Clowns on a Stick go deep

Courtesy PhotoFun for all: Clowns on a Stick presents its first full-length show

Courtesy PhotoFun for all: Clowns on a Stick presents its first full-length show

In a town where there are more domestic pets than kids, you’d think a show about a deceased cat would be dead in the water – but not so with Clowns on a Stick’s “How to Bury a Cat” opening Friday at Shotwell Studios.

Founding member of the performance troupe, James Pelican – who so identified with the graceful goofiness of that bird that he legally adopted it for his last name – explains: “Clowns are considered the bearers of happiness. But I think what they're really responsible for is being expansive and hyperbolic – expressing the human situation.

When they cry, they really, really cry; when they express anger they really express anger and when they express tenderness and happiness those things are really outsized.”

He describes what he refers to as the “solemn duty” of a clown: “It’s that to all things we can laugh, even death…especially that. [In this piece] there are a lot of jokes but there's also emotional gravity …particularly at the end. People have come up to us after each show to tell us that their cat just died and this really facilitated their grief.”

The 70-minute show, with a between-act “intermission,” is the first full-length program for this ensemble.

Pelican and company, who have worked together for more than 10 years, hope the piece will draw fans of serious and avant-garde theater: “What excited us about the outline was that there were a lot of ‘bones’ on which to hang our clown-y flesh. We developed quite a language to communicate this narrative arc without words.”

It wouldn't be a clown show if there weren't multiple diversions: zombies, visual and auditory gags, irreverent violence followed by hilarity, all with live acoustic accompaniment by percussionist Bernie Jungle and jazz musician Rob Reich.

But the cast’s professional experience brings depth and breadth to the material. Pelican, an actor in the North Bay, trained in clowning at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theater and produces and directs the Chautauqua Revue at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.

Spanish-born co-founder Lluis Valls studied dramatic arts at San Francisco State University and performs with San Francisco’s Theatre of Yugen, a Noh and Kyogen-inspired company. Christina Lewis, who has a master’s degree in drama therapy, works with students with severe mental and physical disabilities and is the director of San Francisco’s Clown School.

Clown-phobic needn’t worry: these are not your Barnum and Bailey heavily painted archetypes, but highly skilled comedic actors – with red noses.

artsClowns on a StickentertainmentHow to Bury a CatOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Basketball (Shutterstock)
SI alum Begovich gets his moment, but Stanford falls on Senior Day

MAPLES PAVILION — Generally speaking, Stanford’s home finale on Saturday afternoon, a… Continue reading

U.S. Attorney David Anderson announces federal firearms charges against two men for their roles in a March 2019 shooting outside the Fillmore Heritage Center in a news conference alongside SFPD staff at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Departing U.S. attorney predicts corruption probe will continue

David Anderson shook up City Hall as top federal prosecutor

Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, a former school board member, has been asked to help secure an agreement between the school district and teacher’s union. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
 <ins></ins>
Supervisor Walton tapped to mediate teacher contract talks

District and union at odds over hours in-person students should be in the classroom

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Most Read