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Seattle Repertory Theatre

Make ‘em laugh with a staple gun, some flippers, and a good hat

October 19th, 2011 by Seattle Repertory Theatre

It’s not every day that a production calls for 1208 red balloons, scuba flippers, and a shaman mask. But then again, Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt’s Humor Abuse, currently in its last week of performances at Seattle Rep, is a unique piece of theatre. It revisits Lorenzo’s eccentric childhood of growing up in the circus and explores his relationship with his father, the king of clowns, Larry Pisoni. And as Lorenzo explains in Humor Abuse, props such as hats and steamer trunks are beloved objects for vaudeville clowns and performers like his father. We decided it’s time to give these unusual and essential objects a moment in the spotlight. Here’s the prop list for Humor Abuse, courtesy of the show’s production team.

Humor Abuse Prop List
1208 Red balloons
Scissors
Water bottle
Screw gun
Band-Aids
Towel
Steamer trunk w/red nylon strap
Staple Gun
Red suitcase w/black strips
Scuba flippers
Masking tape
Shaman mask
Suitcase #1
Suitcase #2
“Nerd” Glasses
Suitcase #3
Suitcase #4
Suitcase #5
Bucket
Goggles
Swim cap
Water bottle w/sport top
Large Staff
Steamer Trunk
Rubber banana
Carrot
Coke bottle glasses
“Little Lorenzo” suitcase
Two oversize bowling pins
Brown suitcase
1” Masking tape
Small sweat towel
Fabric Band-Aid, out of wrapper
Stack of suitcases
Grey speckled suitcase
3 juggling pins
Water bottle
Bone rattle
Black sweat towel
Crash mat
Ladder
18 sandbags
2 Shaman bulbs
Puppet suitcase
Puppet folded in suitcase
2 Commedia masks
Short staff
Knock block
2 helium balloons w/3’ string
Inflated red weather balloon
Pin on a stick
Sweat towel
Water
Band-Aids
2 red balloons
Blue balloon
Water bottle
Confetti loaded
Crash mat
Hand broom
Photos of Lorenzo Pisoni in Humor Abuse by Chris Bennion.

Karen's son, Owen, enjoys the magic station at Circus 101.

One of the joys of being an urban parent is the sheer volume of cultural things available to do with your children—museums, concerts, festivals, and, of course, theatre. Sometimes, it’s an absolute embarrassment of riches—as is the case with October in Seattle.

A week ago my husband and I took our 6-year old son Owen to see the Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT) season opener – a musical version of Harold and the Purple Crayon, which plays until Oct. 30. As always, we wondered how a slight book could be transformed into a full stage show. Turns out it takes a lot of amazing set designs (created by Matt Smucker, designer for Seattle Rep’s upcoming Circle Mirror Transformation), inspired animation, groovy projections (provided by L.B. Morse, the Rep’s Associate Designer), puppets, and some seriously funky music. (Really. Think George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, except kid friendly).

It also helps when your lead actor is Don Darryl Rivera, a hilarious veteran of SCT productions like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and The Brementown Musicians. Husband and son loved Harold’s space adventures with the above-mentioned funk, while I was a fan of the iconic pie sequence with moose and porcupine, complete with French accents.

Karen helps Owen make a balloon animal.

On Friday, we  followed up that theatre excursion with Owen’s first official Seattle Repertory Theatre production, Humor Abuse, which plays until Oct. 23.  At first, he was skeptical. This is an adult theatre, would it be inappropriate? (His word choice, not mine).

Outside of one risqué joke in the very first minutes (over his head), the answer is no. Imagine hearing a true story about a boy your age performing in the circus. That’s pretty cool, especially when it is illustrated by some amazing physical comedy – tumbling down stairs, stapling your feet, falling through the floor. Words do not do justice to how funny a 6-year-old boy can find those types of antics.

From a parent’s point of view, the show is a bittersweet coming of age story. If my son came away with any lessons, I think it would be that parents are human – they sometimes make mistakes, but they always love you.  And doing something well takes practice.  Owen’s summary:  “He [actor Lorenzo Pisoni] sweats a lot. I wished he fell down the stairs again. And, (taking a cue from the end-of-show projections encouraging audiences to spread the word) – Let’s tell everyone we know to go!”

Flushed by the success of Friday night’s entertainment, I coerced Owen to join me at the Rep’s Circus 101 family event on Saturday. More than 70 children arrived at the Rep to take part in a variety of workshops facilitated by Teatro  ZinZanni’s Camp ZinZanni. Participants learned the fine act of juggling, balloon animals, magic, and physical comedy.  Owen was entranced by the balloon tricks (couldn’t budge him for more than half an hour, an eternity in kid-time), and we left the event with an Owen created balloon sword and balloon dog, as well as a clown certificate, the de rigueur clown nose, and a sense of the community where Mom works. Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Karen Rippel Chilcote is the Associate Director of External Relations. She has no acting experience, but knows a good show when she sees it.
Danielle.Girard

How do you teach 100 kids how to juggle?

October 11th, 2011 by Danielle.Girard

Learning how to do a magic trick.

The answer is…practice, practice, practice! On Saturday, the Seattle Rep lobby was filled with kids and their families eager to participate in Circus 101, a free circus workshop held by Seattle Rep and Teatro ZinZanni. They learned juggling, physical comedy, magic tricks, and even how to create balloon animals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selecting a picture for face painting.

 

The event also included face painting and a clown graduation for all of the children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring how to juggle scarves.

 

Special guest speaker, comedian and Teatro ZinZanni original cast member Kevin Kent shared stories about the circus and life as aperformer.


 

 

 

 

 

Practicing a physical comedy routine.

 

Even Lorenzo Pisoni, the star of Seattle Rep’s Humor Abuse, attended Saturday’s event to support the kiddos. Unfortunately, we didn’t snap a photo of him before he left to get ready for the show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our staff rocking the red noses.

 

And of course, clown graduation included a diploma and a big red nose. The staff had just as much fun as the kids wearing the noses afterwards!

Lorenzo and Larry Pisoni.

A young man runs away from home to New York City at age fifteen. A string of jobs land him in a nightclub where he meets acrobats, jugglers, and other performers. He starts learning acrobatics and juggling on weekends. He’s pretty good. Then one day he leaves NYC and heads to San Francisco. He calls up a theatre troupe and says, “Here I am, and I’m going to teach you circus skills.” They dig it. In a few years, he starts his own circus and creates a legacy.

In anticipation of Seattle Rep’s opening production of Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt’s Humor Abuse, a play that explores Lorenzo’s relationship with his father and his experience growing up in his father’s Pickle Family Circus, we sat down with the man behind it all—Larry Pisoni, Lorenzo’s father.

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