Best Bets: Laugh-a-minute clown shows swarm Juneau

Posted: Friday, November 29, 2002

A late night, finger-lickin', God-fearin', rip-snortin', high falutin' clown show is among the best bets for Thanksgiving weekend events.

This is not a clown show for kids, but there is another excellent family option available this weekend as part of Novemberfest. The clown show, "In Cahoots," features John Leo, Emily Windover and Roblin Davis in four performances at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30, and again next weekend. The shows will be at Perseverance Theatre.

I haven't seen this specific show yet, but I have seen all three of these talented performers in action. Windover's one-woman clown show last winter was so hilarious I saw it twice in one week. She - in the guise of her character Murphy - single-handedly cured my fear of clowns and made me realize clowning could be extremely entertaining.

Leo was excellent in Perseverance Theatre's "Fry Tales" two seasons ago. Davis directed the show (and the first "Fry Tales" the previous year) and he brings out the best in performers, especially where comedy is concerned. He is a skilled actor, a creative mind and a very funny guy.

Davis, Leo and Windover created the show together in a fashion similar to the way "Fry Tales" was developed, by improvising, creating characters, editing and bouncing ideas off volunteers. Much of the show, but not all, would be appropriate for kids, but the creators didn't want to limit themselves.

"We didn't want to do a kiddy show, that's why we did it at 11," Leo said. "We wanted to experiment with doing adult clowning. It's not all gags, it's more theater and more adult theater. It's on the line, it's not gratuitous, but the intention was not to limit our play."

Leo's character is silent, but Windover's and Davis' characters talk a lot, which Leo said creates an interesting dynamic. Windover is re-examining Murphy, her character from last winter, and I welcome her return.

Kids will be the focus of the entertainment Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Alaska Folk Festival's Novemberfest family concert. Martha Stey, a vibrant performer and talented songwriter, will open the concert at 11 a.m. in the ballroom of the Juneau Elk's Lodge. Other performers will include Clarabella the clown - another "Fry Tales" creation that lives on, singer Teri Tibbett, the Montessori Kids and Anne Fuller.

Storyteller Brett Dillingham will have a 45-minute set during the event, which ends about 1 p.m. A gifted and animated entertainer, Dillingham has written his own stories and draws on numerous traditional tales as well.

At the tail end of the day, Novemberfest will make the most of the hardwood ballroom floor in the Elk's Lodge with a dance. The Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band, featuring bluegrass and old-time music, will start the dance with an opening set about 9 p.m. The Sofa Kings will follow and provide dance music until midnight.

The Sofa Kings are a relatively new Juneau band and feature Bob Banghart on fiddle, Albert McDonnell on guitar, Patrick Murphy on bass, and Eric Holle of Haines on banjo and mandolin.

Holle said members are influenced by swing, jazz, bluegrass, boogie-woogie and even Latin American musical styles. He called the band's style a mongrel, mixed-breed kind of thing.

Banghart described the band in tongue-in-cheek wine-tasting terms:

"A strong swing nose with bluegrass overtones and hints of Sinatra and Zappa, overlaid with an Ellingtonian offering of individual strengths. A smooth finish leaving the ear with the desire for another round."

Dancers who love to contra dance can dance Friday night as well. The Juneau contradance group is holding an after-Thanksgiving Barn Dance, Friday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Ann's Parish Hall on Fifth and Gold streets. The dance features live music with the Juneau dance band Happy to Be Here, and Tom Paul will call the dances.

On the art scene, there are a couple of shows opening this weekend. Juneau photographer Pat Costello is displaying his work in the halls of KTOO in December. The exhibit opens with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29. Juneau has more than its share of excellent nature photographers and Costello is one of the best.

Stone carver Bob Koenitzer and painter Constance Hartle will show their work this weekend at Annie Kaill's. The show opens at noon Friday and Koenitzer will be at the gallery all afternoon. Hartle will join him in the gallery Saturday afternoon.

I was impressed with Hartle's paintings this week. She has a distinct style and her subject matter should resonate with Juneau locals. Her paintings are very reasonably priced.

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