First produced in 2003 at the PAC/edge Festival at the Athenaeum in Chicago
When we produced 500 Clown at Viaduct with a rotating cast of totally new clowns, we were looking to make good on a promise at the very core of our form. We had traditionally replaced original cast members with other people who slotted into the role. Leah Urzendowski replaced Molly, Matt Hawkins replaced Paul and Chad Southard replaced Adrian. While each of these performers was given some latitude to shift how they played moments and beats, the show progressed largely as the original show did. This was partially a producing decision, as doing otherwise would require fully taking apart the show and making room for new ideas, input and who knows what. The show felt like a custom made suit, and so re-making it held the prospect of un-making it, of breaking it- of making something else.
The promise inherent in the form is that each clown plays from their own place – their own base motivations and needs. So we pursued this idea, imagining that we could understand the show on a structural level, and the function of each role, so that each clown could play the same intentions with their own arsenal of skills and limitations. The project was really investigating if another group – or groups- could legitimately play the show we’d crafted. It uncovered if we had made a script, a show, a tailor made suit, a playground or something else entirely.
In the course of the rehearsal, we had to understand each role (The Helper, The Doctor, and The StoryTeller) as the functions it played in what we call the mechanism of the show. That is, the trap that the show sets for the audience to become complicit in the creation of a monster. Each set of players was able to find different ways to shift the person in the role of “The Helper” into a monster. Each “Doctor” had to find a way to dominate and punish the specific “Helper” that they were working with and each “Story teller” had to find their interest in being onstage and how they took control from the “Doctor” they played with. Making this version of the show completed our understanding of the form and allowed us to apply the technique to other scripts that had not been created in the way we made our work. It allowed us to think of the work as research which could be broadly applied.