I really don't like clowns. I'm not afraid of them, I just don't like them. Seeing a clown doesn't make me want to cry or hide, it makes me want to punch them in the stomach or hit them in the face with a cricket bat, although in all fairness this latter response is born out of playing too much L4D2. So when I was taken by a person I consider a trusted friend to a clown show, I was startled and unsure of what to expect. As the three of us loitered outside The Hayworth in downtown LA and peeked through the window to a room filled with colorful hand-made posters and plastic chairs, a clown in a blue blazer popped up from FREAKING NOWHERE and started doing magic at us.
I didn't react well.
We moved inside to loiter in the foyer before being ushered forward by the money-collectors, only to be greeted by a tall, comically-stern looking clown with a 'hall monitor' sash on and a pretty clown with intensely round eyes and a pad of post it notes. You gave her your name, she interpreted it into a flower, smiley face or shining sun and put it on your t-shirt. Friend Rob tried to be clever and gave is name as 'Turkey'. She stared at him with the same wide-eyed jaw-agape expression until he gave his real name. She wrote 'Rob' and stuck it on his chest.
We proceeded into the room we'd been spying through the window and were drawn to a child's sized plastic table and chairs with a cup of water and tiny paint brush on it. We were offered seats by an adorable-scamp sort of clown with a little dash of black under his eye (like those puppies, with the perky ears and the spot over his eyes, you know what I'm saying). He offered me the paintbrush and asked if I'd like to race - all through gestures, by the way. No one spoke, and when they used items, they did so without looking at them, the effect being strangely hilarious- and I said, hell yes, let's race. He pulled a Star Wars coloring book page of Jango Fett out and put it on the table and, knelt on the floor, removing his own coloring book page of clone troopers. Then he pulled out a spray bottle and a gigantic paintbrush.
They were water activated painting pages. Oh dear god. I feverishly worked the paper with my teensy tiny paintbrush while in three strokes he was done.
The night progressed along this vein, stopping by various stations while distinct clown personas showed us things or 'conversed' with us. Occasionally, we would be drawn aside and shown some sort of performance- from the gym teacher pat-pat (the hobo clown with the unicorn doll) or the guidance counselor Gary (whose sex-ed lesson became about his divorce).
Eventually we were led upstairs to the main event, the science fair. Traditional trifolds were set up around the room, each of the clown students standing in front of theirs, ready to provide demonstrations of their hypotheses. Now, in addition to the highly amusing demonstrations, vignettes would occur. Having gotten to know the the clowns in the previous two segments, we now got to see their relationships with each other, and they were hilarious, charming and sweet. Then the headmaster went around and each clown student had to present their work, and each was assigned a letter grade. This process was perfect, as it allowed the audience to see the exhibits they might not yet have experienced personally, although we could all tell the scoring process was not entirely kosher since the headmaster was clearly romantically interested in one rather sadsack young clown who gave a heart wrenching presentation on polar bears.
So, I like clowns, now. Even though I got shamed into sweeping for the janitor and then given detention for job theft and then detention for quitting my job and then detention for aggressive lewdness and then detention for having too much detention. Clock, the Class Clown clown who had been on the detention stool and became my detention buddy, kept getting me into more and more trouble. This was to be a continued theme of the evening, as he proceeded to be a destructive force during the science fair going so far as to sabotage other students exhibits. He was hilarious, if a bit of a bastard. He in fact stole another clown's clothes and tried to accept his award at the end of the evening, and was only thwarted when said rival student appeared, still bound in duct tape.
The evening was hilarious. The character work being done by these actors is stunning, and they are wholly unrecognizable with their noses on. I know this, because I had met several of them in real life and had no freaking idea who I was talking to at any given moment. Especially Pat-Pat, portrayed by Negin Singh. Ridiculous.
If you live in LA and have the opportunity this 15th, I highly recommend going to Everybody Nose Science. It is immensely engaging, genuinely funny, and brilliantly observed comedy from a young and vibrant troup. A+. Blue ribbon. Bravo.
Here's the official write up of the event,
Everybody Knows A Science Fair, a playful and inventive take on the American educational system, runs this Spring for three Saturdays, April 24th, May 1st & May 15th. The interactive walkthrough will play as a durational one hour and a half piece, during which the audience will enter a space that has been transformed into a “Clown School” filled with clown students, teachers and administration. The first part of event takes us through part of a functional "Clown school", complete with a cafeteria where delicious food will be served, a classroom, the guidance counselor's office, a gym, and the headmaster's office. The centerpiece of the evening will be the “Clown Science Fair” during which audience will be able to, at their leisure, walk through an assortment of independently operating clown science projects. No mere spectators, the audience will also serve as judges of the science fair, and will each be issued an evaluation sheet on which they will mark their favorite pieces. In addition to the durational science projects, the piece will feature “clown happenings” every five or ten minutes, rehearsed clown solo or duo bit relating to the science fair at hand. Approximately twenty clowns will participate with projects, each clown proposing to solve a major world problem with their personal project. Recommended for ages 13 and up. Tickets are $10 or $7 with a student ID. Tickets can be purchased online here.