08 Fringe: “Clown at Work”

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.

But also…

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.

6 thoughts on “08 Fringe: “Clown at Work””

  1. I’m planning to take my kids to this see Clown at Work on Saturday at 1:30. As a parent of 4 year old twins, I just want to say that you can’t always control kids. At the same time, one disturbance at the show and they’ll promptly be removed so as not to distract others. That said, it sounds like we’d become part of the show if I tried removing a fussy kid. I’m fairly strict, so I think they’ll be good. We’ll see.

  2. As always, thanks for your comments, John. The Child Heckler from Hell that I mentioned looked to be in upper elementary school, or maybe even middle school. Old enough, anyway, to be able to control herself more than she did.

    I think what annoyed me most was that after the show was over, she went up to the Clown and held out her hand, saying, “Ahem! aHEM! Where’s my candy?” She actually SAID that! He had handed out a Tootsie Pop to some of the people who had helped him during his show.

    He tried to ignore her at first, but then had to shout, “I don’t have any!” before she finally left.

    Anyway, good luck with your twins. I don’t know them, obviously, but I bet they will be enthralled by the Clown at Work.

  3. Brent is seriously talented – I admire the way he builds his act, starting with one simple discovery which snowballs into incredible feats.

    I saw his Wednesday show – I heard about the heckler from hell – well, he had just the sweetest angel of a girl to help him that night, and the entire audience collectively fell head over heels for him. He was video taping that night… I hope he posts a clip of that show!

    I highly recommend him and his work – he is a clown of the first order – better than circue du soleil by far.

  4. I agree, Croft. I just got home from seeing “A Clown at Work” as my last show of the 2008 Fringe. (I paid to get in this time, rather than using my media pass.) Brent’s show was SO MUCH FUN, again!

    I loved your “Stinky Flowers” show, too, by the way (as you know, I hope!)

    Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment!

  5. Well, the kids and I made it to the Saturday show, with Grandma in tow. We arrived early & were able to sit in the front row! I really just wanted the kids to be able to see well & didn’t think about being part of the show. But, I didn’t resist when I was pulled on stage. It was fun.

    A while later, my four year old son was also escorted onto stage. I have to say that he’s tall for his age, so he looks like he’s six or so. For some inexplicable reason, he proceeded to hold onto the clown’s spool with one hand and his own ‘spool’ with the other hand! It was one of those moments where you grimace as a parent. He wouldn’t let go & the audience was howling. I laughed so hard that I cried.

    The show was wonderfully sweet and very funny. Brent is gifted and we enjoyed the show as much as we hoped we would. Too many times, we hear great things about a show, raise our expectations, and are disappointed. This show delivered! Great job.

  6. Yay! I’m glad that you and your family had a good time at this show, John. I laughed, too, when I read the part about your son, but as you say, sometimes things like that just happen.

    Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.

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