Matthew Reddin

“Americlown” Offers Comic Alternative to Holiday Fare

The Quasimondo stages the long-awaited production that looks at American culture through the eyes of clowns. Also: previews for The Second City, Alchemist, First Stage and UWM's theater department.

By - Dec 4th, 2013 02:26 pm

AmericlownPosterCome December, Milwaukee’s theaters are packed to the brim with holiday-focused fare. It’s a law of nature. But there are exceptions.

Americlown is this year’s. The show, staged by  The Quasimondo ensemble, wasn’t supposed to run in December. It was originally scheduled for spring 2013, but was pushed back after an ambitious inaugural season that left the physical theater company “exhausted,” according to Quasimodo artistic director Brian Rott.

But that may be a blessing in disguise, he adds. “We wanted it to be an alternative to the typical holiday shows. There’s something about the holiday scene … there’s just so many American things happening then.”

And Americlown offers a kind of alternative narrative, an America presented and dissected through the eyes of clowns. And we’re not just talking about the P.T. Barnum variety. Rott trained in clowning during his MFA program at Italy’s Accademia Dell’Arte and has been teaching the Quasimondo ensemble many of those skills over the past year and a half. He says the cast will embody a variety of clown types, from the silent film and slapstick varieties to the hobo clown, a hoarder clown and yes, even the evil clown that looms large in our cultural consciousness.

Rott says the show is an attempt to rehabilitate the idea of the clown, which he says is a dying art form in America, having been reduced to scary clowns and sad clowns despite the rich legacy of circus clowns cultivated in the previous century. That’s a loss, he says, because the role that clowns play in society has been a necessary one as far back as classical antiquity. “There’s always this role of the jester that questions power systems and says things nobody else can,” Rott explains.

He hopes Americlown will be a way to fill that gap. The show will be constructed out of a series of vignettes, largely without a narrative holding them together, each of which uses a different clown’s methods to satirize or illuminate issues within American culture. As always, those vignettes will feature the Quasimondo’s many extra-theatrical skills; Rott says audiences can look forward to dancing and puppetry, in addition to the various clown elements.

Americlown opens Friday, Dec. 6, and runs through Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Milwaukee Fortress, 100A E. Pleasant St. Performances are at 8 p.m. most nights with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees; tickets are $15, $12 for students. To order, visit the Quasimondo’s online box office.

For select previews of this week’s other theater events, read on:

SecondCityPosterThe Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue, at the Marcus Center

If you haven’t seen The Second City perform, you’re missing out — and then some. Their annual holiday show gives you a chance to remedy that situation. It’s not quite the same as seeing one of the resident company’s productions down in Chicago, but as far as holiday-themed improv comedy goes, this might be one of the sharpest options out there. The touring company will perform eight shows at Vogel Hall from Dec. 5 to 15, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm. Sundays. Tickets start at $40, and can be ordered online through Ticketmaster.

A Kick in the Dickens II, at the Alchemist Theatre

Looking for a more local holiday comedy option? You’re in luck: The Alchemist Theatre will once again play host to A Kick in the Dickens, a blend of sketch and improv comedy that is perfectly tuned for the holiday season. Four-fifths (Andrea Moser, Lee Rowley, Anna Figlesthaler and Jason Powell) of last year’s fivesome returns; they’ll be joined by Matthew Huebsch, part of the comedy group (“The Show”) that originally created the concept. In addition to there being more Milwaukeean, they’ll also be here longer – Thursday, Dec. 5, through Saturday, Dec. 28 – and cost less, with tickets $19 online in advance or $23 at the door. Shows are all at 7:30 p.m. except for one lonely 10 p.m. show Dec. 21; the other late-night option is already sold-out, along with another date or two, so don’t delay: get tickets from the Alchemist box office.

MaulDeadPosterMaul of the Dead, at First Stage Children’s Theatre

Everyone knows zombies are hot right now, but having enough intuition to find a show that marries the latest fad with the need for a holiday feature is why First Stage is one of the savviest companies in town. Maul of the Dead, an undead adventure that traps its protagonists in a shopping mall on the blackest of Black Fridays, is a mix of legitimate horror and snarky send-up that’s targeted directly at a teen audience. It’s also the first of two shows being staged this year by First Stage’s talented Young Company, high school-aged members of the academy’s advanced actor training program. The Young Company will perform the show this weekend only at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, and tickets are $12. For showtimes and to order tickets, visit First Stage’s website or call (414) 267-2961.

Gint, at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts

Peer Gynt is a classic Norwegian epic in verse written by Henrik Ibsen, about a daydreamer whose actions force him to leave home, and travel the world. Gint is a contemporary adaptation by Romulus Linney, that takes Ibsen’s epic and translates it to 20th-century Appalachia, but maintains Ibsen’s ethereal style. UWM’s theater department will take on the Linney work this weekend only, directed by Jim Tasse. Performances are at Kenilworth Studio 508, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 to 7, and at 2 p.m. Dec. 8, and tickets are $10, $8 for students/seniors/faculty (theater majors enter free). For more information or to order tickets, visit UWM’s website.


Next Act Theatre: Groucho: A Life in Revue *Closing This Week*

Milwaukee Theatre: The Rat Pack is Back (For the Holidays)! *December 7 only*

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre: Things Being What They Are

Milwaukee Rep: Noises Off, A Christmas Carol, Forever Plaid

Fireside Theatre: A Fireside Christmas

First Stage: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Skylight Music Theatre: Les Miserables

In Tandem Theatre: A Cudahy Caroler Christmas

Sunset Playhouse: It’s A Wonderful Life

Categories: Theater

0 thoughts on ““Americlown” Offers Comic Alternative to Holiday Fare”

  1. Anonymous says:

    All of these holiday theater attractions sound as if they’re worth seeing! I’m particularly drawn to the Ibsen play, having only seen The Dollhouse before.

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