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.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

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!"

Before....

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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Over the years there have been many really great ideas that the clowns came up with for walkarounds.
If you were were a little older, maybe 40 + years you could have seen a lot of them.
Bob Kitto

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but if you were 40+ years older, you'd be really slow moving, tired and jaded, looking forward with fear and trepidation to another season of 1 day stands, instead of bright, energetic and raring to go! I'm grateful that you're out there NOW, keeping the idea alive . . . Happy Thanksgiving!

Bruce the Clown