Did you ever want to run away and join the circus? I did, when I read "Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with the Circus" as a kid. Of course I never would have done it. I was much too inhibited.
My friend and fellow blogger, Mary Wise, did it. She went to clown school and traveled with a circus and even wrote a book about it. The only clowning around she does now-a-days is on line (I think), but she does keep her hand in by meeting with a group of jugglers on a regular basis.
Today I met another clown. His name is Paul Del Bene and he is going to put on a benefit performance for DPNS (Davis Parent Nursery School) next weekend, November 6 and 7.
I would never have known about Paul and would certainly never have thought about going to his show, were it not for my friend / writing buddy / Scrabble partner Joan, who told me about it and suggested that his show might make a good article for the newspaper.
I contacted my editor, who said he had received a press release and had all the information that he needed, really, but if I wanted to do a feature article, go ahead.
So I contacted Paul's mother-in-law (that's how these things go...she's a friend of Joan's which is how Joan found out about the performance), who put me in touch with Paul. And then, in one of those small world moments, when Paul wrote to set up an interview time, he mentioned in passing that he had done a movie in Davis a few years ago and that Jeri had written the music for it.
Back to Mishka's I went, recorder in hand, to have coffee with a clown.
Paul has been a clown for nearly 30 years, but, though he went to Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Clown college, where he graduated top in his class and then worked for them for a year in Japan, but he has performed mostly in Europe, where the tradition of vaudeville and clowns is very lively and it's easy to get work. He speaks several languages and was able to work in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and several other countries and supported his family on his work as a professional clown.
But they returned to the states to help care for his ailing mother-in-law and it's not so easy to find work as a clown in this country, which does not have the mindset of going out to see a live show on a weekend, but rather prefers to sit home and watch TV or go to see a movie.
The character Del Bene has created is Olaf, and he is often hired as a comic waiter,
which seems to be where he gets most of his bookings these days. He finds that his ability to relate to his audience, whether a restaurant full of eaters or a theatre audience is what has made him such a success.
At one point, as he talked with intensity about his feelings of frustrations involved with trying to find work, about his "other" job as a fund raiser for a medical company trying to fund research that will aid those with Type 1 Diabetes (a job he convinces me is not all that far removed from what he does on stage), and about his vision for how his kind of performance, and others who would do the same thing, in an area like this, using sustainable technology, local products, etc., would be beneficial for everyone, I had to turn away to take a swig of my coffee. His passion, his body language and everything about him reminded me so much of our own Paul when he was excited about a project that it was hard to watch, for a few moments.
He gave me a videotape, which included the video that he made with Jeri's musical assistance (unfortunately it's not on line, so I can't link to it) and I watched several of his videos, such as this one:
After 10 years of working as a critic, when the weekend comes around and there is no show that I have to review, the very last thing I want to do is go out to the theatre, but I was so taken both with Paul the man, and what I saw on the video, that I've decided I really want to see his show, even though I won't be reviewing it.
No greater praise can I give to anybody that I've interviewed!!!
It sounds like it's going to be a fun show, suitable for all ages, and it will benefit a great cause.Anybody in the Davis area who is interested in getting more information can check the DPNS web site.