go to beyond the comfortable.  Yes it does cut with its truthful laughs throughout from the audience.   She did two of her original songs, which I am not going to tell you about because I do not want to spoil the surprises.   She also turned both songs into a sing along.   Juliet’s second piece had that great social commentary of funny truths that we look for in great works by true Theatrical Fools, Clowns and Comics.   Juliet Jeske was a strong perfect end to the performances of this special full moon evening.  Which did not end.

Mister Clown with Missus Clown on his shoulders

Mister Clown and Missus Clown

What was great is all five top acts were very different, with different moods making a great evening.  Our hosts for the evening along with their “Fools School Academy Players” put together a wonderful late night show.  You can tell when a show is great by how fast the audience leaves.  At 1:00 AM in the morning people and cast were still dancing.   A great deal for $20, which besides laughs also included, ham, pop corn, candy, a drink and dancing.  Our producers put together a warm safe carrying place to perform.  I hear the next Saturday Full Moon Night Circus might be a few months on the next Saturday night full moon.   An important side note – yes the performers where paid!


Photos by Jim Moore
Jim Moore’s Blog

Mister Clown
CEO Burning Clown Productions Inc.

Juliet Jeske Comic/writer
Juliet Jeske’s blog

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Night Circus begins a new late night Variety Show in NYC

Produced by Burning Clown Productions
in Partnership with Workshop Theater Company

Saturday night January 26 on the full moon at 10:00 PM

Mister and Missus Clown wearing clown noses and white hair

The hosts for the evening Mister and Missus Clown

The Night Circus is excited to announce they have re-arranged the lunar calendar to allow the first Full Moon of 2013 to guest host the world premiere of their variety show.  This new unique variety show will be bi-monthly or quarterly and after this late night show starting at 10 PM their will be dancing!   Which is a wonderful addition to a late fun Saturday January night.

Three hosts, the wonderful Mister & Missus Clown and the full moon, with an excellent and exciting quality and varied lineup with some very talented veteran performers.

Juliet Jesket holding the neck of a Rubber Chicken with bright red lip stick.

The always on the edge funny, multi-talented, Juliet Jeske making this lineup a strong funny evening.

Of the five variety performers some I am very familiar with and others totally new to me.   On the bill is Rhonda Hanson, Solomon the Peculiarist, Will Shaw, Juliet Jeske and Sir Richard Green.   Plus clowns from Mister Clown’s Fool School Academy, Richard Kent “Crump” Green, Clare “Peppermint Patsy” Patterson,  Margo “Hambone” Hammond and Stefania “Curlyburly” Schramm and something about a dancing bear.

Will Shaw juggling

Will Shaw is a joy having his special brand of juggling humor and he is a Top master.





RSVP for tickets which are $20 and for a $5 discount buy your ticket by 12 Midnight on Wednesday with discount code: CLWN at




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Clowns and Fools vs Politician

Stanley Allan Sherman
copyright December 14, 2012

Many political commentators and ones I will often agree with are insulting clowns and fools by referring to corrupt, lying, thieving politicians as clowns or fools.  This is an abuse of “clowns” and “fools”.  Here are some clown and fool facts showing that clowns are indeed the very opposite of Politicians.

1. Clowns and Fools never lie. It is one basic reality of clowning.
2. Clowns and Fools always tell the truth, because the truth is very funny and tragic, resulting in great moving theater.
3. Clowns and Fools are a reflection of society, even more so the Fool.
4. Clowns and Fools move people emotionally in positive ways.
5. Many clowns and fools are politically active and most that I run into and have worked with are not only progressive and liberal but also very active on the political front lines of positive change.
6. Most successful clowns and fools work very hard, are multi talented and not only must be artists but a businessperson as well.
7. Clowns and Fools often make people laugh from their soul.  They can tell the truth to everyone, including powerful people.
8. Great Clowns will make children and adults laugh at the same time and that is not always easy.
9. Clowns bring people joy and make them feel wonderful.
10. Clowns are fun!

Politicians, most of them have none of these qualities.

“The Jon Stewart Show” along with the “Colbert Nation” is the closest thing we have to true national televised clowns and fools.  Many people today get their news from these comics, because they tell the truths like clowns and fools.

Never use Clowns or Fools to describe a bad politician – especially when there are so many more things you can call them, which truly describe them.

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Storm Sandy $ Help for Artists – NYFA

By Stanley Allan Sherman

New York, Connecticut and New Jersey Artists, help from three foundations which are being administered by New York Foundation for the Arts is here.

These are emergency relief funds for artists of all disciplines.  They will be from $1,000 to $5,000 but can be more or less depending on the situation.  For example: the great show Under the Skiff had to cancel performances, from what I read they would be eligible for the Storm Sandy relief grants.   If you lost physical work, props, damage to your home or studio or other places that you work, equipment, supplies or just lost of income because a gig got canceled – this help is meant for you.   The NYFA is now accepting application for Hurricane Sandy Emergency Relief Fund and grants will be issued every two weeks.

In addition to direct grants from the Emergency Relief Fund, NYFA has lowered the administration fee on cash-flow loans it provides to organizations to 3 percent through the end of the 2012 calendar year.

Here are the web sites:
New York Foundation for the Arts

From the NYFA website

NYFA Emergency Relief Fund

Supported by Warhol, Rauschenberg and Lambent Foundations,

The Andy Warhol Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Lambent Foundation (a project of the Tides Center) have established an Emergency Relief Fund, administered by NYFA to assist artists with damages and losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Eligible artists can be working in any discipline and reside in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York.

Damages are broadly defined and include, but are not limited to: damage to physical work; damage to homes/studios/other facilities; loss of equipment or supplies; loss of income, and reimbursement for cancelled performances/appearances/engagements. We anticipate the overwhelming majority of grants will range between $1,000 and $5,000, but there may be extraordinary circumstances in which slightly smaller or larger grants might be made.

To apply, please complete the NYFA Relief Fund Application
Artists will be asked to:

1. Describe the damage sustained as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Tell us the dollar amount of the damage and your method for determining the total.

2. Tell us if they have applied to other funds or organizations to cover this loss. If so, indicate where and the status of the request (amount received, application pending, application declined).

3. Include any appropriate support materials (pay stubs, photos, receipts, contracts, etc.) as well as, a current resume/bio or link to artist website.

A separate fund has been established for arts organizations; for information email

The Three Foundations involved
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Lambent Foundation

If you are asking where did Stanley get this information?  You can get information like this and more at 

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It is back – the hit show BOUFFON GLASS MENAJOREE

Directed by: Eric Davis
Written by: Lynn Berg*, Audrey Crabtree, Aimee German
Performers: Lynn Berg*, Audrey Crabtree, Aimee German

If you happened to miss this amazing show more than a few years ago, do not miss it this time.   Brilliantly directed and developed by Eric Davis and the performers, this show come back for a short run at its original home The Brick Theater.  It is the only Bouffon show I have every seen that really works theatrically.  It has won awards and they are well disserved. They say Tennessee Williams is spinning in his grave! My guess he is laughing his ass off.

Blue Mountain, your mama received seventeen gentlemen callers – Amanda Wingfield; Aimee German & Lynn Berg

The history: in 2006 Bouffon Glass Menajoree premiered in the NY Clown Theatre Festival and continued multiple extensions and a full run at The Brick Theater.   After being nominated for 4 NY Innovative Theatre Awards, and winning the Outstanding Overall Production, they returned to the NY Clown Theatre Festival in 2007 a summer run at The Bleeker Street Theatre in NYC, and went on to perform to sold out houses with critical acclaim in the Minnesota Fringe Festival, The Catskills New Works Festival, and the Dublin Fringe Festival and they return now for a limited engagement in The Brick Theater’s 10 year Retrospective.   For full discloser I was asked, and did many years ago, create two very, very small; what Audrey Crabtree calls “Little Mask” for her character, which is not worn on her face.   I am very please that they look totally a part of her character.

This is one of the best shows to come out of the NY Clown Theater Festival’s in Brooklyn.  It is a very fun and unique show.

Show dates and times: November 30-December 16, Fri, 11/30 @ 7pm; Sat, 12/1 @ 8pm; Thu, 12/6 @ 8pm; Sun, 12/9 @ 7pm; Thu, 12/13 @ 8pm; Sat, 12/15 @ 8pm; Sun, 12/16 @ 7pm

The Brick Theater  ( 575 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211

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Under The Skiff – Powerfully Funny

By: Stanley Allan Sherman
© October 25, 2012

Presented by: Vagabond Inventions and InterAction
Conception and Scenario by: Maja Bieler and Jennifer Sargent
Devised by: Maja Bieler, Audrey Lamarque and Jennifer Sargent
Artist Consultation: Iciar Trespaderne
Directed by: Audrey Lamarque
Sound and Music by: Maja Bieler
Set by: Jennifer Sargent and Chris Petrinovic
Light and Sound Tech by: Chris Petrinovic

Featuring: Maja Bieler as Bibi
Jennifer Sargent as Manuela

Admittance to The Department Of Immigration Ministry Of The Homeland

Clown show Under the Skiff with Maja Bieler as Bibi Jennifer Sargent as Manuela

Jennifer Sargent as Manuela and Maja Bieler as Bibi
Photo credit is Mohamed Sali

In this new theatrical world of Clown Theater there have been great strides made, many of the artists coming out of the school of Ecole Jacque Lecoq in Paris, France.  Maja Bieler and Jennifer Sargent with direction by Audrey Lamarque are three who have struck a powerful mark with their creation and performance of Under The Skiff.    This international team creates a hauntingly odd world of the insane government bureaucracy dealing with immigration, the personal relationships playing with and against one another and the system.  Their desperate personal relationships in this desperate immigration world make for great theater.  Because it is Clown Theater these two clowns wonderfully play with this extreme emotional life situation which although real in fact we as an audience can accept the play of this insanity because of these clowns.  They did do research in several countries on immigration so these ladies know what they are talking about.

Every single moment of Under The Skiff we are totally involved.  Pulled into this world starting in the dark with the eerie sound of the metal gate and chains rising and The Department Of Immigration Ministry Of The Homeland opens.  Not a single moment anywhere in the show is one counting the lights hanging in house instead of being captivated with this show.

Bibi and Manuela’s relationship goes back and forth from total distrust by Bibi to innocent joy of Manuela.   The two get in their best position to be called for that interview to immigrate into their chosen country.  I will not spoil the show for you by giving away details.  But yes the magic happens on stage.  The international language with Bibi speaking Swedish really gives the show that communication edge with these clowns ending up helping one another out or trying.  After all they are clowns.   Yes there is real drama with moments that the audience is close to tears.   Using the clown we are able to travel so much deeper into the emotional funny soul of hell in the immigration office.   Anyone speaking any language will enjoy this show.  Especially if you have dealt with immigration on any level personally or you are a bureaucrat or deal with bureaucracy you do not want to miss Under The Skill.

These two ladies are top-notch veteran performers and it shows. There is also a pre-show where immigration officers interrogate you in order to get into the theater.  Which makes for a great and fun start to this experience.  On this night it was the fun and harsh team of Audrey Crabtree and Billy Shultz (Oct. 28 & Nov. 1) on other nights it will be Alex Kipp and Jennifer Stokes (Nov. 2, 3 & 9) or Janssen-Faith & Emily James (Nov. 8 & 9).   Plus big cheers to Maja and Jennifer because they are self-producing this run which started in Paris, France and now in NYC until November 10, then they travels to New Orleans for a run at The Always Theater, November 14th, 17th at 9 PM, November 15th, 18th at 7 PM, 16th at 11 PM.

All show New York Shows at The Red Room are at 8 PM October 28, November 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 9th and 10th:  The Red Room 85 East 4th Street, 3rd floor between 3rd & 2nd Avenue NYC.   Tickets are $20 and are available at or at the box office.

Vagabond Inventions

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UNDER THE SKIFF returns to NYC – limited run

By: Stanley Allan Sherman
October 18, 2012

Jennifer Sargent and Maja Bieler - waiting

Jennifer Sargent and Maja Bieler - wait
Photo credit is Mohamed Sali

This is the first limited run in NYC for UNDER THE SKIFF.   A funny powerful piece of Clown Theater created by these international clowns, Maja Bieler, Jennifer Sargent, and Audrey Lamarque; directed by Audrey Lamarque.

Jennifer Sargent and Maja Bieler  - waiting

Jennifer Sargent and Maja Bieler – waiting
Photo credit is Mohamed Sali

Last time we saw UNDER THE SKIFF was at the NY Clown Theater Festival five years ago.  It was by far one of the best shows at any of the Festivals.  This is a new version with an additional 20 minutes added.  I expect it to involve the best of this new area of Clown Theater, real drama and sidesplitting humor based in the reflection of our world.

In the barren immigration office of a strange country, two naïve applicants wait and wait… and wait…. for their papers to be approved.  This is something that happens all the time with any government paper work.   Between escapades with naturalization forms, barking loudspeakers, and a tangle of miscommunications in wacky foreign languages, our heroines navigate absurd catastrophes small and large with infectious optimism and remarkable endurance.  Theses ladies are very funny clowns.

UNDER THE SKIFF was inspired by true stories of female immigrants who journeyed alone to London, New York, Kenya, Ecuador, and Haiti.  This version premiered in September at the Galerie G – L’Art au Garage in Paris.  After their NY limited run they travel to the New Orleans’ popular experimental theater venue, The Allways Theatre.

Jennifer Sargent and Maja Bieler clowns  - excitement

Jennifer Sargent and Maja Bieler
Photo by Mohamed Sali

We our lucky these very funny and theatrical ladies bring their show to New York City at The Red Room, 85 East 4th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues near Bowery.  Performances are schedule Wednesday through Saturday, October 24 – November 10, Wednesday – Sunday at 8 PM.

Opening Night Wednesday October 24th special discount price: only $10

The regular ticket price is $20, students and seniors $15 at the door. For tickets, call Brown Paper Tickets on 1-800-838-3006 or

For more information, visit

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