Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Dragon, A Dragon, I Swear I Saw A Dragon!

Hello everyone,

From now on I will be using one of my Christmas presents to write the blog. I am using the program Dragon, which uses voice-recognition software to type whatever I am saying.

Right now I'm wearing a microphone headset which makes me look like I've taken a new job working for a telemarketing firm.

I believe that this program will allow me to write my blog entries more easily... once I get the hang of it of course.

Stay tuned for more in-depth update tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to our family, friends, and fans! Thank you for all of your support.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 17: New Bedford, MA-4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Ryan, Tatiana, and I got very little sleep after we arrived at Ryan's grandparents' house. I at least got a few more winks than Ryan and Tatiana did; Nico woke up at 7 a.m., two hours after they had gone to bed.

Ryan's grandparents took us and Ryan's uncle, Kevin, to lunch at a great Brazilian BBQ/buffet, and then we began the hour and a half drive to New Bedford.

We were playing a nice auditorium; I am pleased that it was our venue for the final shows.

Today was Nico's first birthday! It was very serendipitous that our show played Massachussetts today, since Ryan's family could make it for the party.

photos by Patricia Rivers

Nico loved opening and playing with his presents, and most importantly, he enjoyed chowing down on cake.

My friend, Joy, her mother, Elizabeth, and her boyfriend, Zhang, came to watch the first show. Ryan's family also stuck around to show their support.

I was happy that we had big crowds for both shows and that the audiences were great (especially for the second performance).

By the end of the day, we were all drop dead exhausted, especially Nico (partying is hard work). I was happy to get back to the air mattress at Ryan's grandparents' house so I could catch some more sleep.

Thank you to everyone from "Twas The Gift Show Before Christmas" for a successful tour.

Coming soon, my NYC vacation!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 15 and 16: Folsom, PA-5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

All of us were feeling sick on Thursday morning; it wasn't a fun drive to Folsom.

My one memory of the town of Folsom is that in the past no one wanted to get their face painted. That held true this year; we did very poor business in that respect.

I was happy that my friends from Hungary came to visit. When I first started doing the Christmas tour back in 2007, I was working the crowd and somehow found out that a family (grandfather, grandmother, and three girls) was Hungarian.

I told them about my Hungarian friends from Ringling, and I showed off my rusty skill with the language.

Every year they come to see the show (and me), and every year we take a picture.

I was sad that this year there were only two girls. I found out that one of them is in high school now; I guess she is too old for clowns now. Sniff......

We play Folsom for two days every year, so it was nice to just leave everything in the theatre for the night.

After work the cast continued our annual tradition of going out to eat at Applebee's after the shows.

The second day in Folsom we got laundry done, and I also took the rental minivan to get an oil change. We have put A LOT of miles on it in two weeks!

Our clown friends, Chris Shelton and Keith Crabbs, came to see the shows the second night; I was happy that they visited, but I wish we had been able to visit with them longer. They did bring a big case of Guinness as a gift, so that made me feel a little better...

We were crazy busy with face painting for the two shows. Quite a reversal from our usual business in Folsom.

The audiences were bigger for the second night as well, and they were a lot more responsive. It was definitely a good day.

After we were done with work we jumped in the minivan and drove straight through to Ryan's maternal grandparents' house in Marlborough, MA.

My head hit the pillow around 5 a.m.

Thank goodness the driving madness will be over in a day!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Nico!

Happy 1st Birthday, Nicolas Christopher Fusco Combs!

Check back soon for the rest of the blog entries from the Christmas tour. Things have been insane the last few days, and I've barely had time to sleep, much less write a blog!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 13: Erie, PA-7:00 p.m. & December 14: Williamsport, PA-4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

On top of our 5 a.m. arrival in Erie, I didn't sleep very well. I got a phone call that woke me up pretty early, and then I couldn't get back to sleep.

We had a lot of visitors in Erie. Karen Deal, a friend of my friend, Katy Hughs, took some time out of her schedule to come hang out with me. Sue Marranconi, a local clown, brought some baked goods and attended the show with some members of her clown alley. Our friend, Eggroll, also showed up for a visit.

I am glad we had friendly faces in the audience, because it was a rough crowd. The fact that the average age of the audience was around 80 didn't help matters.

Apparently Nico was dancing and singing in his stroller during the show's overture. He had the whole section in front of him laughing; he's definitely his father's son...a ham!

A man and his daughter came up to us while we were face painting and said they remembered us from Kelly Miller when we played North East, PA earlier in the year. I thought it was cool that they recognized us.

After the show we had a 4 1/2 hour drive to Williamsport. Ryan and I were both falling asleep during the first leg of the trip. I finally had to pull in to a truck stop and get a 5 Hour Energy drink; it worked perfectly and we got to our hotel around 3 a.m.

There's not much to report from our stay in Williamsport. We play a nice auditorium there; parking is a bit of a pain though.

We had two big crowds, and we made bank at face painting. Ryan and I had a lot of fans come to say hello that remembered us from previous years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 12: Hagerstown, MD-7:00 p.m.

Today we met our friends from the Freestate Clown Alley #30 at the Bulls and Bears Tavern where they treated us to lunch.
It was also a meeting of our CFA tent, the John Ringling North II/Steve & Ryan tent, where our logo was unveiled.

Pretty sweet, huh?!

Katy, from the Alley, made a speech, and then we all toasted the future of the tent with our non alcoholic champagne (which Nico now has a dependancy on).

The Alley presented us with tons of great gifts: scarves, hats, shirts, neck pillows, and patches all bearing our tent logo, gift baskets with fantastic snacks, and even SWANK bathrobes featuring the Steve & Ryan logo and our individual names embroidered on the front.
Nico even received his own robe, a Build A Bear teddy complete with tent logo hat, and other stuffed animals and books.

I was overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends; to be honest, I got a little choked up. Thank you so much Freestate Clown Alley #30! I cannot begin to say it enough.

We were playing the Maryland Theatre, which was old and beautiful on the inside. It reminded me a great deal of the Muppet Show theatre.

Ryan and I joked that we needed to heckle Santa from one of the boxes like Statler and Waldorf.

Our circus fan friend, Dick Flint, came to see the show, as well as our friends from the Clown Alley, so we got to do some visiting after the performance.

After work we went out to eat with some of our friends from the tour. We left for Erie, PA around midnight, and we pulled in to our hotel around 5 a.m. Wheeeee!

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 11: Altoona, PA-1:00 p.m.

I was not feeling it when I woke up at 7 a.m. We had to leave McKeesport fairly early since it was a two hour drive to Altoona and there was an early show.
I also wanted to give ourselves extra time to account for bad weather. The last few times we have played Altoona there has been nasty weather (ice and snow); besides being cold though, the weather today was beautiful.

There was a big crowd for the show and they were a great audience. We had so much fun improvising during our first few appearances on stage.

Some members of the Adam Forepaugh/Barry Lubin CFA tent (including David Orr and Don Curtis) were at the show, and after it was over they treated us to a meal at a local steakhouse.

From our tour Larry, Cassidy, Gail, and Jason joined Ryan, Tatiana, Nico and myself for the meal.
The tent presented Nico with some gifts, and Don Curtis gave me a yummy looking sampler platter of holiday treats.
We had a great time, and we really appreciated the Forepaugh/Lubin tent's hospitality and generosity.

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I later met up for a dinner my cousins, The Hiott family. They have a beautiful home, and we were fortunate that they invited us to stay with them for the evening.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 10: McKeesport, PA-4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

After our five hour drive and bedtime of 3:00 a.m., I was not ready to get out of bed this morning.
This was unfortunate since we had a lot we wanted to accomplish before our shows.

Monroeville (about 10 miles away from McKeesport) is the home of the Monroeville Mall, where one of my favorite zombie movies, Dawn of the Dead, was filmed back in the late 70s.
Every year on the Christmas tour, I make a pilgrimage there to bask in the zombie goodness.
There is a little museum with some props and memorabilia from the movie as well as zombie replicas; I could spend a whole day there!

In addition to that stop, we needed to go to JoAnn's Fabrics and Guitar Center, as well as Half Price Books.
Ok....we didn't HAVE to go to Half Price Books, but we sure wanted to!

On the drive to the high school, Ryan and I did a phone interview for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Ever try to drive, use GPS, and give funny and insightful interview answers? It isn't easy! Or safe!)
Mike, a photographer from the Post Gazette, who spent some time with us this past season, must have turned his editor on to my blog (hello!), because they found out we were going to be in the area.
Here is the article:
You can also find it in today's (Sunday) issue if you are in the Pittsburgh area. It isn't 100% accurate, but hey, it's free publicity!

I was dragging butt for the first show, but the second audience had a lot more energy, so I got my second wind.

The best part of the day was going out to dinner after the shows with some of our friends from the tour.
We all had a lot of fun talking and cracking each other up.

December 9: Philadelphia, PA-7:00 p.m.

We were able to get some laundry done before leaving Pottstown and heading to the "City of Brotherly Love".

Traffic was bad once we got into the city, even though it wasn't rush hour. I am glad we ended up traveling a bit early; I would have hated to drive to the school when everyone was getting off work.

We had one easy show tonight. The crowd was a bit crazy, but it was a good energy to feed off of.

Once we were done with the show we loaded up and drove the 5 hours to McKeesport, clear on the other side of the state. We were checked into our hotel around 3 a.m.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 7: Day Off & December 8: Pottstown, PA-7:00 p.m.

We had a much needed day off on December 7th. When I first saw our route, I wondered if a free day wouldn't be better midway through the tour.
After the craziness of the first two days though, I was more than happy to relax a little bit!

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I went to the King of Prussia Mall, which is HUGE! It is broken into two big buildings, each with a top and bottom floor jam packed with shops.
Later in the day I met my friend, Mary Kelly Rayel, and I took on the job of shopping assistant and bag holder. Then in the evening I treated her to dinner; what can I say, I know how to treat my girl clowns!

Our show in Pottstown was our first relaxed, easy show of the tour. The theater was fairly simple to load in and out of, and the show went off without a hitch.

Here's hoping the coming towns are the same....and the audiences aren't such cheapskates when it comes to face painting!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6: Lebanon, PA-7:00 p.m.

The Eagles' Club in Lebanon, PA is the most difficult venue we play on the Bill Hall Christmas tour. It has a small stage with extremely limited backstage space.
For the past couple of years Ryan and I have dressed in the kitchen area. It isn't very glamorous, but hey, it's showbiz!

Due to the difficulties the venue presented, Ryan and I had to help cover a couple of act set ups with some impromptu comedy. Gail also asked us to roll out a carpet for her act so the dogs wouldn't be sliding all over the wooden floor (a couple of acts had to work on the floor since the stage just wasn't big enough). We even had to go out and kneel on the corners of the carpet to keep it from moving around during the act.
On top of all of that, John Bundy, who plays Santa, asked us if we would try something new with him. He asked us to do a different opening and then to join him for all of the act introductions so there would be more continuity for the show.

Needless to say, the audience got to see plenty of Steve & Ryan. Maybe a little too much....
Lucky for us they loved us and still found us funny when our gag rolled around in the second half.

Between the craziness of opening day and the difficulties of Lebanon, we were ready for our day off on the 7th.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lancaster, PA-4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Today was the opening day for the Bill Hall Christmas Tour. We showed up at the Mennonite School (conveniently located right across the street from our hotel) about 3 hours before show time.

There always seems to be a shortage of time on the opening day of the tour, but today seemed especially hectic.
A lot of folks showed up close to show time, so the cast meeting was held behind the curtain while folks were entering the auditorium.

In fact, when show time rolled around, last minute preparations were still being made. Ryan and I went out and entertained the crowd while everything was settled.
It was actually a lot of fun and allowed us to shake the rust off our clowning. Neither of us has been in make up since the end of the KM season. (Ryan actually forgot the details of his make up process)

There was a small crowd for the first show, but that was actually beneficial for us. There wasn't huge pressure while we ironed out the kinks of the performance.

Here is the line up:

Welcome-Steve and Ryan
National Anthem and Overture-Larry Stout
Bicycles and Unicycles-The Rinney Family
Santa's Arrival-Steve & Ryan and John Bundy
Dogs-Gail Mirabella
Magic-Clive and Tracy Allen
Rola Bola-Jonathon Olivero
Bizarre Balloonology-John and Jen Cassidy


Juggling-The Rinney Family
Holiday Hilarity-Steve & Ryan
Ponies-Cassidy Herriott (with the dice throwing assistance of Steve & Ryan)
Bizarre Balloonology-John and Jen Cassidy

We packed props into the car for two gags, but it turned out that Mr. Hall only needed one for this year's show. We wanted to premiere our brand new (never before done) gag, but due to lack of time to practice with Clive Allen, we went with our other act: the shovel gag that we did on KM in 2009.

It turns out we wouldn't have been able to do the new gag anyway. The pony act has a huge ring made out of fences that takes up almost the whole stage from front to back.
Ryan and I just had a small space in which to work in front of the fences; we could barely move, much less do a gag.
Tomorrow we are going to ask if we can go after the pony act when the fences are cleared so we can actually do a decent job.

We paint faces before the show and during Intermission, and with Tatiana joining us, we added the option of full face designs in addition to our regular cheek art.
We cleaned up in the face painting department, especially in the second show when there was a big crowd. The full face designs were a huge hit; Ryan had to help out. I am going to learn to apply them too so I can help keep the line moving.

Our friend, Carol Lang, came to see the second show. She brought crab cakes, a couple of different salads, cookies, Guinness, gifts for Nico, and cards for us.
It was so thoughtful of her to bring us such a nice free roll. She even had plates, cups, a cooler full of ice, and a little oven to heat up the crab cakes!
Ryan's friends, the Gallucci family, were also at the show. Needless to say, we were very busy visiting everyone!

After the shows I was happy to kick back in my hotel room and enjoy a Guinness from Carol.

One day down, 12 more to go!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

374 Miles To Lancaster, PA

Hey everyone,

Sorry that my postings have been slim lately. Ryan and I have been hella busy with preparations for the Bill Hall Christmas Tour as well as the 2012 season of Kelly Miller.

Apparently we did not learn our lesson from the 2010 season, as once again we are going to be in the show many times.
We were happy with our number of appearances from the past season, but the show needs us to cover a couple of transitions next year in addition to performing our production gags.

We had all of our gags planned out, but at the last minute we decided to discard one idea and put in a new (hopefully better) one.
The downside was that we had to make some new, HUGE, props in just a couple of days, but the upside is that we will be the first clowns to perform this gag on a circus.
We are very excited about debuting it on the Bill Hall Christmas Tour first.

Speaking of which....

Right now Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I are on the road to Lancaster, PA, which is the first town of the Christmas Tour. It is our second day of travel; last night we stayed with our friend, Jeff Schott, and his sister, Joan, in Louisville, KY.
Jeff is a great host and stayed up sharing stories with us until the wee hours of the morning, only to wake up bright and early to make us breakfast.
Joan bought Nico a little stuffed snowman that he instantly fell in love with. He carried it around all night and gave it hugs and kisses.

Here is our schedule for the 2011 edition of 'Twas The Show Before Christmas:

Monday, Dec. 5 -- 4 & 7 pm -- Lancaster Mennonite School, 2176

Lincoln Highway East (Rt. 30), Lancaster, PA

Tuesday, Dec. 6 -- 7 pm -- Eagles' Club, 116 N. 8th St., Lebanon, PA

Thursday, Dec. 8 -- 7 pm -- Pottstown Middle School, 600 N. Franklin

St., Pottstown, PA

Friday, Dec. 9 -- 7 pm -- St. Hubert's Catholic High School for

Girls, Cottman (Rt. 73) & Torresdale Avenues, (Northeast) Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, Dec. 10 -- 4 & 7 pm -- McKeesport High School Auditorium,

1960 Eden Park Boulevard, McKeesport, PA

Sunday, Dec. 11 -- 1 pm -- Altoona High School, 1415 6th Avenue,

Altoona, PA

Monday, Dec. 12 -- 7 pm -- Maryland Theatre, 27 S. Potomac St.,

Hagerstown, Maryland (MD)

Tuesday, Dec. 13 -- 7 pm -- Mercyhurst College Mary D'Angelo

Performing Arts Center, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA

Wednesday, Dec. 14 -- 4 & 7 pm -- Scottish Rite Consistory

Auditorium, 348 Market Street, Williamsport, PA

Thursday, Dec. 15 -- 5:30 & 8 pm -- Ridley Township Community

Center, 801 Morton Avenue, just north of McDade Boulevard,

Folcroft/Ridley Park, PA

Friday, Dec. 16 -- 5:30 & 8 PM -- Same location as Dec. 15

Saturday, Dec. 17 -- 4 & 7 pm -- Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway

Boulevard, New Bedford, Massachusetts (MA)

If you are near any of these towns, please come out to see the show and say hello!
Keep checking the blog for updates throughout the tour.