Friday, December 11, 2009

Clown 'Leaving the Ring' at Alchemist Theatre

By Russ Bickerstaff

The modern circus has been around for about 250 years, and its prehistory dates back to ancient Rome. But in today’s age of interactive mass media, the idea of going to see a mixture of live performances and exhibitions beneath a tent feels antiquated. The art form lives on in contemporary mutations like Cirque du Soleil, but the traditional circus appears to be on its way out—and has for quite some time. Be that as it may, there’s still something moving about the circus ring that’s every bit as primal as other forms of theater.

Performer Matthew Belopavlovich casts light on the waning shadows of the traditional circus next week as he performs Leaving the Ring, a theatrical narrative he’s constructed around the story of “a clown’s last bow on Earth.” In his one-man performance, Belopavlovich walks onstage in a red bowler hat and clown nose. He unpacks his suitcase, apparently oblivious to where he is. Then he notices the audience. As long they’re sitting there, he may as well perform…

Belopavlovich proceeds to weave a performance out of comedy, poetry, juggling and stage magic. It’s a family show, but it captures something beyond light entertainment.

“The idea of ‘leaving the ring’ is symbolic of the clown performing for the last time on this Earth and passing away,” Belopavlovich says.

Given the right execution, this could be a very interesting journey flowing from all the trappings of a traditional circus clown’s shtick. Modern culture often associates clowns with children’s parties, so crafting a profound message from this fare should prove to be an interesting challenge. The show looks like a passionate side project for Belopavlovich.

Belopavlovich’s Leaving the Ring runs for two nights only, Dec. 15-16, at the Alchemist Theatre. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to Clowns Without Borders, an organization that brings laughter to places of conflict and crisis all over the world.

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