Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blast From The Past: Walkarounds-2003

My first year on Ringling one of my favorite parts of the show was doing walkarounds.
I joined the second year of the 132nd edition tour, so I was replacing one of the clowns who was leaving.

When I saw the show for the first time, I saw a walkaround that I really wanted to do, but being a lowly First of May, I obviously had no say in the matter. It all came down to which spots were open and what costume I fit into.

I was first chosen to do a Cinderella walkaround where I would play the famed princess who scares off her prospective suitor with a foot WAY too big to fit into the glass slipper.
The walkaround is a classic that I had seen before, so I was excited to be a part of its history.

I was less excited about the costume. Marni Sussman, who previously played the part of the princess, can attest to what a pain in the butt the costume was.
There was a huge hat that made it difficult to get in and out of doorways, there was a hoop skirt that would become twisted after each performance and would require resetting (which was no easy feat), and one more added inconvenience for me: the shoe inside the big foot was about two sizes too small for me.
But, as an eager new clown, I was just happy to be on the Greatest Show on Earth, and I wouldn't have said s**t even if I had a mouth full of it. (To quote my friend, Natalie)

The current Boss Clown, David Solove, put all of us First of Mays into walkarounds the third night we were on the show. He said the best way to learn something was a trial by fire, and those sink or swim situations certainly did put the pressure on you to not screw up.

Everything went fine for the first performance because David was with me the whole time playing the part of the prince; I simply had to do our bit and then follow him to the next spot.
The only difficulty I had was the big princess hat falling in my face the first time I bent over to lift up the skirt of the dress.
That quickly taught me that to be a princess, I would have to learn to bend over in a more ladylike fashion.

The next day I was feeling a lot more comfortable with the role after having a couple of shows under my belt.
As I was getting dressed for the last show of the day, I put on a different pair of bloomers than I had been wearing. I noticed they were a little big on me, but I didn't think anything of it.

David and I went to our first spot on the floor and went into our routine. When I lifted up the dress to expose my big foot, I had a surprise in store for David and the audience: my bloomers had fallen down around my ankles!

This got a huge laugh from the audience, and David yelled (through his laughter), "Pull up your bloomers!"

I forwent any decency and yanked my underwear up in front of the paying customers, and quickly turned tail and ran after David to our next spot.
Unfortunately, the running caused my bloomers to fall again, and our next presentation was the same as the first.

After a couple of attempts to right the wrong, I simply gave up and accepted my new role as the slutty princess.
On the plus side, the walkaround got an exceptional amount of laughs that night!

My favorite two days of doing the Cinderella walkaround came when David Solove was sick with the flu and I filled in for him as the prince.
I enjoyed it because the prince costume was much easier to get in and out of, and I had a kiss blown to me by Marni every time we did the gag (she was a much prettier princess than I ever was).

After going home for the winter break I returned to the show in Sunrise, FL, refreshed and ready to begin my career with the circus.

Some shuffling was done in the walkaround roster due to the inclusion of a new gag from a father and son team from Hungary.
This change effectively took the Cinderella walkaround out of the line up, and I was put into a new gag.

I assumed the role of a woman (again with the drag!) wearing very stylish alligator shoes and an alligator handbag.
While showing off my accesories, the head on my purse would come alive and start threatening me. Struck by comedic inspiration, I would open the gator's mouth and place my head inside.


No sooner would I have tamed the beastly bag than a giant alligator (played by another First of May, Mit Calloway) would come along and scare me off, only to show off his stylish clown skin suitcase and shoes.

After a couple of days of doing the new walkaround, David Kiser, our production manager, told me to do something different with my hair so I wouldn't look so strange.
In fact, the day before my make over, I heard a little kid in the audience yell at me, "Look! It's a boy in a dress!"


and after!

Towards the end of the tour, in Boston, MA, David and Cherie Gregg came to visit us. Dave and Cherie had previously done the alligator clothing walkaround, and with a little prodding and persuasion, we convinced David to don the alligator costume once more and perform the walkaround with me at the evening show.

David did a stellar job in reprising his role; however, the timing of the walkarounds had changed since he had left, and we were WAY ahead of everybody else.
I kept trying to tell him to slow down, but we still found ourselves getting to our spots while another clown was still filling it.

The situation all became worse when we found out that Kenneth Feld was visiting that show. Luckily, he was in the production office during walkarounds, so we were all able to breathe a collective sigh of relief that he had not seen "the alligator walkaround on crack".

Even though Ryan and I performed walkarounds on Kelly Miller in 2010, nothing will compare to the feel of 12 clowns in the spotlight with a live band and an entire arena floor to work.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sleepless Night

I woke up at 3 a.m., and I can't get back to sleep. I guess I might as well write a WQ blog update.

On November 5th Hugo held its 3rd Annual Circus Festival, in which artists from the three local circuses (Kelly Miller, Carson and Barnes, and Culpepper Merriweather) joined together to put on three performances for the people of Hugo.

Some of the acts included Karina Perez (Culpepper) on lyra, Alex Acero (Carson) with his comedy trampoline, Julio and Deya Rosales (KM) performing their knife throwing act which will be part of the 2012 production, Natalie Chandler (Culpepper) with her performing dogs, and several other acts such as hula hoops and rola bola.

Ryan and I did a soap gag (where shredded soap is mixed with water using a high powered drill, and then used to simulate different white liquids [paint, pies, glue, milk, etc]) where we were painters on hand to paint the building for the Circus City Museum.
We had a lot of fun making a big mess; less fun was the preparation of whipping up the soap and the clean up afterwards of the ring mat, the props, and ourselves.
BUT, it was only for three shows, and as far as big laughs go, no pain, no gain!

Here are me and Ryan with our 2006 Blue Unit Clown Alley mate, Alex Acero. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of our gag itself.

I have been enjoying having time off in Hugo. I have been watching a crazy amount of DVDs from Netflix, and I have been spending a lot of time at the library.
They have a great circus section, and I have been slowly but surely perusing old issues of White Tops for interesting clown articles and pictures to photocopy.

After a couple of weeks of resting and cleaning/organizing our homes and Ryan's storage unit, we began work on props for next season.
The Winter Quarters crew are in the shops working from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but once they are gone, Ryan and I take over and work until late at night.
Our first day of work we went in around 11 a.m., and I finally left around 11 p.m. Ryan stayed for awhile longer because he is a freaking maniac when it comes to creating props!

A couple of days after the Circus Festival, our friend, Jeff Potts, came to visit Hugo for about a week to help us with our prop work.
Jeff helped us build the bee hive for the 201o exterminator gag, and we loved having him visit us in WQ. He was an invaluable help.

We got a lot of foam carving, latexing, painting, and wood work done with him here. We did occasionally take a break from working like dogs; one day I gave Jeff a tour of Hugo, and on November 10th we took time to celebrate Ryan's 27th birthday. I got him this awesome gift:

Soon I will post some pictures of the three of us working in the prop shop. For now here is a teaser photo of the frame work (masterfully welded by Oscar Perez) for one of our new props.
Can you guess what it is?

Well, we are taking Jeff to the airport in about an hour and a half, and it doesn't look like I am getting back to sleep. Whee!
Keep your eyes peeled for another blast from our Ringling past in the next few days. Until then....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz