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:

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!


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:

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


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)

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:


Clara said...

Woooohooo! Loved reading that...miss you guys a lot but it sounds like you're right at home. See you next weekend! (And thanks for plugging my blog!) :)

taz-39 said...


A lot of tweaking going on! The pics and video from your show look great though. Cute commercial!

Hope you're having fun through it all :)

Tejano said...

Clara: looking forward to reading your blog on KM. Followed Steve's blog since they begin with KM. Hope to see you all when you get to Pharr.
Steve: The photos look great!! Have not seen the commercial on TV, they are broadcast on Spanish TV which I do not watch much. I am sure they will have English commercials.

Look forward to your show AND lunch soon.

Harry Kingston said...

How have the size of the audiences been so far???
Seems like they really pay a lot of attention to detail as change the costumes and shorten this or that and the name badges,EXCEPT someone forgets to fill the generator fuel tank.
Now if that happened during a performance.
You all will get to see Carson and Barnes as they will be close to you all.
That was one heck of a blog addition you made, WOW.
Harry in Texas

Steve Copeland said...


Crowds have been good. Last night was the smallest crowd we've had so far.
Won't get to see Carson as our show schedule is the same; however, I will be catching the first half of Kelly Miller this Saturday.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

I am really proud of you and Ryan. I can just imagine the feelings when you feel some control being exercised over your art. As you indicated, by reaching out to those whom you trust it helped to "center" you about what is really important. I can't wait to see the show and treating you and Ryan to a nice big juicy steak, salmon, or salad. Or maybe you would be in for a blistered and dry hot dog which has been spun around on seem better days metal conveyor at a 7-11 for the past 12 hours. Your choice.

Steve Copeland said...

You had me until that last sentence. We'll take the steak, salmon, and salad since I'm not entirely sure what joke you were trying to get across at the end.