Our Shows

500 Clown & the Elephant Deal

Developed at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and first produced in 2007 at Steppenwolf Theater Company

An original theater production for adults, co-created with Chicago composer and lyricist John Fournier. A rocking band, an alluring Mistress of Ceremonies, and a daring stage crew have everything they need for a night of theatre…except a story to tell. A sudden altered identity thrusts the players on a collision course riddled with spontaneous characters, dangerous stunts, and a fierce runaway tale. Inspired by a range of sources including Brecht and the Fratellini clowns, 500 Clown packs a wallop of an original play with musical score by Chicago’s own John Fournier.

...Elephant Deal never fails to command our attention. Fournier’s vaudeville/Weill score grounds us at the intersection of truth and fiction, engagement and entertainment. And the ensemble’s live-wire connection to its audience, rendering the performance both polished and infinitely malleable, only enhances the show’s rough-and-tumble, invigorating interrogation of identity.

- Time Out Chicago


An early draft of 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center


Press Clippings

  • "...500 Clown are known for their bruising style of acrobatics, characterized by a ruthless disregard for heights, what looks to the rest of us like pain, and the limits of endurance. But under the direction of Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, the players—some of whom, full disclosure, have taught and performed at The Actors Gymnasium, which I cofounded—have achieved not only a new level of physical subtlety and precision (watch how they manipulate their imaginary guns) but emotional authenticity. Kalina’s trajectory from average shlub to monster to desperate soul powerfully carries the show." "

    - Chicago Reader

  • ""...the show remains a helluva good time: A tight three-piece band led by ace composer John Fournier accompanies the hilarious Madame Barker (Molly Brennan) through a variety of risqué numbers, while her four stagehands mess up and fight. The evening is full of great touches, from the pulley-operated spotlight partly constructed out of plastic buckets to Adrian Danzig’s genius bit with a lint roller as microphone. Meanwhile, the musicianship takes the troupe to a new level—and Brennan sounds magnificent, sliding like an old pro from silky crooning to brash belting." "

    - Chicago Free Press