Return of the clowns

Perseverance brings 'Fry Tales' back

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2001

A waltz on the low-flying trapeze and a dancing cavalcade of clowns marks the return of "Fry Tales."

Last spring Perseverance Theatre created and produced an original familyoriented show called "Fry Tales" at the Douglas theatre. Director Roblin Davis has drawn upon the same elements as before - mask theater, clowning, physical comedy and collaborative creation - to create the new show. This year's "Fry Tales" brings back some of the same characters for an entirely new story.

"It's an expansion of the characters' lives," said actor Ibn Bailey, who reprises his role as Clifford Huxley III. "Instead of going on a journey as last year, you're going more into the characters' lives and memories, as well as their extended families."

Bailey said the action takes place in the course of a single day, which is also a special day for Clifford Huxley III.

"Cliff is trying to do something extraordinary on this special day," Bailey said. "So he goes on some extraordinary adventure for himself and overcomes a personal obstacle. If you saw the show last year you'll remember his fear of heights, and it goes to his childhood where he picks up that fear."

Davis said the show jumps back and forth between the past and present.

"There are four younger actors playing the younger selves of the main characters," Davis said. "They have memories about being kids and we flash back to those scenes."

Masks are a key component of the show. Last year, Davis and the cast created masks to cover the top half of the actors' faces. Then they developed the characters by working with the masks.

"You're bringing this mask to life," Bailey said. "There's not a performer behind the mask. This mask is a person. It has a life."

The show covers three generations, not just two. Actress Anni Stokes plays four parts, all representative of the character's parent's generation.

"Anni had to make four different masks for herself and had to come up with the movements to compliment each characters," Bailey said.

The show includes a dream sequence with a trapeze, Davis said. Becky Engstrom, who did the choreography for the Perseverance show "Gypsy," choreographed the trapeze waltz.

"It's great for a dream sequence scene," Davis said. "Clarabella dreams about dancing with another character, Larry. She falls asleep at her tea-time table and has a dream waltz. And wakes up and realizes she really is in love."

In addition to the four main characters and their young counterparts, the cast also includes 10 clowns.

"The clown brigade is doing comic interludes helping to set up the some of the scenes," Davis said. "The clowns kind of act as a ridiculous element in the show. They help move the story along. There's also a dancing cavalcade of clowns, where they come out with these wild, zany dances."

Davis said the clowns also wrote their own parts, the short scenes and stunts known in clown theater as clown turns.

Perseverance is staging "Fry Tales" at Centennial Hall, which gives the large cast plenty of room. And cast members aren't restricted to the stage.

"It's definitely interactive. We're going out into audience," Bailey said, adding that "Fry Tales" is a high energy show.

"We're going from zero to 60 on stage. You want to maintain this level of energy on stage," he said. "We come out at 60 miles an hour and don't stop."

"Fry Tales" opens at 7 p.m. Friday and shows for two weekends at Centennial Hall. Regular shows are 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 4, with matinees at 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Wednesday is a pay-as-you-can performance. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books and at the door, and are $11 for adults, $9 for students under 18 and seniors.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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