WBEZ | clowns http://www.wbez.org/tags/clowns Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en StoryCorps Chicago: 'I grew up as a clown' http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-chicago-i-grew-clown-111560 <p><p>Michelle Roberts &ldquo;grew up as a clown.&rdquo;</p><p>When she was three years old, her mom started a small business called the &ldquo;Funny-Bone Ticklers.&rdquo; The business involved Roberts, her three brothers and her parents dressing up in clown costumes and performing skits for audiences.</p><p>They juggled. They danced. They made people laugh.</p><p>They performed at birthday parties, school assemblies, corporate picnics, daycares, and military bases. When Christmas came around they dressed up as elves, and in the summertime they dressed as peasants for the Renaissance Fair. When the circus came to town, they helped to warm up the audience.</p><p>&ldquo;My mom knew how to diversify,&rdquo; Roberts tells her friend Brad Dalrymple in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;She was actually a really great business owner.&rdquo;</p><p>Roberts&rsquo; mom created characters for each of the family members: Roberts&rsquo; dad became &ldquo;Silly Simon.&rdquo; Two of her brothers were &ldquo;Gabby&rdquo; (which was a joke, because he didn&rsquo;t talk) and &ldquo;Bee Bop.&rdquo; Another brother was &ldquo;Mr. Music Matt.&rdquo; He dressed as a professional photographer and ran sound for the group. Michelle&rsquo;s name was &ldquo;Cutie Pie,&rdquo; and she started as a mini-me to her mom&rsquo;s &ldquo;Petunia Pie.&rdquo;</p><p>Because their makeup and wigs were so extensive, it took about three hours of prep time before a show. The family was often running late to gigs and frequently got pulled over by the cops for speeding.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s two types of cops,&rdquo; Michelle Roberts says. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s one that would walk up and just see that this giant purple van full of clowns and just start laughing. And he would let us off. But the opposite reaction was a really stone-faced cop whose reaction was like, &lsquo;This isn&rsquo;t time to clown around, guys. Here&rsquo;s your ticket.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/StoryCorps-150213-Michelle-Roberts-3-bh.jpg" style="height: 318px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>&ldquo;My mom really treated it like a business,&rdquo; Roberts says. &ldquo;When we weren&rsquo;t performing we were practicing and constantly coming up with new skits and writing new material.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It actually got to the point where the school were threatening to hold us back, so I was homeschooled for most of my education.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t tell people about it very often,&rdquo; Roberts says, &ldquo;because I think that everyone thinks that clowns are weird.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Like my boyfriend, we had been dating casually for a month or something and I said, there&rsquo;s something I have to tell you about my childhood. And I pulled out some pictures and he was flipping through them and he got a little overwhelmed. When he got to the elves, he was like, &lsquo;This is too much.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 08:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-chicago-i-grew-clown-111560 Clown hopefuls audition for a spot in 'the greatest show on Earth' http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/clown-hopefuls-audition-spot-greatest-show-earth-102074 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/clowns.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Eight clown contenders now have a chance to join &ldquo;the greatest show on Earth.&rdquo;&nbsp;Ringling Brothers and Barnum &amp; Bailey Circus was in town Wednesday to hold its first open audition in Chicago in four years.</p><p>The day started with 26 clownish people who answered the audition call and tried out in front of a panel of giggly judges at the Joffrey Ballet dance studios. One of the judges and Director of Talent, David Kiser, was in stitches throughout the audition process.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not every time we have an audition that everyone has a moment of brilliance,&rdquo; Kiser said. &ldquo;And I can tell you today that everyone had a moment of brilliance.&rdquo;</p><p>The tryout consisted of an hour-long clown training, partner skits and solo auditions.</p><p>Karen Hoyer is a mime and movement instructor for Ringling Clown College. Hoyer coached the candidates through an intensive, hour-long Clowning 101 class. Her clothing punctuated her mime expertise -- black tights, a black-and-white striped shirt and black Converse sneakers. She instructed her pupils to sneak, strut and act &ldquo;clown-esque.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They have to be able to use their entire physicality because we are performing in gigantic arenas,&rdquo; Hoyer said. &ldquo;They have to be able communicate what they need to communicate all the way back to the very tip-top row.&rdquo;</p><p>Some candidates traveled from as far as Florida and New York City for this rare chance to show off their juggling and mime routines.</p><p>Margaret Lute took the Greyhound from Akron, Ohio, because she thought the tryout would be &ldquo;an adventure.&rdquo; She lost her job at a children&rsquo;s theater company just over a month ago.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll get to travel, which is what I love to do,&rdquo; Lute said. &ldquo;And I&rsquo;ll have a great story for to tell my grandkids someday that grandma got to run off to the circus at 25.&rdquo;</p><p>Unlike other performers who brought music or props like a leaf-blower, Lute&rsquo;s audition was silent. She specializes in mime. The judges picked her for the final cut.</p><p>&ldquo;I am very excited, I can&rsquo;t believe it,&rdquo; Lute said. &ldquo;Honestly, I was not expecting this at all.&rdquo;</p><p>She and the seven other finalists will attend the circus&rsquo; two-week Clown College in Rosemont. The top performers there actually get to run away with the circus.</p></p> Thu, 30 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/clown-hopefuls-audition-spot-greatest-show-earth-102074