God's Comic

May 22 - June 8, 2003
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
The First Floor Theatre

created and directed by: Oleg Braude
costume design: Kaori Onodera
sound design: Tim Schellenbaum
lighting design: Oleg Braude
poster design: Vladimir Davidenko-Geroi
assistant director and clownery consultant: David Tyson
performed by: Amy Kirsten, Daniel Logan, David Tyson*, Douglas Allen, Johanna Weeller-Fahy, Margaret Norwood, Rachel Diana, Zarah Kravitz *courtesy actors equity association

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 Kravitz.

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."

2003 page