Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Photo and design by Jason and Justin Senft

I hope everyone is having a great time with their friends and family, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

Soon there will be a big update about our post Vazquez work, but in the meantime, please enjoy these fantastic photos that Maike Schulz took of Circo Hermanos Vazquez for Spectacle Magazine:


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday, December 6 & Sunday, December 7: Queens, NY


12/6/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon Jessi and I hosted a clown luncheon in the Grand Central Terminal concourse. We were happy to be joined by our friends Dan Berkley, Lisa Soverino, Watson Kawecki, Marni Zalban, her husband, Alex, and their two adorable children, Penny and Milo.
Dan and Lisa were both on the Blue Unit with me, while Watson was a Ringling clown in the 90s, and he is currently working with the Big Apple Clown Care Unit. Marni was leaving the Blue Unit Clown Alley when I joined, and she has been working for Sony Pictures for the past ten years.

We were lucky enough to score a couple of tables in the dining area, so we all ordered our lunch from the various food stands before reconvening to talk about clowns and enjoy watching Marni's four month old baby son be cute.

The amazing thing about that photo is that Dan and Lisa, who are on the ends of the table, actually both took the picture, yet were able to both be in the shot as well. Dan set his phone's camera on Panoramic mode, and halfway through taking the picture, he handed it off to Lisa, who finished taking the photo while he got into the group.
Isn't technology amazing?!

Peter Daniel Strauss, another former Ringling/current Big Apple Clown Care employee, came to see our first performance of the evening with his wife, Stephanie. 
After the show I amazed Peter with my freakish knowledge of what gags he had been a part of in both Clown College and on the road.

We had more friends at the second performance. Greg Michales came back to see the show with his family, and he was nice enough to bring us a bottle of wine called "Freakshow" that had amazing art on the bottle.


Also at the show was the Lish family: Bruce and his children, Jessica and Matthew. Matthew wants to be a clown on Ringling, and last year when he saw us on Kelly Miller he had us sign a juggling club that he has been having circus clowns sign for a few years now.


I was happy that all of our friends saw us at the 9:00 p.m. show, because the crowd was the best we've had in quite awhile.

After work there was an end of the season party in the tent. I stopped by long enough to have dinner and receive a beautiful certificate congratulating me on my hard work throughout the year.
The fact that all of the performers received similar certificates did not diminish the honor in the slightest. It was just like my childhood sports days all over again.
Hooray for participation awards! 


12/7/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Today did not feel like the last day of our 2014 season. It just felt like tomorrow we'd be heading on to the next town.

I started off the morning right by having breakfast in Jackson Heights with Jessi, Helen, Dan, and Lisa, and then I went back to the lot to start preparing my trailer for travel.

The little car for the carpenter gag decided that we had gone far too long without it giving us any headaches, so in the first show I almost pulled the steering wheel right off of the drive shaft!
If Ryan hadn't joined all of his effort with mine into turning the wheel, we would have crashed right into the ring curb. We were laughing because when we finally parked, two men in the front row jumped up to stop us from crashing. I guess the sheer terror on our painted faces read loud and clear!

Apparently the nut that holds the steering wheel in place was lost along the way recently, so for the final two shows I did not wave to the crowd as we drove around the ring. Instead I focused on pushing down on the wheel as I turned it.

We had lots of visitors at the 5:00 p.m. performance. I knew Gina Allison and Michael Dobson were going to be at the show, but I was very surprised to spot Tony Chino sitting front and center when I was styling on the ring curb for the carpenter gag.
Gina is a former Ringling clown who owns an entertainment company in NY along with her husband, Chris. Dobson is a drummer who often works with clowns; most recently he appeared with Bill Irwin and David Shiner in the show, "Old Hats".
Tony is a former Ringling clown who has been sending me and Ryan wonderful gift baskets during our stay in NYC. I was so happy to finally meet him and thank him in person for all of his presents.
He even brought us more goodies when he came to see the show; we were given little clown Smurf figurines and collector clown pins.

I wish I could have gotten a picture of Chino's circus going attire. He wore a t-shirt bearing a huge copy of our photo in the Vazquez program, and he wore pins with our clown faces as painted by Patty Vicknair. 

Before the third show show I gathered the usual gang of suspects for the final motivational speech. First I passed out copies of the book, "Three Show Sundays: A Year Of Inspiration", that I made by compiling around twenty of the speeches from throughout the season.

Here is the final speech of 2014:


We had a fantastic audience for our final show of the season. All of our gags went great; the only snafu was that the trapeze net got tangled as the flyers and crew were setting it up. Luckily, like I said, the crowd was great, so they stayed right with me and Ryan as we stretched the vacuum gag to give the flyers more time to prepare for their act.

The other memorable event from the last show happened in the horse act. Klaus, who trained the horses, was in the audience dressed as a rube (thick glasses, false mustache, etc), and he kept interrupting Jose Alberto Vazquez, who was presenting the act. A few minutes into the act Klaus stepped into the ring, removed his hat and glasses, and took over the act.
The whole thing was a surprise to Jose Alberto; I wish I could have seen it, but Ryan and I were busy backstage packing up our props.

For the final finale, our ringmaster, Memo, made an announcement to let the audience know they had just witnessed a special show:

video

The last show of the season really snuck up on me. It never felt like it was the final performance; my mindset was that we'd all be meeting again in the next town to do it all again.
It didn't even sink in when Ryan and I were going around saying goodbye to all of our friends, some of whom we'd be seeing in a couple of months, and some who we don't know when we'll get to see again.

 Claire and I finally made peace!!!!
 Ok, maybe not.....
Anastassia from Trio Bellissimo 

We took a lot more pictures with people, only not on our cameras! I'll post them as people upload them to Facebook.


So that was the Circo Hermanos Vazquez East Coast tour for 2014!
We haven't had a chance to fully rest yet, because once we left Queens we jumped right into Pennsylvania for the "Twas The Gift Show Before Christmas" tour produced by Bill Hall.

Even though we only did one show with the Christmas tour before having four days off, we filled those dark days with more work thanks to Joey Klein and Billy Martin.
Joey helped us set up a physical comedy/gag writing workshop for the Salaam Shrine Clowns in Fairfield, NJ, and Billy Martin invited us to perform eleven shows in three days with the Royal Hanneford Circus' Holiday Gala in Malvern, PA.

So hopefully you can understand why I haven't had the time or energy to post this last update lately!

I'll write about our post Vazquez work at some point in the future, so stay tuned.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Delay

Hey everyone,

I'm working on the blog post for the last two days on Vazquez, but we're super busy with our winter work (more on that later), and I am suffering from severe writer's block.
Please bare with me.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thursday, December 4 & Friday, December 5: Queens, NY


12/4/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning Jessi went to see the Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center with her theatre friend from Boston named Eric.
I stayed behind at the trailer and worked on a project for Sunday. I compiled many of our motivational speeches into a book that I am calling "3 Show Sundays: A Year of Inspiration".
I spent all morning transcribing eighteen of the speeches onto my computer. It was nice to get that done; I've been stressing out about it for awhile now.
My plan is to give the books to the usual gang of suspects that gather for the speech on Sunday before the final performance.

Around 1:00 p.m. I headed into Manhattan to meet my friends for lunch. I joined Eggroll, Jessi, Eric, Helen, and Govian for sushi, and then after a brief detour so Eggroll could show us the soup stand from the famous "Soup Nazi" episode of "Seinfeld", we all headed to the Lincoln Center Library.
There was an excellent exhibit there on "Sesame Street". It had loads of information, video clips, scripts, concept art, and even actual Muppets on display!








We also found out that there was a Broadway exhibit on the lower level of the library featuring panoramic photographs of theaters and Broadway costume and prop shops.
The pictures were neat, but my favorite part was seeing some costume pieces from musicals like "Wicked" and "Kinky Boots" on display.

Back at the lot I stopped by the office to pick up mail. Our clown friend, Tony Chino, had sent us a thoughtful holiday gift box containing chocolate covered apples. Thank you, Tony!

Maxine House, past president of the Circus Fans of America, her husband, JP, and Paul Gutheil all came to see the show tonight.
Paul brought us a thick stack of photos that he took of us last year on Kelly Miller; Ryan and I had a lot of fun going through them during the show.

Also in the crowd was Al Calienes with several of his co-workers from the National Circus Project: Justin, Lou, Brittany, Liam, and Natalie.

The show's generator shut off right at the end of Carmelo's act, but he finished his routine while being illuminated by the emergency lighting and crew flashlights.
When Carmelo finished, the show stopped for a minute until the power was regained.

I wasn't too surprised when when the power shut off again at the end of Trio Bellissimo's act, just as Ryan and I were about to begin the vacuum gag.
Luckily Ryan and I have tons of material in our back pocket if we ever need to stall, so covering the  outage in the dim lighting was not an issue. I only wish I knew more Spanish, because most of the things I was yelling to the audience were probably not comprehended.
Once the lights came on we saw that the trapeze net was almost ready, so we went into the ring and began the vacuum gag proper.
About halfway through the gag, the music and sound effects turned back on, and we cut a little bit of material to get to the blow off since we had already been on stage for far too long.

Never a dull moment when there are friends in the audience!


12/5/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon Jessi and I went to Flushing to do some shopping. My main acquisition was some new shoes; my tennis shoes that I picked up in Donna were falling apart on my feet!
I picked up a pair for casual wear, plus a slightly more formal pair.

 

We had good shows today; it was the first time since our day off that there weren't any major screw ups!

Two days of the tour left!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tuesday, December 2 & Wednesday, December 3: Queens, NY


12/2/14- Day Off!

This morning Jessi and I took my truck to a Trader Joe's in Queens so we could get groceries for the week. (Sorry, Jeff Schott)
What should have been an easy drive was extremely stressful because my GPS kept trying to take me on the Garden State Parkway, which has overpasses too low for the shell on my truck.

Today was cold and wet; it wasn't very pleasant weather for a day off, but Jessi and I still made the most of it.

We caught a 2:00 p.m. performance of the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. I have never been to see the Rockettes in all the times I have visited NYC around the holidays, so I was very excited.
Radio City Music Hall was so beautiful, and I loved the show. The orchestra sounded fantastic, and the Rockettes' routines were amazing.
In particular I enjoyed their famous rendition of "March of the Wooden Soldiers".

After the show we took a train to the West Village to eat at John's, a pizzeria owned by the father of former Ringling clown twin brothers, Danny and David Frank.

Next I took Jessi to Union Square so she could geek out and buy comics at Forbidden Planet, and then we got hot chocolate at Max Brenner's to warm us up as we walked around the holiday market in the square.

We found another holiday market at Bryant Park, where we were just in time for the lighting of the Christmas tree there.
Jessi was excited because as we arrived, one of her favorite singers, Ingrid Michaelson, was on stage performing.

Before leaving Bryant Park we stopped in to play with the folks that gather in one area of the park six days a week to learn and practice juggling.


At 8:00 p.m. we saw the rock musical, "Hedwig And The Angry Inch". I went into the show completely ignorant about what I was going to be seeing, other than the fact that Michael C. Hall, who I loved in the TV series "Dexter" and "Six Feet Under", was in the starring role.
I enjoyed the show, but I think I would have liked it more if I wasn't so exhausted. I really wore myself out today, but luckily there were many loud rock numbers to jolt me awake whenever I was feeling drowsy.

Back at the lot I gave Jessi a surprise present that I have been dying to write about since the day I obtained it.

Jessi is a huge Carol Burnett fan; in fact, she is her main comedic influence.
I knew that Miss Burnett was on Broadway in the show, "Love Letters", so I told Jessi that when she was here, she should go see the show and try and meet her hero afterwards.
Only after a little research did I discover that it was Carol's last week in the show, so I devised a plan.

I went to the Strand bookstore and purchased Carol Burnett's newest book, "This Time Together", and on a cold, rainy Saturday (one of my three chances to catch her at the show) I went to Times Square about two hours before the matinee performance of "Love Letters' to stand outside the stage door and wait for Miss Burnett's arrival.

After only a few minutes of waiting, a very nice young man came out of the door and saw me waiting with my book.
He told me, "She'll be at that door over there", pointing to the other end of the theatre.
I thanked him and asked if he meant before or after the show.
Conspiratorially he leaned closer to me and said, "Before. I'll make sure she signs your book for you."

I thanked him profusely and moved to my new location. After a few more minutes of waiting he came out of the other door and told me to find somewhere warm to wait, because she was still about an hour away from her arrival.
I ducked into a coffee shop to stay dry, and after an hour I headed back to the theatre where there were now two ladies waiting at the door in addition to me.

A few minutes went by before the young man came out and collected everything that we wanted signed, and shortly after that a black vehicle pulled up to the curb, and Carol Burnett stepped out!
She waved to her assembled fans before the young man escorted her into the theater where she autographed our memorabilia.


And that's how I got Jessi an autographed Carol Burnett book!


12/3/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning Jessi and I went to Astoria to meet our friend, Mark Gindick, for breakfast. We were originally just going to drop off some videos that he had lent me, but we were going to be eating in the area anyway, so we invited him to join us.

After a great visit, Jessi and I visited the Museum of the Moving Image, which covered in depth all facets of making a movie.

Naturally my favorite sections dealt with make up, costumes, and props!

 Ape masks for "2001: A Space Odyssey"
 Chewbacca! What a wookie!
 Prosthetic for John Hurt in "The Elephant Man"
 Maquettes for "The Wiz"
Animatronic Linda Blair for the famous head turning scene in "The Exorcist"

The real reason I wanted to visit the museum was to see the exhibit on the brilliant animator, Chuck Jones, who directed many of the most famous Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons, and who created such famous characters as the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.

The exhibit was on loan from the Smithsonian, and it was amazing. I loved reading Chuck's thoughts on writing and directing cartoons, as well as creating cartoon comedy.
It was amazing how many correlations could be made between his advice on animation and writing and performing clown gags.

One of my favorite quotes of his was on timing: "The difference between a laugh and no laugh is often only one frame."

Back at the lot Jessi and I played the addictive and mind bending card game, "Fluxx". I haven't played the game since I was on Ringling, and I had forgotten how much fun it can be.....as well as how frustrating the rules can make it!
Jessi ordered two speciality versions of the game: "Star Fluxx" and "Monty Python Fluxx", so there was plenty of silly fun to be had.

Early into our show tonight I went back to my trailer to give Jessi my phone to film our gags. Teo will not be on the West Coast unit of Vazquez with us next year, so Ryan and I wanted to get current footage of our gags so Luis, our new sound guy, will be able to learn sound effect cues over the winter.

I talked Jessi through what we needed filmed, and I deleted some old videos on my phone to make storage space before starting to walk Jessi to the front of the tent.
As we were approaching backstage I got a sinking feeling in my gut as I realized I couldn't tell what act was on.
I opened the door to backstage and stuck my head in; quickly I realized that the music to the beginning of the water gag was on!

I jumped into the tent and burst through the curtain separating backstage from the area under the seats. I quickly ran up the stairs and into the crowd, but I was a good fifteen seconds late for making my entrance.
Thank God I had put on my water costume before I went to my trailer; however, I still had my black tennis shoes on, and not my black and white dress shoes.

The whole act was a blur to me as I was burning with shame and disappointment in myself. The only other time I've been late to a gag was on Ringling ten years ago.
As soon as I got backstage I texted our production manager to apologize profusely and take full blame for my mistake. Luckily Eddie was understanding and forgiving. Much more forgiving than I was on myself.

I sat backstage for most of the first half in complete and utter disgust of myself until Ryan told me to lighten up and not be so hard on myself since everyone makes mistakes.

Later on I found out that the motorcycle act had been cut short because Zheni was not feeling well, which explains why I lost track of the time so easily.
Still, it is no excuse for what I let happen. I will learn from my mistake, and hopefully never be late again.....for another ten years.

After the show Ryan and I ran our song and dance number all the way through with all elements. We practiced several times before calling it a night.
I had hoped to spend the evening relaxing with Jessi and playing more games of Fluxx, but we didn't finish our rehearsal until after 11:00 p.m.

We played two short games of Fluxx, but I was worn out from practicing our strenuous new act, and I was also drained from the excitement and self loathing I experienced during the show.

Luckily tomorrow is a new day!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sunday, November 30 & Monday, December 01: Queens, NY


11/30/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning I went to Panera Bread for breakfast. My meal was free thanks to a gift card that my friend, Alex Zaprudsky, got me for my birthday.
I haven't visited a Panera in over ten weeks, so I was going through some serious withdrawals. Thanks for the fix, Alex!

I was feeling sick and tired for the shows today (I was also sick of feeling sick and tired).
Claire helped me out by whipping up a cup of her witch's brew (hot water with lemon, ginger root, honey..... and eye of newt), which was waiting for me in the dressing room before the first show.
Thank you, Claire, for taking pity on the feeble, sick clown.

Unfortunately my lack of energy and abundance of congestion made today seem to go on forever.

After the first water gag I returned to the men's dressing room ranting and raving to Ryan about the local ushers.
No matter how many times Eddie, our production manager, talks to them, they still always walk people to their seats while we are making our entrance and exit for the act.
Today was especially bad because when I was exiting through the stands, I was stopped by a huge group of latecomers who were being shown to their seats.
I just turned around and shrugged to the audience when I usually take my style.

Anyway, in the dressing room I was venting my frustration, and my colorful language caused Visan to look up from his phone and see what all the ruckus was about.
Visan burst into laughter, because he said that what he was hearing, a string of invectives, didn't mesh with what he was seeing, a little clown with a smile painted on.
I'm glad my unbridled fury inspires laughter in others. Perhaps I should look into Sam Kinnison style stand up comedy.

The dancers did a fantastic rap/inspirational speech before the third show. Each dancer wrote a stanza, and even Georgie contributed via an iPhone video.


Georgie, by the way, is still recuperating from her pneumonia. She is out of the hospital and staying with friends in their swank Times Square apartment. Just what the doctor ordered!

Twenty five members of the Royal Hanneford Circus came to see our final show of the evening. Their ringmaster, Billy Martin, organized the field trip, and the cast had already experienced quite an eventful day.
They saw a performance of the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show, followed by a performance of Big Apple, and then our show. Obviously they saved the best for last! :o)
It was great to visit with our circus friends after the show.

After bidding adieu to the Royal Hanneford crew, Ryan and I ran through our song and dance number several times.
We were severely winded after each run through, and that was just with singing and dancing. I'm not looking forward to adding in the trumpet playing!


12/1/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning Ryan and I headed into Manhattan to once again visit the Garment District.
Ryan thought of a few more fabrics we needed to make our new agent suits for next year, and luckily we were able to find everything we needed without too much hassle.

While we were in the area we met up with Ryan's brother, Pete, who is visiting for a few days, and we also met up with our friend, Steve Curtis, for lunch at our favorite Jewish deli, Ben's.
Steve is a Clown College graduate, and we worked with him on Ringling when he was Prop Boss in 2004-2005.
Steve is currently working on the Broadway magic show, "The Illusionists", so it was great to hear about that tour, as well as his previous gig, Marvel Universe Live.

Before heading back to the lot Pete picked up a gift for Tatiana; he got her a giant cannoli cupcake from Crumbs Bake Shop.

Pete knows the way to a pregnant woman's heart!

This afternoon my friend, Jessi Hoffschildt, arrived for her weeklong visit. Jessi is a former Ringling/Culpepper/Circus World Museum clown who is currently working on Circus Kinoshita in Japan.
She has a week off while they change locations, so she decided to come to New York City. It was great to see her again, as the last time was four years ago.

Ryan and I had a lot of friends in the crowd tonight. In addition to Steve and Jessi, Don Horowitz, part owner of the Al Ringling Mansion in Baraboo, WI, was also watching the show.
I was glad there were a few friendly faces in the audience, because the rest of the folks were none too welcoming with their responses.

At the end of the carpenter gag Ryan fell into the workbench and twisted his ankle. 
The reason that happened? A soccer ball belonging to one of the teenagers on the show was inexplicably in the box, and when Ryan fell in, his foot landed on it, causing the sprain.
It could have been a lot worse, but needless to say, Ryan was none too pleased about the situation.

In celebration of the Christmas season, Don brought two big wreaths for me and Ryan. The wreaths came complete with red ornaments symbolizing clown noses, and a big, red bows standing in for bow ties.

Don, Jessi, and I went to the Mexican restaurant not far from the lot after the show. 
It was so nice to visit with so many friends today.

On a different note, today marked the beginning of the end. The 2014 Circo Hermanos Vazquez East Coast season ends in one week!!!!