NY Times Article on Kendall Cornell’s Clowns Ex Machina

Kendall Cornell & Co scored a NY Times article about their work and upcoming show!



Thursday, July 31st at 7:30 pm
Friday, August 1st at 7:30 pm
Saturday, August 2nd at 7:30 pm

updated venue!
Manhattan Children’s Theatre,
52 White Street (between Broadway and Church) in Tribeca

Advance tickets: $15 at theatermania.com or 212-352-3101 (or weird.org)

At the door: $18 general admission/$10 students and seniors (cash only)

For more info about the festival and tickets: www.weird.org

And here’s the beginning of the article:

<nyt_headline version=”1.0″ type=” “>Exploring the Bozo Mystique, and Defining Funny on Their Own Feminine Terms

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Amanda Barron at rehearsal with Clowns Ex Machina. Members said their creativity had been stifled in mixed-gender troupes.

<nyt_byline version=”1.0″ type=” “>

Published: July 29, 2008

Judi Lewis Ockler maneuvered into a black Victorian blouse, plucking the puffed velvet sleeves into place. She rummaged through her gym bag for a long green cloak and a pair of yellow socks with daisies. Then she pulled out a pink polka-dot baggie for the final touch: a red nose.

She took her place among five other women gathered in a circle — one dressed in a pink tutu, others in various combinations of red-, black- and gray-striped tights, silver sequins and puffy bloomers — as they stretched and limbered up in a dance studio in Lower Manhattan.

“All right, everybody put your noses on,” said the director, Kendall Cornell, clapping her hands.

Ms. Cornell founded Clowns Ex Machina in 2005, when it was known as Kendall Cornell’s Soon-to-Be-World-Famous Women’s Clown Troupe. In her own 22-year performance career, Ms. Cornell said, she continued to hit the glass ceiling of clowning: She was always pushed to be the female sidekick, had few female role models and could not find a space to explore her particular brand of humor.

“You had to be like a man to do this work, to open the door,” Ms. Cornell said. “I don’t find too many people interested in investigating what women have to offer that is different.”

While some clown routines are scripted — wander on stage, slip on banana peel, fall down — most are developed through improvisation. Physical humor, involving one’s own or another’s body parts, is the hallmark of clowning. And that was the main roadblock Ms. Cornell kept facing, in one professional workshop after another.

“It becomes sexual for the men,” Ms. Cornell said. “I remember coming to the center of the circle, I started to dance and some guy says, ‘Take it off!’ And I said, ‘How can I work like this?’ ”

Ms. Cornell’s work depends on an all-female environment to transform the taboo into the funny, the sexual into the silly. “Oh, for a world where dropping your drawers meant comedy, not promiscuity!” she wrote on her Web site, www.notjustforshockvalue.com. The troupe draws a sophisticated audience, more the theatergoing type than the slapstick Barnum & Bailey fan.

“It’s not the ‘be dump bump’ here’s the laugh,” Ms. Cornell said, referring to standard rimshot humor. When people come to the show, “they have to rediscover their relationship to what’s funny.”

A lot of rediscovery happens around women’s bodies. The group has developed full vignettes that rely on breasts as punch lines. It turns out, for all the fanfare they get in car ads and movies, that breasts are pretty funny.



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