|Inspired by a novel by Heinrich Böll and
the work of Slava Polunin, the justifiably world famous Russian clown master,
Oleg Braude is making his La MaMa debut May 22 to June 8 with "God's
Comic," a clown theater play on the theme of the black sheep. Conceived
and directed by Braude, it has a cast of eight.
Oleg Braude, 42, began his career in Kiev at 14, performing in Theater
for Young Audiences there. By 18, he was working regularly in Kiev's State
Musical Theater. He started his own studio with his own actors as a young
man, but left Ukraine for the States in 1989. Now he lives in Park Slope
and designs shows regularly at La MaMa, where he has designed lighting
for Ellen Stewart (on "Draupadi," 2002) and "Texts for
Nothing," featuring Joseph Chaikin. He has also designed lighting
for "The Bald Soprano," directed at La MaMa by Nicky Wolcz.
To Braude, the clown protagonist of "The Clown" by Heinrich
Böll is a man of God because his main motivation is love. From this
notion, he is developing a clown theater play on life, love and religion
which, by the time it is done, will have a lot of Braude in it and not
a lot of Böll. Employing different forms of clownery and pantomime,
it draws ideas from the clown theater of Polunin, but not his visual style.
According to Braude, you may see references to Polunin, but the Russian
master never uses words, only sounds. Braude's play will actually have
a text. Right now, the piece is in progress; he has a "map"
and the cast is improvising. However, there will be no improvisation in
the show; it will all be set.
Assisting Braude is David Tyson, an actor, Equity member and professional
clown, who teaches clownery in a college and also serves as the production's
clownery consultant. He plays the main character and is assisting in directing
the show. The performers are Amy Kirsten, Daniel Logan, David Tyson, Douglas
Allen, Johanna Weeller-Fahy, Margaret Norwood, Rachel Diana and Zarah
Slava Polunin, the Russian clown master, combines the unbridled silliness
of slapstick, the poetic poignancy of traditional clowning and a visual
extravagance and beauty, which has established him as a creative genius
of international acclaim. Former students of Slava have now progressed
to form their own companies and many have been cast in productions of
Cirque du Soleil.
Braude is keeping the "postwar feeling" for now, of "The
Clown," Heinrich Böll, because he relates to it and feel we
are all "postwar," whether we like it or not. This famous short
novel draws a revealing portrait of German society under Hitler and in
the post-war years through the eyes of an artist. The sensitive but cynical
novel is one of his best about the moral dramas of common people in a
changing society. In it, a clown has been abandoned by his girlfriend,
whom he has considered his wife, and wanders from town to town. He return
to his home town to struggle for her, but finds the town against him.
She has married in the interim and left, so he is left totally alone on
his own. "God's Comic" is how he deals with the situation. The
book captures magnificently the feeling of being down and out and rootless.
It is set specifically in post World War II Germany and describes well
what surely were the feelings of many, but the sense of loss, alienation,
lack of love, religious doubt set forth in the book go much deeper. There
are flashbacks to the Clown's past, his thoughts and memories, and his
present. Overall, Braude's style is less "clowny" than Polunin,
and in the concept of this play, he introduces a surprising reversal:
since the protagonist uses his clownery as a defense, the "real life"
in the play is more clown-styled than his memories, which are more "realistic."