American Theatre Clowning Documentary

Just discovered (thanks to Jim Moore’s Vaudevisual site) this documentary about American theatre clowning from the American Theatre Wing. It Features Slava Polunin, David Shiner, Joel Jeske, and Brent McBeth talking about the clown, what works, what doesn’t and the work of being a theatrical clown.

So what’s great about this video? Well, clearly, one of the things I love is picking the brains of these four guys. They are smart and successful and pretty articulate. They talk about stuff that they are passionate about and that I am passionate about, and they articulate a lot of good things.

American Theatre Clowning Documentary features Brent McBeth and Joel Jeske

Brent McBeth & Joel Jeske in the Big Apple Circus

I also like very much that this documentary (although full of history and information) is not filled with historians and “experts” It’s speaking to practitioners by practitioners, and that is really great. The video itself is very professional- it’s part of the Working In the Theatre series, in which American Theatre Wing has created a number of documentaries about being an American theatre worker.

According to their stats, their library of films has over 900 guests, and gets viewed about 50,000 times a month! I’ve looked at a couple, and they are all very high quality and worth watching.


You can find more here:

American Theatre Clowning Documentary features David Shiner

David Shiner

I think they picked some pretty great guests to talk, with David Shiner and Slava representing the older generation and Joel and Brent representing the newer generation. (Although Joel & Brent are working in a circus that sadly, just recently went belly up. They also work together on stage as part of Parallel Exit.)

I do think it is a little weird that Slava is included in this roundup. I don’t want to minimize Slava’s contribution to clown theatre as it is pretty strong, nor do I want to minimize his contribution to the documentary, as I loved it. But he’s not an American theatre clowning artist.  I’d rather have heard from Ronlin Foreman or  Fred Curchak or Daniel Stein or Avner or Robert Post or Drew Richardson or Amanda Huotari of Celebration Barn (if only Tony Montanaro were still alive, he would have been great), or even better, somebody from the West Coast (Dell’arte’s Joan Schirle or Michael Fields would have been great) They’ve got a great story, they are creators of American theatre clowning, and a female and West Coast point of view is lacking.

There’s also a lack of minority viewpoint here, but obviously, it’s a huge topic, and a 22 minute video can’t cover everything. This video is well worth watching, covers a lot of ground, and starts the dialog.

I hope that American Theatre Wing comes back with a second video that features some of the people I mentioned and gives American theatre clowns another 22 minutes to focus on our work.


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