The Toronto Festival of the Clowns kicks off today, May 31st and continues until June 3rd. Clowns are taking over the downtown, and the result is nothing like what you would expect. These are not the clowns of circuses or children’s birthday parties, but rather these clowns are a group of highly trained and specialized artists putting on unique and mature performances.
One of the performances is Saucisse: A Foo Musical! The only musical in this year’s festival, the one-woman show is done entirely in a fictious language and covers very difficult subject matter while making the audience laugh. One of Toronto’s most well-known clowns, Foo took a few minutes to speak with BWW about her latest production, what readers can expect if they come to the show, famous clowns and more:
Congratulations on Saucisse: A Foo Musical! Can you give us a general overview of what people can expect from the show?
Thank you so much! The show is a one-woman theatrical clown musical. I play my clown persona ‘Foo’ along with other characters in the play. Foo meets up with a lost pig who is trying to fulfill a personal destiny. Foo is a drifter and reluctantly decides to help him out. This musical celebrates unlikely friendships, loyalty and the drive towards fulfilling one’s sense of purpose and belonging. The show is wild ride embracing adventure and sacrifice and I feel is very, very funny!
I understand you use a made up language for the show - how do you ensure people understand it?
This is important to me....to find an artistic way to communicate universally. During the show I assign certain key words a specific meaning so the audience will hear and remember and understand them. This is on top of the physicality and emotionality I use in order to communicate. I feel the strengths of the play lie not only in the artistic merits, but in the fact that this is performed in a universal language using universal themes, accessible to any audience worldwide.
Furthermore, my company Foo Productions regularly uses parody that invites the audience in: they immediately understand what genre is being parodied and they enter into a universal celebration of this offering.
The show is a musical - what kind of music do you use? Do you draw from a specific style?
Matthew Reid is my musical composer. I love working with Matt. He is classically trained and also trained in the art of improvisation, which means he can dive in immediately and work things out for me. I write the ‘lyrics’ (I write them in English and translate them into ‘Tubegoshian’ later), and tell him what tone, what pace/rhythm I’m looking for. I may even give him an idea of other existing songs to illustrate the kind of feeling I’m after. Then he goes away and composes something breathtaking. The music in this show is inspired from Lional Bart, Frederick Loewe and Michel Legrand among others. There is a general feel of a ‘Western Musical’ throughout but it is not limited to this style.
There are some very famous people who got their start as clowns. Do you have a favourite?
Hmmm....I grew up on Laurel and Hardy. Stan Laurel got his start as many did in that generation - in vaudeville. And other favourites who got their start in this way would have to be Danny Kaye and Donald O’Connor. Brilliant clowns and physical comedians.
Some people still associate clowns with children's birthday parties and circuses. What would you say to them to help them understand the adult nature of the show?
*sighs* This is because in the 1950’s a children’s book turned into a syndicated popular TV program - and Bozo was born. Sadly, this is the turning point in the rich honourable history of clown. Since that time there is a misunderstanding about the nature of the clown artist. A divide happened between artistic and inartistic clowns for the first time in history and this divide continues. It causes so much confusion! In a nutshell, I would say the following to people: I call myself a theatrical clown artist. That usually clears things up a bit.
Finally, what would you specifically highlight about this show to intrigue and interest a younger audience?