NOW Magazine - Fringe - - News - Con­tin­ues from to­day (Thurs­day, July 7) at the Miles Nadal JCC JON KA­PLAN

Here’s a piece of mil­i­tary his­tory you’ve prob­a­bly never heard be­fore: a mot­ley army un­nerves its op­po­nents by moon­ing them. In War Of The Clowns, play­wright Mark Brownell takes an ar­cane bit of his­tory – the Swiss Peas­ant Re­volt of 1653 – and uses it to look at the lives of a group of street en­ter­tain­ers.

“I read some­thing about it in a book by Ital­ian play­wright Dario Fo and, as in my other pe­riod works such as Mon­sieur D’Eon Is A Woman and Medici Slot Ma­chine, dug fur­ther to find the ma­te­rial for a play,” says Brownell, who runs Pea Green The­atre with his wife, di­rec­tor Sue Miner.

He’s come up with a piece about the re­bel­lion in a Swiss city-state and the fig­ures on both sides, in­clud­ing a clown-hat­ing cap­tain-gen­eral, a no­ble­man with a fa­mous ances­tor and the no­ble­man’s as­sis­tant, a mute named Sch­pitl, who’s an early ver­sion of Harpo Marx.

“We like to blend the alien and the fa­mil­iar in our plays,” con­tin­ues Brownell, “and this ob­scure revo­lu­tion is the alien part. But then there are the char­ac­ters who are out­casts be­cause they’re per­form­ers, and I re­mem­bered the in­ci­dent when our prime min­is­ter took a shot at artists for be­ing lazy bums who should get a job.

“Sud­denly the 17th-cen­tury Swiss set­ting had a con­tem­po­rary echo.”

The play­wright em­pha­sizes that this is a piece about street per­form­ers, not those who at­tempt high art.

“They’re the peo­ple who makes asses of them­selves stand­ing on mouldy wooden boxes, re-en­act­ing comic bits that have worked time and again.”

War Of The Clowns is one of the Fringe’s site-spe­cific shows, staged in the play­ground of the Miles Nadal JCC.

“This is our eighth Fringe show since 1989 and our third at the Miles Nadal,” says Brownell. “In a sense, we’re re­turn­ing to the com­me­dia for­mat we used at Cen­tral Tech when we col­lab­o­rated with Cana­dia dell’Arte; the work is phys­i­cal, broad and almost car­toony. It’s not Chekhov, that’s for sure.

“Work­ing out­side lends an un­pre­dictable en­ergy to a per­for­mance. We’re play­ing rain or shine, and start­ing at 9:30 pm each night means we’re per­form­ing at a mag­i­cal time, head­ing into dusk.”

Le­ora Mor­ris, Hume Baugh and James Kirch­ner head to War.

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