Courtesy photoJoan Mankin

Bay Area artists clown around for Joan Mankin benefit

Performing is one of the rare professions that can engage practitioners at all levels well into their senior years. However, if all your world has been a stage and a downturn in health intervenes, a different kind of support is needed. Such is the case for Joan Mankin, an accomplished Bay Area artist who was recently diagnosed with both ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and frontotemporal dementia (an early-onset form of Alzheimer's).

A clown at heart and by profession, Mankin was a member of both Make-A-Circus and The Pickle Family Circus, where she tumbled with fellow baggy-pants jesters such as Geoff Hoyle, Lorenzo Pisoni and Tony winner Bill Irwin. All three will spend Sunday evening feting Mankin with “The Queenie Moon Conspiracy Show,” a fundraiser to help offset her ongoing medical expenses.</p>

A nimble and fearlessly versatile actor, there isn't a significant stage in the Bay Area on which Mankin has not trod. She would regularly rendezvous with the Bard, strutting a trouser role when called for in “The Taming of the Shrew” at Cal Shakes or playing for laughs in “The Comedy of Errors” at Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

A company member with the San Francisco Mime Troup, Mankin was also happy to dip into modern comedy like “Fuddy Meers” at Marin Theatre Co., dramas such as “Counter Attack” with the senior group Stagebridge at Ashby Stage and experimental fare like “The Soldier's Tale” at Aurora Theatre Co. Her most recent role was to have been in the musical “Into the Woods” this summer at San Francisco Playhouse, but her declining health forced a change in plans.

“Queenie Moon” is being produced by Joan's brother Dan Mankin and Sara Felder. While reluctant to comment in detail on a private family matter, Dan Mankin allows, “We're all banding together to support her.” His niece Emma Mankin, Joan's daughter, will perform at the benefit, as will Joan herself.

“She's very excited about appearing in the show,” he says, “and also about seeing all her friends.”

Directed by Jeff Raz, the lineup will also feature Marga Gomez, Company Cirque en DĂ©route, Sara Moore, Sharon Lockwood, Michael Sullivan, Calvin Kai Ku, Tristan Cunningham, David Roe, Ross Travis, Kelly “Texas” Holly and Andrea Snow. Musical performances will include Mark Kennedy, Harvey Robb and Randy Craig, and patrons will be greeted at the door by a troupe of professional clowns and musicians, many of them former Mankin students.

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