Thursday, February 27, 2014

Monday, February 24-Wednesday, February 26: Donna, TX


2/24/14- 7:30 p.m.

It rained buckets on and off throughout the day. I stayed indoors and watched movies; when we went outside later in the evening we saw that there were huge pools of water everywhere on top of the gravel.

The rain made the air extremely humid, which was not fun backstage. The tent was nicely air conditioned, but behind the scenes I was sweating like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.

One nice surprise backstage was that the men's dressing room had been expanded, so now there is a big space in the middle of our area, and we are not having to squeeze past each other as we enter and exit for costume changes.

Emma and Helen, two of the dancers, came back today after a two week trip to England. The dancers are having to go back home to get their work visas, so they are going two at a time. Laura and Claire are the two girls that left today.

This evening's show was rough. I didn't feel like the audience was really with us (any of us) for the whole show.
The new band began playing tonight. They have big shoes to fill, as the last band really rocked, but I'm sure after some time this new group will be just as good.

Glen, our production manager, devised a plan where Ryan and I could work the carpenter gag on the ring carpet, and we implemented that plan tonight.
Basically, there used to be a musical break between David's diabolo act and the carpenter gag where the crew would remove the carpet. The main reason was because after us were the horses, who have to work on the ring rubber.
Glen suggested that the musical break happen after the carpenter gag, which worked like a charm.

Besides providing a little cushion whenever we fell, the carpet also provided a little dignity to the act. It was nice to feel like human beings while we worked, and not the filthy animals that we are!
(One funny little side note: Since we all had to get used to the new timing of the carpenter gag's entrance, I almost ran over Jeison, one of the prop guys, with the little car as he scrambled in the dark to pick up David's diabolos. Good thing he and I both had quick reflexes.)

During our post show photo session I met Mia, who worked for Vazquez last season. She told me that she follows the blog, which I was happy to hear. It's always nice to meet new readers.
Mia, please send me a copy of the photo we took with your family. My e-mail is stclown@lowcountry.com

After the show I was walking back to my house when I ran into Sandy, the fiance of Bill, who runs the show's lights.
They were packing up their motorhome as they were leaving and heading back to Carson & Barnes, where they have worked for previous seasons.
They didn't have far to go as Carson was set up only two exits from us on the Expressway.


2/25/14- 7:30 p.m.

I started off our day by going to the laundromat. While there we ran into Deya, who we worked with on Kelly Miller, and her in-laws. It's comforting to know that even on a new circus, you'll more than likely run into someone you know while you're doing laundry.

Before heading back to the trailer I picked up a few groceries and sushi from H.E.B. Yes, you heard me correctly; we picked up supermarket sushi.
It is made fresh during the day (you can watch the person making it), and it was actually fairly good.

There were a lot of familiar faces in the audience for tonight's show. Courtney, one of the showgirls from Kelly Miller, was present, as well as Father Notter. Members of the Byrd family from Carson & Barnes were also in attendance.
I was worried because there was a small crowd, but Ryan and I rocked them with the water and carpenter gags.
Unfortunately, the trumpet gag did not go nearly as well, which was very upsetting.
Hopefully we'll be substituting the bull gag in its place soon, which will make us feel a lot better.


2/26/14- 7:30 p.m.

Today was a cold, dreary day.
At 1:00 p.m. Ryan and I went into the tent to meet with the lighting director of the west coast unit of Vazquez.
He was called in to change some lighting cues that had been established during rehearsals. For us he mainly wanted to change the lights for when we enter in the little car at the start of the carpenter gag.
Our presence wasn't necessary for any of the changes, but we appreciated that they wanted to talk us through what was going to be changing.

Ryan and I are hoping to substitute our bull fighting gag into the place of the trumpet gag. Today we took a look at the video of the bull gag, and then we spent some time rewriting it to fit the spot (setting up the trapeze net) as well as punching up the script (adding more action and sight gags).

After our writing sessions I laid down to take a little nap and ended up crashing for almost four hours. I guess a night of not sleeping will do that to a person.

Tonight's show was difficult to get through. The small audience was just not into the performance. Even acts that usually kill were getting tepid responses.
I was happy that at least all three of our gags went really well.

After the show Ryan and I went to clean the mat we use for the water gag, but we couldn't find our squeegee anywhere.
While Ryan went to look for it, I began cleaning the entire mat with towels. I finally finished just as Ryan came back with our squeegee.
Apparently someone in the concession area needed it and didn't bother to return it to our prop area.
Looks like we'll be keeping that item at home until we need it!

Georgie, one of the dancers, invited me out to karaoke night at Poncho's Mexican Restaurant after the show.
Earlier in the day I would have declined, but after my snooze fest this afternoon, I was feeling wide awake.

A group of 12 of us from the show wound up at the very loud restaurant. My voice is still recuperating, but after some encouragement and a beer to loosen me up, I went up to sing "Talk Dirty To Me" by Poison.
I figured the whole situation of the goofy white boy singing that song would be silly enough to forgive any vocal cracking or squeaking that might happen.

The karaoke host was a lot of fun and was continuously playing different characters throughout the evening: a drag character, an old cowboy, etc.
He kept giving us shout outs once he found out we were from Vazquez. The dancers were definitely favorites of his; the girls (all from England) even treated the restaurant to a rendition of a Spice Girls song.

Usually when I go to Poncho's I order the same meal every time. Tonight I selected a new dish that came highly recommended by David, the diabologist (I may have made that title up).
I was extremely happy with my delicious choice, and I was grateful for the invite to a fun evening.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thursday, February 20-Sunday, February 23: Donna, TX


2/20/14- 7:30 p.m.

This afternoon I took Teo, our sound technician, to Walmart. We needed to pick up a few things, and Teo, who will be living out of hotels the whole tour, needed to buy some necessary household items so he could live more comfortably.

After dropping Teo and his purchases back off at the hotel, I made one more stop at Bed, Bath, & Beyond so I could buy a new convection oven.
One downfall of my new trailer is that there is not an oven. My last trailer had one, but it didn't work, so it isn't a monumental loss for me. Still, it will be nice to be able to make casseroles and baked goods.

It was a very hot day, and I was happy that it cooled down substantially in time for the show.

During our post show photo session we snapped a picture rocking out with one of our fans:



2/21/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I went to see "The Lego Movie" at a nearby movie theater. I was never impressed with the trailers I saw for the film, but after reading so many good reviews from friends and people of like minded taste, I decided to give it a chance.
I'm glad that I did, because I thought the movie was great fun.

At 4:00 p.m. the entire cast and crew of the east coast unit of Vazquez met in the tent for a company photo.
Well, the photo was supposed to start at 4 p.m., but we didn't begin posing until almost 5.
While we were being positioned I snapped this selfie:

The face of the Russian flyer behind me pretty much sums up everyone's mood about waiting

I'm not sure how the photo will turn out since it seemed like everyone who wasn't in the front will be blocked out, but I'm not a photographer. Besides, photoshop can fix most everything! 

After our photo shoot Ryan, Visan (who performs in the motorcycle and Russian swing acts), and I were all talking about how drained we felt.
We couldn't believe how it felt like we had just done a show when all we were doing was standing around and waiting.

Our music for the water and carpenter gags has been incredibly low for the past week, especially compared to the rest of the show. Ryan and I were constantly frustrated because we would ask for the volume to come up, and then after one performance, it would be way down again.
I asked Glen, the production manager, about it during Intermission of the first show, and after the show Memo Vazquez, the ringmaster, came over to explain the situation.
He said that they want to keep the music low in the background for our acts so the audience can hear us  and we can really connect with them.
This went against what we had been told before that we needed to go as fast as possible and really keep our tempo up, but we were fine with this new direction since it was in line with how we like to perform.

Even though we wish our music could be higher, Ryan and I changed tactics and embraced the new situation. We were thrilled that it worked like a charm, and we knocked them dead for the carpenter gag. 
We felt like we were finally able to take our time where we needed it, and we worked hard to connect with the audience; the gag went over the best that it has since we opened. 
Also, Teo is really coming along with the sound effects, which helps bump up the act even more.

I was thrilled with the way the second show went, and I was even happier that Radar and Elisa were able to see it.
They rushed over from Kelly Miller after the cat act, and they arrived just in time for our first act.


2/22/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon Glen was able to squeeze in an hour of rehearsal time in the tent for the carpenter gag.
Ryan and I worked on cleaning up some of the bits and our blocking, and Teo worked on the sound effects.
By the end of the rehearsal, he was hitting every one like a pro. Ryan and I were so proud of his hard work.

Teo, sound tech extraordinaire 

After the rehearsal, Ryan and I channeled famous Russian clown, Oleg Popov, and had a little fun:

video

A day or so ago, Ryan bought some feather dusters, and today I picked up some headbands. For the shows tonight, Ryan and I came out for the Intermission announcement wearing our version of the dancers' headdresses.


The sight gag was well received by cast and audience members alike.

Especially when they got to see our good side.

The carpenter gags went great tonight. Teo did an awesome job nailing the sound effects, and Ryan and I continued to tweak our performance to complement our low background music.

Between shows Ryan put his make up on Franco, the son of Aldo Vazquez. Franco is a big fan of ours, and he was even wearing his overalls so he'd be dressed like us in the carpenter gag.
Apparently Franco wanted to be me, but he wanted Ryan's make up.
I wish I had a photo to share of the three of us, but unfortunately I don't.

During our post show photo session a little boy was nice enough to give me his tub of leftover popcorn.
I immediately went over to the dancers and began bragging about how our fans give us food.
I then feigned generosity by offering the tub to them, only to yell, "Psyche!" and jerk the tub out of their reach.
I know, hilarious, right?
After a few more fake outs, I finally gave the tub to Claire, who proceeded to dump the contents on my head.
Ow, my pride......

I hope Claire, and the rest of the dancers, know that this means war!


2/23/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Today Ryan and I were wishing everyone a "Happy Sunday" before the first show, but we weren't feeling it. We were both dragging for the start of the day. 
The humidity didn't help matters either. It was nice and cool in the tent, but backstage was like a sauna.
The inside of my clown nose didn't dry out from the water gag for the entire day; my nose felt like it was constantly in danger of falling off since the surgical cement I use wasn't reacting well with the wet foam inside the nose.

Teo inadvertently turned up the volume on my microphone for the trumpet gag, which was a godsend.
My voice has been shot for almost a full week, and with no days off from shows, I haven't been able to fully restore it.
With my mic's volume up in the trumpet gag, I was able to talk a lot softer and not strain my throat as much. Thanks, Teo!

Between the first two shows Ryan and I talked with "Carmelo", who does a drunk comedy act in the second half.
Carmelo is from Chile and only speaks Spanish, so I tried to follow the conversation as best I could. Ryan translated most of it for me afterwards.
We talked about comedy, and it was neat to see that we share many of the same theories and thoughts on the subject, despite our different styles and cultural backgrounds.

Today was the last day of shows for the band from Puerto Rico. They will be missed, because they were all nice guys and excellent musicians. 
I am looking forward to hearing the new band play tomorrow night.

After the shows I made amends with Claire and acquiesced to her request to wear my clown boxers for a photo.


After the shows Visan and Martin Espana hosted another barbecue outside their trailers, which is something I hope becomes a weekly occurrence. 
I spent most of the evening talking with the wife of Tisok, the stage manager. She is from China and works in concessions on the show.

In closing, here are a few pictures from the week:

Alfredo, the production manager of the west coast unit.
Nico wearing his Luchador mask to keep the sun out of his eyes

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Monday, February 17-Wednesday, February 19: Donna, TX


2/17/14- 7:30 p.m.

I was feeling pretty lousy all morning. I started catching a cold a few days ago, and today I was really feeling the congestion in my head.

I felt even worse after my nap, and on top of everything else I was losing my voice. Luckily a cup of coffee and an easy one show evening made me feel much better.

Our friends, Pat, Marites, and Mabelle Davison, were at the show, so it was nice to see their friendly faces in the crowds.

During our post show photo session, we met a little girl with an afro clown wig. She and I swapped hairdos and took this photo.

Our new friend, Yulissa

I spent a little time visiting with the Davisons after the show, and then after I got cleaned up and paid, we went into the tent where a birthday party for Jan Vazquez, the 16 year old ringmaster, was occurring.

We grabbed some food and cake, and visited with people for a little bit, but I wanted to get to bed at a decent hour so I could get some rest and hopefully kick my cold.


2/18/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I went to Best Buy so I could purchase a new television. I upgraded from my dinky 19 inch model to a brand new, wait for it.....
24 inch model!!!! (My trailer is just not equipped for a humongous television, but I'm very happy with my new acquisition)

Ryan and I both had a rough show. Nothing seemed to go right for us, and it left us feeling very frustrated. I was happy when the show ended, and I was comforted that we have another chance to get it right tomorrow.

During our post show photo session we met a family that had been at our radio publicity on Valentine's Day. The grandmother explained that they just wanted to come up and say hello, and she went on to say how they have always wanted to come to see Vazquez, but they could never afford it. 
The grandmother had the good fortune of winning tickets at that publicity, and they were just so happy that they were finally able to see the show.
It really made me stop and re-evaluate my bad mood and remind myself how grateful I should be for all the many blessings in my life.

Like this!



2/19/14- 7:30 p.m.


Back at the circus I went by Ryan's house to give Nico his present, a Luchador mask!


Now Nico and Uncle Steve can rock the amateur wrestling organizations of South Texas as the tag team sensation, Los Payasos Locos.
(For those of you who don't hablas el Espanol, Los Payasos Locos, roughly translated, is......The Payasos Locos!)

Not much to report from the show tonight, and that's a good thing!
There was one little snafu in opening: we were all in the ring styling at the end of the number, and the blackout took awhile to occur.
We were left standing there with our arms up, in complete silence, for a good 10 seconds (which is an eternity in a live show), until the lights went down and the band began playing Alexa's hula hoop music.
I, for one, was happy about the incident, because it allowed me to use one of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite movies, "Death To Smoochy": "That was fun.....in an awkward sort of way."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thursday, February 13-Sunday, February 16: Donna, TX


2/13/14-7:30 p.m.

On Thursday morning Memo Vazquez called me and Ryan into the main office to meet Glen Nicolodi, our new production manager.....for the next month anyway.
Glen is being groomed to work for the show in the near future, so Memo said this is his training period.
They are hoping to have our permanent production manager soon.

Memo told us that he wants a new song for the opening of the water gag, so we suggested "El Coco No", which is a currently popular Latin song that is a little more fun and silly than the Pitbull song they have been using.

At lunchtime I met my friend, Ramon, at Poncho's. Poncho's is my favorite Mexican restaurant EVER, and Ramon was nice enough to buy my meal. It was nice to catch up with him since I haven't seen him since the last time I was in the Valley with Kelly Miller.

After lunch I drove over to McAllen where the Kelly Miller circus was finishing set up for their 5 day stand.
I got to visit with a lot of my friends, and I met a couple of new faces as well. I took John, the new clown, and his wife, Clara, to Home Depot so they could pick up some L brackets for John's strong man box prop.

I'm so proud of everyone on Kelly Miller, because they have not had an easy start to their season. The weather has been awful, and they are shorthanded in the crew department. Everyone, all the way up to Mr. and Mrs. North, has been chipping in to put up and take down the tent, run cables and hoses, pick up trash....everything.

I had to head back to the lot for a finale rehearsal. The rehearsal was quick and easy; we are keeping finale pretty much the same, only now the acts are entering the ring as a group for their style, rather than one at a time.

One of the dancers told me of another change that I was sad to hear. Usually when we enter in the little car for the carpenter gag, there is a dancer on each side of the ring's entrance to style to us as we enter.
Ryan and I would take the opportunity as we drove by to channel our inner Animaniacs and bellow, "HELLO NURSE!"



Unfortunately the girls were taken out of that part of the show, so we lost one of my favorite moments.

The crowds during the week have been smaller than they were on the weekend, and unfortunately tonight's crowd wasn't on par with others as far as responses go.

After the show I drove to McAllen to pick up Radar, and Elisa, and we all went out to dinner. Just like old times!


2/14/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning Ryan and I had a radio publicity from 8-9 a.m. The DJs spoke only in Spanish, so I tried my best to keep up.
Ryan did most of the heavy lifting, but I got some information on the airwaves in English, which the DJs then translated for me.
I also threw out jokes and bits of information in Spanish whenever the opportunity presented itself. The DJs went on for long periods of time talking about things other than the circus, and I figured that if I had to get up early and get into make up for radio, I was going to plug the show whenever possible.
Due to my unpredictability, by the end of the interview Ryan said the look on the female DJ's face was priceless every time I approached the microphone.

I was hoping to get a nap this afternoon since I was feeling pretty worn out, but Memo called and asked us to come over to the main office.
We met up with Glen, and he told us his ideas for tightening up the endings of the water and carpenter gags. We also found out that they were changing our opening water music back to the Pitbull song we had been using.
Ryan had to re cut the final music tracks for water and carpenter, and then I had to get the new CD to Teo for our quick 4:30 p.m. rehearsal.
We just ran the two endings with music and lights a couple of times, and then we were done.

Both shows tonight went well, but the audience for the second show was especially fantastic.

During the day I made Steve & Ryan Valentine cards for the women and men in the cast, and before the first show I stuck them on the dressing room curtains.



The cards were very well received, and everyone had a good laugh over them. One of the dancers told us, "Your abs really made my day."
I countered with, "If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that....."

After the shows I drove to McAllen to have dinner with Radar and Elisa again.


2/15/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Today I spent the early part of the afternoon at Kelly Miller. We visited with more folks, and then we watched the first half of their 3:00 p.m. show.
Everyone was happy that all the crew members had finally arrived from Mexico last night, which will ensure much easier set ups and tear downs from now on.
It was nice to finally watch Kelly Miller, since I have only ever seen the show from the inside looking out.

 Ryan Holder and his tigers
 The Mongolian contortionists, in their very first performance.
 Nicholas Sorren
 Carolyn Rice's Patriotic Mixed Animal Review
 J.P's Strong Man Gag
 Fridman Torales' Chair Stacking
 Carousel Production Number

Unfortunately I had to leave at Intermission so I could get back for our shows, but I'm hoping to catch the second half at some point in the near future.

We had great audiences over at Vazquez, especially for the second performance.
Tonight Ryan and I began doing our photo concession after finale. Once the show ends, the audience has a chance to come down into the ring to take a picture with us or the dancers.
Unfortunately, the whole process was fairly unorganized since it was the first time we'd done it. Also, the cameras being used for the concession were not working very well, which held everything up.
New cameras are supposed to be coming in on Wednesday, though.
It was nice to meet some people from the audience and get their feedback. I feel a lot more disconnected from the audience here than I did on Kelly Miller.

At the end of the night I couldn't believe our cut of the proceeds from just posing for photos. I'll never sell another coloring book in my life!


2/16/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

I got up at 7:00 a.m. to drive to McAllen so we could pick up John and Clara for breakfast.
None of us got to bed until around 1:30 a.m., so we weren't the most exciting or talkative group when we first met up.
Once we got some coffee into our systems, things were looking a lot brighter, and we had a great time talking and eating.

Ryan and I were both in very high spirits at the start of the day, wishing everyone backstage a "Happy Sunday" (something I hope to make into a regular tradition around here), but as the day went on, the heat and three shows slowly drained us of our good cheer. By the start of the second show we were both really dragging.

In the third show the motorcycle act had just begun when the music suddenly stopped. We heard Memo asking, "Are you ok?" in Spanish, followed by some conciliatory announcements to the audience.
Ryan and I knew something must have happened, so we bolted out of the dressing room and waited backstage just in case we were needed.
However, we heard the audience applaud, and then the Pompeyo's dog act went out to perform and the show continued.

We later found out that a loose cable had hit Jhenni in the head as she and Visan drove around the motorcycle platform.
Jhenni was banged up and bleeding from her cuts, but I don't believe it was anything serious. We were glad that everyone is ok.

After the shows there was a company barbecue over at the Espanas' trailer. Everyone that attended brought beer, some people brought dishes of food, and Visan and Martin acted as grill masters.
It was nice to see everyone outside of work in a festive environment, and the food was delicious!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Monday, February 10-Wednesday, February 12: Donna, TX


2/10/14- 7:30 p.m.


Since we only had one show this evening I took it easy today. It was nice to relax after the frantic, stressful week of rehearsals followed by opening weekend.

A couple of hours before the show the cast met in the tent for a finale rehearsal. The Vazquez brothers wanted to change a few things in the performance now that it is up and running, and finale was one of them.
The new finale has the whole cast entering and standing at the back of the ring. Then, each performer runs to the middle of the ring, one by one, and has a moment to showcase their personality in their style. Ryan and I decided to enter together, style, and then run into each other as we go to our separate spots.

Besides the changes in finale and opening (opening is now just the dancers, Jan, who is one of the ringmasters, me, and Ryan), the show running order was also changed around a bit.
After opening the first act is now hula hoops, followed by the motorcycle, followed by the dogs, and then the water gag.
Ryan and I now have a little more time to breathe in the first half, and a little less downtime in the second half.
Still, as we do the show more and more, we are finding our times to take a little break.

The audience tonight was fantastic. We knew they were good from the minute they all started shouting at the top of opening.
Ryan and I killed in the water gag tonight.


2/11/14- 7:30 p.m.


Ryan and I were scheduled for a TV PR this evening with Alexa Vazquez. While we were waiting on the television crew to show up, we ran into Father Notter, who was visiting.
We talked about Kelly Miller, and he also told us about his trip to Monaco to see the Monte Carlo Festival.
One interesting tidbit we learned from Ramon Vazquez via Father Notter was that the west coast unit's tent could fit inside our tent. That's nuts!

After a 45 minute wait, it was decided that the television crew was a no show, and we were sent away. Vivien, our PR lady, was apologetic, but I told her that at least it was almost show time. It wasn't like we got up at 6 a.m., made up, and then found out we weren't going to work.
Before opening, we found out from Alexa that the crew finally showed up about 10 minutes after we all left, and she was called back to give an interview.

Right before the show Alfredo (who is unfortunately leaving tomorrow to be the production manager on the west coast unit), came up to tell us to enter from different sides of the audience for the water gag.
The change actually worked out well, because it allowed us to incorporate a yelling match between the two sides of the audience. We had to do it last night because the ring mat wasn't ready, but tonight we used it to kill time as the motorcycle rigging was removed.

There was a copious amount of condensation in the tent this evening from the canvas sweating. During the whole show drops of water were raining down around us. This made the ring rubber very slick.

In the carpenter gag I was being very careful as I ran around with the circular saw. Right as I went to shove the saw into Ryan's face, I slipped on the wet rubber and landed on my back, which put the saw directly into Ryan's crotch.
I had already committed to the bit, so as I lay there running a power saw into Ryan's family jewels, I was also setting off the sparks that indicate the grinding of the saw.
I didn't think I was going to be able to finish the act, I was laughing so hard.

After the shows Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I invited Teo out to Buffalo Wild Wings. We haven't had a chance to hang out with him because of rehearsals and our weekend schedule, so it was nice to get to spend some time with him outside of the work environment.
Ryan and I gave Teo a Starbucks gift card as a thank you for all the hard work he's done for us.


2/11/14- 7:30 p.m.

I knew it was going to happen eventually, but during the night it finally did: I caught a cold. As a result I was feeling pretty down all day.

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I went to Tractor Supply and Lowe's this afternoon to pick up some hardware, and we also stopped to have sushi for lunch.

Back at the show Ryan and I set about fixing the gimmick that drops the shelf on the carpenter box. Last night it didn't work, so we didn't have a blow off to the act.
The problem was that the cable Ryan pulls to drop the shelf has to go around two corners, and it is meeting a lot of resistance.
We bought new cable (since the old cable was now all kinked), and some pulleys to alleviate friction.
It was an easy fix, and the gimmick worked like a charm in the show.

I was happy to notice that new gravel was brought in to cover the backyard; it was getting pretty nasty and muddy from the rain and cold weather we've been having.

I took a quick nap before the show, but that just made me feel worse. I was really dragging at the beginning of the show, but the four buckets of cold water that the prop crew throw on us at the end of the water gag really helped wake me up!
Despite how I felt before opening, I was very happy with how the show went this evening.

In closing, here are a few pictures of the tent, inside and out. More pictures to come!



 Yes! Park your strollers directly into my big mouth!
Our prop area backstage

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thursday, February 6-Sunday, February 9: Donna, TX


On Thursday morning the cast met in the tent to stage finale. It is a fairly straightforward number; the most difficult part for me was walking out of the ring backwards with everyone.
At first the issue was keeping tempo with everyone in line with me, and trying not to run over the people behind me in my blind spot. Later the issue became walking backwards in clown shoes, which really threw off my balance. (Side note: Now I am walking backwards like a pro! Pretty soon I may even be able to do it while chewing gum!)

 
Joseph staging the final tableau for finale. Photo by Alfredo Chavez

It was mighty cold in the tent for rehearsal. Although we are not nearly as bad off as most of the country, it has been unseasonably cold down here in south Texas. Luckily later in the day the heaters were on for the other rehearsals.
I just want to stop here and say how wonderful a heated/air conditioned tent is. That is all.

Our afternoon run through of the show was once again full of stops to fix things.
There is a comedian, "Carmelo", who is performing an act in the second half, and he just arrived last night. During the run through Ryan and I went into the seats to watch his act.
Our hearts dropped when we realized he is doing essentially the same act that we are doing with the trumpet.
Carmelo plays a drunken tramp who keeps interrupting the ringmaster from the seats until he is invited into the ring to sing a few songs.
Our act is me in the seats interrupting Ryan's trumpet solo until I am invited into the ring to play a duet.

After the run through we voiced our concerns to the Vazquez brothers, but they felt the two acts were different enough that it would be fine.

We had another run through of the show in the evening, and thankfully it went much better than in the afternoon.
Joseph Bouglione just came into the ring to fix problems as they arose to avoid the need to stop.

Teo did an awesome job on our music and sound effects. He has worked so hard to help us out, for which we are very grateful.

Memo Vazquez, the ringmaster, came up to us during the evening run through to tell us that he and his brothers want us to change the music we use at the beginning of the water gag when we are in the seats covering the strike of the motorcycle rigging.

After the run through Joseph came up and asked us to cut a minute and a half from the carpenter act.
Ryan and I quickly decided on our changes and let Teo know so he could prepare with music and sound effect cues for tomorrow.

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I were all planning to go see Kelly Miller's opening night in Brownsville, but our evening rehearsal kept us from doing that.
For those of you that need a KM fix, check out the blog of my friend, Clara, who is married to Kelly Miller's clown, John Sayre:
http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/clara.sayre/1/tpod.html

At the end of the day I was completely exhausted, and I was not comforted by the fact that tomorrow was not going to bring any relief stress or schedule wise.


2/07/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Friday, February 7th was the opening day of the 2014 season of Circo Hermanos Vazquez's east coast tour.
Ryan and I started off the morning with a radio publicity. We did a few interviews with the DJs between 8 and 9 a.m.; everyone seemed pleased with our work, even though we were talking in Spanglish.
While waiting around between segments, Ryan and I got to know Vivien, who will be our PR person for the tour, and Alexa, who is part of the Vazquez family and also performs in the show.

During the last live radio segment the show's generator ran out of diesel, and the broadcast was interrupted.
I was amazed that the DJs simply pulled out a cellphone and finished the segment that way. Isn't technology amazing?!

While we were waiting around, I also talked to some members of the PR team and got sent a video of the commercial we shot last week. Check it out!

video

Today was a nasty day. It was cold, drizzly, and muddy in the backyard. At least once we got to backstage we were free from the muck.

There was one final show run through today around noon. It wasn't the best for me and Ryan, but just when our spirits were down the most today, we received such nice compliments from our friend, Natalie, and the show's choreographer. Those words of encouragement perked us right up.
The choreographer compared me to Bob Fosse in the carpenter gag because of a hat move I do, and he said it made me look debonaire, something that I told him I have never been called before in my life!

The big excitement revolving around this evening, besides the fact that it was our grand opening, was that David Zepeda, a famous Mexican television actor, was going to be at both performances.
I'm not sure exactly what he did, but before both Intermissions he went into the ring and picked a few women out of the audience to interact with. From my limited understanding of Spanish, I think I picked up that he was acting out a romantic scene with them.

The first show went as well as first shows usually do, but the second performance felt much better to me.
I was surprised, because both audiences seemed very reserved compared to the Latino audiences I remember from the past.
The important thing is that we got laughs. I am looking forward to honing our material even more and finding new funny moments with the audience.

Here is the show's running order:

Opening
Turbillon- The Espanas
Hula Hoops-Alexa Vazquez
Water Act-Steve & Ryan
Foot Juggling-Claudia Bremlov
Diabolos-David Confal
Carpenter Act-Steve & Ryan
Horses-Trained by Klaus Dieter/Presented by Aldo Vazquez


Intermission


Russian Swing-Espana Family
Carmelo Comedian-Jorge Celedon
Dogs- The Pompeyos
Hand To Hand-The Azzario Sisters
Trumpet Act-Steve & Ryan
Flying Trapeze-Bogdanov Troupe (Flying Heroes)
Finale

All photos by Sandy Lasecki

Gene and Mr. North came over from Kelly Miller to see our first performance, but I didn't know they had been there until they were already headed back to Brownsville. We will have to catch them next week in McAllen.

Even though I was dog tired after the second show,  I went to Buffalo Wild Wings for a celebratory beer and dinner.


2/08/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

On Saturday morning I went out to go grocery shopping since my fridge was getting frightfully empty.
While I was out I called a few friends whose professional opinions I value greatly. They gave me some great advice, encouragement, and even some much needed butt kicking.
We've been very lucky that for the last 5 years we have had complete control over our material, and we just needed to hear from some seasoned pros that a few changes to our material is not the end of the world.
Thank you guys, you know who you are!

One nice thing I noticed today while going around the lot was that any bad muddy spots in the backyard were smoothed out via heavy machinery, and then filled in with gravel.
I really appreciate how clean they try to keep everything around here. Ryan had pointed out to me how in the backyard all the power cables and hoses are run in a straight line and stay close to the trailers to make them as unobtrusive as possible.

Ryan and I made some fancy wardrobe for this show- rhinestoned costumes for opening and finale- but last night the Vazquez brothers asked us to please wear our wigs and normal costumes since they have made us the image of the show.
We had planned to wear those outfits for publicity, but wear our nice wardrobe and hats for the show. After Memo, the ringmaster, brought it up, I thought about it from their point of view and it made perfect sense.
They want the public to see us just the way they see us on the billboards, posters, and other show paraphernalia.

Tatiana added some rhinestones to our regular costumes to bump up their quality a bit, and then we wore them for the shows this evening.
The Vazquez brothers were happy, and it actually made our costume changes a lot easier.

Memo had one more note for us before the shows. He asked us to keep the acts clipping along as fast as possible to keep the show's tempo up.
Our challenge will be doing that, yet keeping the material clearly understood and funny.

The audiences tonight were great, especially for the first show. They were much more like the Latino audiences I remember from Kelly Miller.
We did some tweaking to the trumpet act, and the changes got some nice laughs, which is always satisfying.

Backstage as well as onstage I was feeling much more comfortable this evening. I even found some downtime to read.

Between shows Memo asked me if in the carpenter gag I could park the little car in a different position so the prop guys could strike it immediately after our car alarm bit. We have so many props in the act that the crew is having a hard time striking them all before the horses start.
I explained to him the car had to be in the position it was so the car alarm bit could work, but I said I could park it facing the opposite direction so the prop guys could just pull it straight out instead of having to spin it around first.

I planned to implement that change into the second show, but when it came time to do the act, we discovered a problem. The front axle had come unattached from the body of the car, so I could not turn the wheels.
I am so glad that we discovered that before we crashed and burned in the ring.

Ryan and I entered for the gag on foot, and the audience was none the wiser. Backstage Mario, one of the prop guys, found a bolt in our prop area, and we discovered that it was what had come loose and caused the problem.

I was proud of myself backstage during the second show. A radio DJ came up and asked for a picture with us.
After we posed and snapped a photo, she asked, in Spanish, for one more photo, but she wanted us to make a better face.
I quickly improvised, in Spanish no less, "But my face is the best."
Go, gringo, go!


2/09/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

On Sunday I got up early so we could have breakfast, do laundry, and make a trip to Home Depot.

Back at the tent Ryan and I attempted to fix the little car (all I needed to buy from Home Depot was a nut to go on the bolt that came loose), but the undercarriage of the car was so crowded that we were having a hard time tightening the nut properly.
Along came Jovan, one of the electricians (I believe), who had a socket wrench set. He tightened the nut and bolt in no time flat and told us that his son has a go cart that he is always repairing.
I think we may have found our Castro of Circo Hermanos Vazquez!

Next up we had to fix the tool bag for the carpenter gag. During rehearsals the wood in the bag's base had broken in half. Luckily, that too was an easy fix; I simply had them cut a new piece of wood at Home Depot, and then I slid it into the bottom of the bag.

Today was our first three show day, and it was a warm one. The air conditioning was working in the tent, but backstage became very sweaty for us.
Honestly I was just happy that the sun was out after the crappy weather we've had for the past week.

For the first two shows the sawhorses were late coming into the ring for the carpenter gag, so Ryan and I had to pull some schtick out of our back pockets to fill until they arrived.
I mentioned it to Tisok, the stage manager, and for the final show the problem was solved.

One of the Vazquez brothers, who used to be a clown, came up to us before the first trumpet act and gave us some notes and suggestions for jokes to use.
Ryan and I didn't have much time to discuss them together before doing the act, so some of the material fell a little flat.
We tweaked the new material throughout the afternoon, and by the third show it seemed that we were on the right track to making the jokes work for us.

The third show in general was great all around. The audience was fantastic, and it was one of our best shows we've done yet.

After the performances Ryan and I stayed backstage to clean the two water ring mats, and then we glued bricks together.
Ryan and I made a lot of loose bricks during the winter so there would be the appearance of mass destruction at the end of the carpenter act.
The prop crew asked if there was a way to combine some of the single bricks so we could have the same effect, but they would have less to clean up in the short time they have before the horses start.
Ryan and I agreed that glueing the bricks into chunks would be the best solution.

We glued the loose bricks into four clumps that then fit on top of our pallet of bricks like a puzzle. Now setting the gag every show will be like playing Tetris!

In closing, here is a link to a video Memo took of the end of finale. It lets you feel like you're right in the middle of the excitement:

http://instagram.com/p/kN4ZCcvKEF/

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Post Tomorrow

Hey everybody,

Please check in tomorrow (Monday night) to read the newest blog entry. Sorry for the delay; the post will be a good one!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Monday, February 3-Wednesday, February 5: Donna, TX


Greetings from Buffalo Wild Wings, where I am enjoying a beer and some boneless wings after a long night of rehearsals. Let's begin!


Sunday night I had a heck of a time getting to sleep. All I could think about was our acts and how to maximize our rehearsal time.
Ideas, thoughts and worries just kept circling in my brain any time I came close to dozing off.
Finally I conked out about 2:00 a.m......

The McAllen airport is not too far from the lot in Donna, so I was able to drop her off and get back to bed fairly quickly. However, once my head hit the pillow I was once again wide awake stressing about rehearsals.

Once I was finally up for the day I headed over to the tent to ask Alfredo, the production manager, for our sheet music. As he handed it over, he gave us a nice compliment which helped alleviate some of my anxiety: "You guys are very professional. I wish all artists were like that."

After obtaining our sheet music, Ryan and I headed to the main office where we met the band, who had arrived last night.
I'm not 100% sure if this band is temporary, or if they are here for the season, but regardless, we gave each musician a folder containing copies of our sheet music and a CD of the two songs we want them to play.

Mrs. Fusco, Natalia, and her sons, Argio and Antone, were visiting Tatiana and Ryan today, so I got to say hello to them as I was running around the lot.

Around 1:45 p.m. the cast met in the seats, and at 2:00 we began going through the first half of the show.
It was slow going since there were frequent stops to correct lighting, entrances, exits, etc, but for us it went so much better than our previous rehearsals. It helped set my mind at ease a bit more.

At the start of the water gag there was a slight technical hiccup- our props weren't set in the ring. Without missing a beat, Ryan and I pulled some of our stock filler material out and covered until the props were set. I was very proud of our quick thinking.
Afterwards we talked with Tisok, the stage manager, who told us they discovered the water props need to be in the ring before they start removing the aerial motorcycle rigging.
I told him not to worry, since those problems are what we're looking to solve in these tech rehearsals.

After rehearsal Ryan and I reset all our props and dried our ring mat for the water gag. While we were working we met David, who is doing the diabolo act in the show.
David is from Germany, and he previously worked on Cirkus Olympia in Sweden.

After we were done rehearsing for the evening, Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I drove to Mission, TX to have dinner with our friends, the Davison family.
We met Pat, Marites, and Mabelle our first year on Kelly Miller while they were filling in for acts that had not yet arrived.
We have stayed in touch with them ever since, and it was so nice to go to their beautiful home and escape the stress of rehearsals for an evening.

We were treated to a delicious meal, good company, and even some karaoke! It was a very fun night, and I look forward to doing it again sometime!


Monday night I finally got a good night's sleep, so I was feeling much more positive on Tuesday.

At 2:00 p.m. we ran the first half again, and we were told the plan was to try and run through without stopping.
Ryan and I were becoming frustrated because there were some music cues we needed to fix, but we felt that stopping would be frowned upon.
In the carpenter gag, Joseph Bouglione, who is staging and lighting the show, came into the ring to tell me that I had parked the little car in the wrong spot for the lights, so we went ahead and told him that there were other things we wanted to fix.
Once he assured us that it was ok to stop and fix something if it was wrong, I, for one, felt a lot less stressed, and everything seemed to go much better.
Every day is a learning experience for us since we are on a new show, and today I learned to be more vocal during rehearsals if something is not going right.

After finishing the first half run through, we ran the second half....more accurately, the three acts from the second half that are here and have their props: the Russian swing, the Pompeyo Family dog act, and our trumpet act.

In the evening I got on Skype and video chatted with my friends, Greg and Jessi, who are the clowns on Circus Kinoshita in Japan.
We talked and joked around while they made up, and at the end of our conversation I was feeling a lot better.


On Wednesday morning Ryan and I met with Teo and the band to talk over music cues. Ryan and I explained the cues for the water gag to Josue, the band director, and I worked with Teo on simplifying the carpenter gag music cues since he will be running both music and sound effects by himself.

Our friend, Pat Davison, who had us over to his house Monday night, is a limo driver, and over dinner we had joked with him about how funny it would be if he pulled up to the lot in one of the limos asking for us.
I found out that while I was out running errands today, Pat did just that! He swung by on the way to drop off a limo, and he asked for Steve & Ryan at the gate.
When I arrived back at the lot, Carlos, our general manager, told me that a man in a white stretch limousine was looking for me.
That's one way to make an impression. Thanks, Pat!

The plan was for there to be a full show run through at 2:00 p.m., but while Ryan and I were setting our props, Memo Vazquez, the ringmaster, came by to tell us the rehearsal had been delayed to 2:30.
The Russian flying trapeze act arrived at midnight (as well as prop cases that were missing for some other acts), and they had been up all night setting their rigging.
They were still at it in the afternoon, and they needed to get everything figured out before we could proceed.

Memo also had a bit of unfortunate news for us. For the past couple of days the Vazquez brothers had been telling us they wanted to see our bull fighting act so they could choose which three of our four acts they wanted in the show.
Unfortunately with all the set backs in rehearsals, we will not have time to show it, so he told us to shelve it for now.
Ryan and I think the bull fighting act is very strong, but we are very happy with the material we have in the show now. Plus, just the thought of introducing a new act into rehearsals two days before we open makes me feel sick to my stomach.

Ryan and I packed away the bull fighting props, and then we returned to the tent to wait for rehearsal to begin.
After awhile Alfredo came up to us and said to return at 5:15 p.m. as the flying rigging was still being figured out.

Ryan and I returned to the tent at the time we were told, and once everyone had arrived we blocked out opening and practiced it a couple of times.

Our other new addition to tonight's rehearsal was a short segue into Intermission featuring me, Ryan, the dancers, and the ringmaster, Memo.
I was able to talk with a couple of the dancers, and they were very nice; I was surprised to find that they come from England. I found out that this is the first circus they've ever performed on.

The rehearsal this evening went on and on and on and on, and not even all of the acts performed. New additions were the Icarian Games act, since the artist's props finally arrived, and the Azzario Sisters, with their well renowned hand to hand act.

The rehearsal ended on a sour note for me and Ryan. Our trumpet act was a shambles; there were a group of performers congregated around me in the seats that were talking loudly while we were trying to run the act. It was very distracting, and it really made us feel like we are below all the other acts.
Oh, right! We're clowns!

The trumpet act is to entertain the audience while the trapeze net is set up, but by the time we finished the act, the net was still far from finished.
Even after we had re set our props and cleaned our mat backstage, the net was still on the ground. It makes me worried for opening night.
Tomorrow is going to be a loooooooong day.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thursday, January 30-Sunday February 2: Donna, TX


On Thursday Ryan and I were slated to have a block of rehearsal time from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. However, when we arrived backstage we saw that they were not ready for us; the ring curb was still being set up, the curtain was not up, and there were no lights rigged.

Since we were already there, Ryan and I decided to take initiative and go into the seats to work on our own. We blocked some of our entrances and exits, as well as a couple of chases in the gags.
While we were working, we met one of the clowns from the west coast unit of Vazquez. He was very complimentary of our work, and he answered some of our questions about the show.

A little later in the day Ryan invited me to join his family at the flea market a few miles from the lot.
It was nice to get out of our trailers for a bit, but we weren't really impressed with the selection of items for sale. I suppose if we were looking for about a hundred electric heaters, various kitchen appliances, or flocks of birds picking through the trash on the ground, we would have been satisfied, but alas we were not.

The highlight for me was the cage of cute ducklings that one vendor was selling. Big surprise, huh?


Around 7 p.m. Ryan and I went into the tent to set the rigging for our fly away dummy prop used in the bull fighting gag.
Thanks to the help of the prop guys we were able to get our cable, rope, and bungee set in no time. Even better, when we tested the gimmick, the fly away dummy worked perfectly.

While we were waiting on the rigging, we talked with a few of the Vazquez brothers. They were very supportive and welcoming, and Ramon put us at ease by telling us, "Just be yourselves. You don't have anything to prove; you are here because we've seen you, and we like you."

While we had the ring, Ryan and I brought in the carpenter box and measured the amount of rubber tubing we need for the circular saw at the end of that act.


Friday was basically a day off for me and Ryan. Lighting and sound equipment was still being set up in the tent, so there was really nothing we could do.
Alfredo, the production manager, did call us in the evening to give us our schedule for Saturday, but other than that we were free to relax.




On Saturday we were called into the tent around 2:30, two hours before we were slated for rehearsal.
It seemed that rehearsals were going very well since they were running way ahead of schedule.

Ryan and I were introduced to Joseph Bouglione, from the famous European circus family in charge of Cirque D'Hiver.
Joseph is here to stage and light the east coast edition of Vazquez, which is very exciting.

Right off the bat we were told that only three of the four acts we prepared were needed for the show. Looking at the show running order and where our acts fall therein, we decided that the bull fighting act would be the obvious one to lose.
We were disappointed to lose one of our acts that we have worked so hard on, but we tried to look on the positive side. A little more down time in the show is never a bad thing.

Weeks prior to arriving in Donna, Ryan and I typed up detailed scripts for each of our acts. The scripts  go into intricate detail about the action taking place, lighting design ideas, as well as sound effect and music cues.
Unfortunately, we were thrown into the ring in a sink or swim manner, and all departments involved had to wing it, thus making the scripts feel like a waste of our time.

It was very stressful, but Ryan and I tried to just roll with the flow and remain as professional as possible.
I felt horrible for Teo, who is running the music AND sound effects for us. We gave him scripts and sound effect cue sheets for each of the acts several days ago, but without a chance to actually see the acts and slowly work through them, he was in over his head.

All things considered, the rehearsal went well. We ran through our three acts, staged where props and equipment are going, and gave Joseph our ideas for a few of the more intricate lighting cues.
Luckily everyone was very friendly, helpful, and professional, which helped keep us from feeling too overwhelmed. 
I did request to Alfredo that we get a rehearsal with just us and Teo to practice all 97 sound effect cues for the carpenter gag.

After we were finished with the creative team, Ryan and I took some time to re-write and simplify our music act; we also blocked out our entrance for the water spitting act.
Our entrance for water spitting is covering the removal of aerial motorcycle rigging, so we need to be in the audience much longer than we had anticipated.
Being thrown into that scenario without any audience in the seats to play off of, we didn't have much to do, so we wanted to go back and write specific material that will allow us to distract from the rigging change AND be entertaining and funny.

After we were finished working for the evening, Ryan and Tatiana invited me to go visit the Fusco family at Kelly Miller, since they had just arrived in Brownsville this afternoon.
I declined because I was so drained from the afternoon.



A good night's sleep and breakfast at Cracker Barrel made me feel more refreshed on Sunday morning, and it also gave me a more positive outlook than the one I went to bed with.

From noon to 1:00 p.m. Ryan and I had a rehearsal with Teo for the carpenter gag. It went well, and Teo gave us an idea for a cue sheet that will make his job even easier.

At 5:30 p.m. we had a rehearsal of our three acts for lighting cues. We basically ran through all three and then we were done. I would have liked to have had some chances to stop and start to fix music cues, but I suppose that is not what the rehearsal was for.
The important thing is that everyone seemed happy with our work.

The tent during rehearsals

We found out that the Vazquez brothers would like to see our bull fighting gag to choose which three acts they like the best for their show.
Ryan and I requested that we show it on Monday so we could have some time in the ring tonight to practice with the sound and prop crews.

The rigging for the fly away dummy had been taken down Saturday evening, so it had to be hung again. I also had to make another CD of the bull fight music for Teo.

After a dinner break Ryan and I were able to rehearse the bull gag a few times with music, costumes, and props.
I had a microphone for the rehearsal, and we were able to go through the act step by step before running it all out several times.
Ryan and I were so happy with the way that the rehearsal went. I wish we had been given the opportunity to run our other gags like that originally. Live and learn, I suppose.
The bottom line is we ended the evening feeling much better than we did last night.