Don't get your fingers in a cramp from Googling and Wikipediating the name. He is Charlie Chaplin's grandson. He deserves to be regarded in his own right. He has been performing in circus since he was four years old. I have finally seen him perform with his company, in their show Au Revoir Parapluie (Goodbye Umbrella). The company performed at BAM's Harvey Theatre. The last time I was in this theatre was a few years ago, close to when it had just opened. I was stilting in the lobby with Cirque Boom as a sort of warm-up to their contribution to The Lysistrata Project, which was a national initiative begun to protest the war in Iraq. As I took my seat for Au Revoir Parapluie, along with Friends Kate, Patrick, Dave & Zoe, I considered how long it had been since I worked with them all, how long it had been since I performed in a circus show.
Then I watched the show, which made my lungs laugh, my heart burst and my spleen evaporate. Plus it tickled.
Oh guys, guys guys: I can't spend the whole entry raving, but I could. There was so much about the show that I found personally appealing that I actually didn't notice the lack of concrete narrative, which usually irritates me when I attend circus/theatre. It reminded me of good classical music, the way it transports me so that my free association and emotions provide me with my own story. Circus performed with seeming ease, pathos and humor allows one to relax in that just-right way, a way that makes an audience receivers more than interpreters. The older one gets, the more their critical faculty takes over their personality, because they have more and more comparisons available. Great art, in any medium, allows us to happily (gratefully) release that faculty.
So this isn't a critique of the show. I was too inspired by it to be objective, and anyway it's sold out this time around (as opposed to closed, which is what most shows are by the time I get around to my opinion of them). No, all I'm saying, party peoples, is that capital-a Art still exists, and the French probably have more of it than we do. (Stupid French [it's a joke, Sara].) Plus (see, you knew that wasn't all I was saying), I am very inspired to make my own pale, incomparable imitation-of-style piece based on the show.
There was just so much to it that I want to be doing in my own work, yet am not. I've always been a fan of direct-address that breaks the fourth wall in one way or another (though I remain ambivalent about the Brechtian convention of "breaking character" to speak with the audeince, when in fact you're still speaking lines someone else wrote). Au Revoir Parapluie did this with action and clown, but no actor-spoken dialogue. It was completely sincere, yet transported the audience with music and surreal imagery. The performers were all capable of circus feats, yet also strong clowns and actors, sensitive and expressive and subtle. There was nothing pretentious to the show, even when I was amazed by it. Joy without guilt, catharsis without lingering sorrow.
When I was a young man, fresh out of my first professional theatre experience, I was driving around the southern states with my girlfriend of the time (Friend Rachel this was, for those of you keeping score at home) and whilst we mused on our performance futures I fantasized about a company of actors trained in dance, and vice versa, who would create brilliantly sincere and physical debut shows. I was going to call it Sugarsweet Willpower, which proves, as though nothing else ever did, that there's a good reason a lot of our youthful ambitions never come to fruition. This was prior to my even contemplating the worlds of circus or commedia dell'arte, and obviously I wasn't well-versed in theatre companies already at work on similar goals. No, I felt this idea was unique and timely, as well as of course feeling fully qualified to found just such an institution.
It may be a bit gauche at this point, starting my own theatre group. It's kind of what all my comrades do. "Oh, Jeff started a company now? Yeah. Neat. So . . . how 'bout them Mets?" It's not something I'm interested in doing, at least not from a practical standpoint. I've seen too much of the "Artistic Director" process to be fooled by the name, and anyway, where would I find a Producing Director I could work with? (Who are these people? What makes them sign up for all the sucky parts? It ain't the pay, I'll tell you that much.) No, no company-birthing for this persnickity mother. What I might do, given the right circumstances, is make a show.
I say "might," because of these three entries, from which not much has yet arisen. I'm chomping at the bit to express myself, but not tearing up the track, and I feel as though the gate has been open a long time now. I hope this show was the poke in the rump I apparently need. I'm keeping it alive in my mind, replaying moments and recording my own ideas. It's interesting to me that I have so many outlets for creative expression, yet feel somehow that there's something personal, important and specific I have yet to express in my work. I want Zuppa shows to hang from the ceiling. I want Kirkos to craft another comedy. I want UnCommon Cause to improvise in performance (more). The most direct answer to all of these wants is to just do it myself.
Just as soon as the holy daze is over . . .