Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clown Fest Interview - Zea Barker of How to Give Up on Your Dreams: By Not Really Trying

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Zea Barker

Name: Zea Barker
Show: How to Give Up on Your Dreams: By Not Really Trying
Relationship to show: Creator/Performer

Tell me a little bit about your show.

How to Give Up on Your Dreams... is a solo show, a sort of a non-motivational presentation. The description goes like this:

"So much struggle. So much heartache. Don't you think it's time to let those dreams go? Take it from a recent convert. Bony Lil takes you by the hand and leads you to a place where you don't need to try and strive ...and cry. Give up on your dreams. You'll be awfully glad you did."

It's a dialogue about goals, failure, settling, ambition, surrender.

What inspired you to create it?

This show is a theme and variation of my life and current struggles. Deciding to pursue clown and move a thousand miles away from home a few months before the economy collapsed was... interesting. Certainly tests the human capacity for adaptation.

When you find yourself hot off a rough two-and-a-half week van tour selling other people's t-shirts, 24 hours later flying a thousand miles to do wardrobe for someone else's show, the exhausted notion might placidly occur to you that now would be a good time to give up on your dreams. We always want to believe in the inspirational power of ambition, but we don't give much thought to how that same drive can rip you to shreds in the process.

Wow, now I feel I've gotten too heavy.

The show WILL be funny. It's also about liberation and widening your embrace. "Don't Get Back in the Saddle. Take the Saddle Off"

What is your clowning background?

I have been a stage performer since childhood. I started focusing on physical comedy, influenced by my love of Buster Keaton, about eight years ago. I performed cabaret and vaudeville pieces in underground art shows in Boston. I did everything from circus-themed nightclub nights, to street festivals, corporate events and created a short film duet on the struggles of the creative process called "Bony Lil's Creation + Distraction." It took me a while to realize that what I was doing was called "clown". I, like most folks in the US, had a very specific idea of clown as being some awful thing people did at birthday parties for money. Then, I started poking around the internet and discovered a few videos that featured the work and students of Pochinko clown teacher, Sue Morrison. About three years ago, staring down a full-time supervisor job doing laundry for other performers, I decided if I was ever going to pursue this physical comedy thing, then was the time. So, I packed up my life and gave up my apartment so I could afford the time and expense of studying and headed to Toronto. After a year of workshops and bopping around the US for work, I settled in Chicago, I did a few cabaret nights, dabbled in street performance, landed an invitation to audition for Cirque du Soliel and met up with a couple other Pochinko clowns in town and created a trio piece called Wanted: The Effect of the Economic Crisis on the Local Clown Population. This year's NY Clown Theater Festival will be the premiere of my first full length solo show.

What would you tell someone who is afraid of clowns to get them to come to your show?

I hereby promise: no huge orange wigs, no big shoes, no exaggerated white face make-up, no balloon animals, no squirting flowers. It is a very common misconception that they are afraid of clowns. They are, in fact, afraid of bad clowns. The big shoes and intense make-up originate from clown in huge American circus tents, far, far away from the audience. Like the crazy shoes and masks with cones in them the Greeks used to fill the amphitheaters. The Brick Theater is very small. You'll see less of that sort of thing at this festival. This is people doing comedy, where they don't necessarily talk all the time or at all.

What is next for you after the New York Clown Theatre Festival?

I am rushing back to Chicago to finish packing my stuff and cart it back here to New York!

Bony Lil aka Zea Barker
Chicago, IL

NY Clown Theatre Festival
The Brick Theatre
575 Metropolitan Ave.

Friday, September 17th @ 9pm
Monday, September 20th @ 9pm
Saturday, September 25th @ 6pm

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