More than just funny

Juneau clowns win kudos in California

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2000

Two Juneau actors were honored in San Francisco last month for their performance of an original theater piece called "Imbecillus: a lunatic quest."

"Imbecillus: a lunatic quest" was one of 52 shows performed at the San Francisco Fringe Theatre Festival and was among the six chosen as Best of the Fest. Roblin Davis and Donnie Gott of Juneau wrote and performed the hour-long show with two California performers, friends of Davis from theater school.

Davis called the performance an ensemble clown piece.

"Most people associate clowns today with Ronald McDonald, but clown theater comes out of a long lineage of European theater tradition," Davis said.

Clown theater is strongly based on the characters and Davis said that served as the starting point for the script.

"We all brought our character's perspective on what we think is ridiculous in the world," he said.

In the opening scene, one clown, bored with Davis' ukulele playing, passes red balls out to the audience and encourages them to pelt Davis. Other scenes range from a heartfelt rant about commercialism and the decline of theater to the clowns roasting marshmallows over a candle while Davis croons "Under Paris Skies."

"I'm lost in my world of pain and lost love," Davis said. "I personally like to be a weight to the clown world, revealing all aspects of the world and not all of that is happy. Hopefully it makes you think, and feel deeply and profoundly."

The two Juneau actors wrote, rehearsed and performed the show in an intense outburst of creativity and productivity, Davis said.

"I'd been thinking about the show for about six months," Davis said, "and in about five days the week before the festival we pounded it out. It was very creatively energetic. It was a short and intense rehearsal process."

They wrote and performed the show with a friend of Davis from San Francisco while another friend acted as a straight man and ran the lights.

"We took some classic 19th century French clown turns and put them in the show," Davis said. Turns are short clown scenes, a phrase from the circus days of clowning.

The San Francisco Fringe Theater Festival was founded nine years ago and is held each year at the Exit Theatre. As one of the six Best of the Fest shows, Davis and Gott were invited to return to California at the end of September for an encore performance.

Davis co-wrote and directed "Fry Tales" last spring at Perseverance Theater and met Gott when she was cast for the part of the professor. Davis has studied mime, mask theater, comedy and physical theater in America and Europe.

Davis has written a solo show called "Mumble in Numbskull: an existential clown show" and hopes to perform it in Juneau this year. He is also scheduled to produce a new version of "Fry Tales" this winter at Perseverance Theatre. He said the show will be different from the "Fry Tales" of last season, but will incorporate many of the same elements.

Gott is performing in the upcoming production of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." Produced by Theatre in the Rough, the show opens next week at McPhetres Hall.

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