Aug 28, 2011

An Apology to the Pi Clowns


I like you guys too much to write a story about you.

So all I am going to post are my polished-up notes -- snap-shots, bits & pieces of this transcendentally silly clown troupe from San Francisco and their singular show. They were the artists-in-residence at the Berkshire Fringe for this season.

A brief note to explain my perspective: I was on tech duty for this show, so I saw everything from the gridwork above the theater. The pi clowns mostly handle all their own props -- all that I had to do was stay perched up there waiting for my cue to drop two toy parachute men down onstage when Bruce sends a paper airplane crashing into the wall.

 - The Pi Clowns are: Andrew (Quick the Stick), Leah (Miz G), Tyler (the Juggler), Jon (Macho. Manly. Fuzzy. MONSTER-STRONG), and Bruce (Bruce).
 - The Thrust: the clowns' pre-show ritual... in which they huddle up, settle into the moment with a sigh, tilt back pelvises and crush them all together simultaneously while making silly wheedling & animal-happy sounds. From above, it looks like a red and black sunflower ruffled with hair, white faces popping out like petals. The point is not to make an orgasm noise, exactly, but to expunge all stress out in noise (as silly as possible, of course)
 - Pre-show atmosphere: I'm sitting here in the burlesque glow of pink lighting above an empty stage, an audience humming with anticipation below, marinating in that old squeezebox carnie music... and then Andrew steps out onstage -- slowly, alone, staring down the audience.
 - The Pi Clowns definitely utilize their environment to create a new show every night -- its structure is constantly changing and evolving and flying off the seat of its pants. They listen to their audience, climb all over them, steal their purses (only to give them back with a shame-faced grin), and crawl into their arms to die heroically. This is all literal, by the way.
 - At a talkback after one of the shows, someone asks where the troupe got its name and Andrew (who studied math along with theater at UC Santa Cruz, where all the Pi Clowns met), jumps in: "Pi is irrational and transcendental, and we thought, well... that's perfect."
 - Another pre-show ritual: sliding down the sloping concrete hallway backstage in rolling office chairs, whooping and yahoo-ing.
 - Tyler's final juggling solo is pure magic. All the lights are out, and he is juggling with three glowing balls -- two orange, one blue -- that look like frolicking planets as he tosses them around wildly to an Irish step jig that accelerates into ecstasy and then dissolves into a violin strain that drifts off into space.



You can follow these lovely fools and possibly become their groupie by going here: www.piclowns.com 

(will write more later... when I'm not drowning in a hurricane and basting in humidity)

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