Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Frame of Mind 4/14/07 Clowning Around

The miniature bicycles, pies to the face and pratfalls under the lights of the main ring would come later.

Instead, the clowns for the Triton Troupers Circus focused on their faces, the perfect curvature of a colored pencil, developing their character from a photo or sketch before them.

The bright lights came from the globes around the mirror of the make-up table. Instead of the scent of popcorn and cotton candy, the make-up room contained the faint smell of clean powder, applied with care.

Some were frantic, applying final touches. Others were calm, stretching rainbow colored suspenders onto their shoulders, over-sized shoes on their feet.
“Blue?” Andrew Bedno asked, holding out a make-up pencil he was about to draw with around his lips.

“No, no, black,” replied Susan Hooper, a rainbow wig already on her head, and a purple, glittery star sticker attached to the tip of her nose. “Too much blue.”
Difficult work, this clowning.

Hooper, a Chicago resident, is a professional clown and performer. She was busy at the Triton show, acting as the clown Sweety, an extra in the wire act, and a performer walking on a globe and in the gym wheel.

Performing with Triton gives Hooper a chance to keep her skills sharp, she said. She likes the lights and enjoys being on stage.

But the clowning is not a full-time job. She’s a social worker, working in a nursing home, at hospitals and adult day-care centers in the area.
The clown work comes in handy, though.

“They kind of work hand in hand in terms of providing entertainment and therapy together with the work,” Hooper said. “I like to feel I’m able to develop a different rapport with my clients and the people I perform with.”

When the clowns needed advice, she was there to offer her help. “I want everyone to look good and have a good time,” Hooper said.

With the crowd arriving at Triton College, the clowns stood outside and in the lobby, working as they welcoming crew. Some mimed, some joked, all offered up a few yucks to warm the crowd.

“Hey, do I look a little pail?” yelled Mike Pepe, the circus clown Lumpy, as he stood atop stilts hidden by his ultra-long pants looming over the heads of the crowd. In one hand, he offered up a pail the size of a shot glass.

For Westmont’s Jamie Glassman, aka Spots, it was his first time as a clown.
Glassman decided to join the show on a spur of the moment, he said. He had talked to some other clowns, and they urged him to sign up.

“It’s just something I thought I’d do,” Glassman said. “I feel I owed it to these kids, to make some of the kids happy.”

At first, it was difficult acting the fool for circus peer reviews, but Glassman said it takes a lot for him to be embarrassed. Which no doubt helped explained the fire-engine red dyed hair on his head.

“I’ve never been pied yet,” he said. “Tonight, I will be for sure.”

-Chris LaFortune

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