At 4:30 on the first Saturday afternoon of the 2008 Indianapolis Fringe Festival, I walked to the Theatre on the Square to see “Clown at Work,” aka Brent McCoy. He travelled from Vermont to be in our Fringe.
He himself is endearing and his show is engaging. Funny and mesmerizing. Often, when he was doing his seemingly impossible balancing and juggling tricks, I had to remind myself to breathe. His show is completely family-friendly. In fact, he handled a Child Heckler from Hell brilliantly. I heard children giggling and grown men laughing out LOUD.
Well, the sound of swooning is not as loud as the sound of laughter, but I know I was not the only person in the room who developed a crush.
This is one hot clown.
Let me back up and say that Theatre on the Square (TOTS) is actually hosting two Fringe theatre spaces: TOTs Main Stage and TOTS Stage Two. Last year, the air conditioning in Stage Two went out for a bit.
It is working fine this year, but when Sue, the Fringe volunteer, came out onto the Main Stage and said they were having difficulties with the lights and that an electrician had been called, I believed her. Physical maintenance is an on-going challenge for every theatre. I dug out my Fringe booklet and my reading glasses and started cleaning up my notes from previous shows. I hoped the problem would be fixed in time for the Clown at Work to do his show.
After a few minutes, a man wearing an orange hard hat peeked around a black partition at the side of the stage. When he came out all the way, I saw that he was wearing baggy jeans held up by bright orange suspenders. He carried a toolbox. He waved at us, but then went to work fixing the broken light that was dangling from the ceiling.
Oh! (Duh.) Clown at Work!
He doesn’t say much, but communicates volumes through his face, body, and vocalizations: “oh” and “ah” and “huh” and “heh.” He also “greets” the audience by working his way through the rows, patting people whose hair (or lack thereof) he admires. He responds to what is happening here and now: a loud jet flying overhead, an audience member leaving to use the restroom.
(He blew his whistle at her as if to say, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing, leaving my show in the middle?” She must have answered him from the hallway, because he mimed to us that she couldn’t hold it any longer. We all laughed in sympathy.)
He uses a lot of volunteers to help him with his tricks. For example, he fixes the broken light by standing on a large ball. In work boots. Which means he needs someone to lend a shoulder to help him get his balance.
He also uses a volunteer to help him get three yo-yo’s (?) in motion. He spins and juggles the three jigger-shaped pieces on a rope that he manipulates with stick-like handles. It is hard to describe but fascinating to watch.
And from there he moves to juggling traffic cones!
At one point, somehow he loses his polka-dotted undershorts. His maneuvering to get them back up inside his trousers is hilarious. When he drops trou to show us that he has gotten his undershorts safely back in place, the action is completely innocent and unoffensive, but…oh, my goodness, he has sexy knees.
Whenever he completes a trick, his face lights up with honest pleasure and relief. He is fully present and authentic, and therefore we are filled with joy, too. He has set things up so that we are right there with him in the accomplishment.
His energy is very loving. I couldn’t really blame the girl who kept acting out in the performance I saw, even though I wanted to smack her (or whatever grown-up was supposed to be caring for her.) She wanted to be/have what he is/has.
Later, I saw the Clown in the hallway at TOTS. I told him I admired the way he handled her brattiness. He shrugged and said, “It’s fun to just let it happen. The audience is on my side.”
We are indeed.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
9/2/08 – The high-resolution photo that McCoy had provided the Indy Fringe to give to media is too big for me to handle with the resources I have, so the photo above is from www.brentmccoy.com. It is credited to Global Evan Productions.