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Oblong & Oboe Stir the Pot Promises Clowns, Childlike wonder and Revolution

By Ezekiel McAdams

May 7 2024

Oblong and Oboe Stir The Pot Poster.jpg

  Oblong and Oboe Stir the Pot is Live Five’s final production of its twentith season. It runs from May ninth to the nineteenth at the Refinery.


  This upcoming production is an unadulterated clown show, a love letter to the child in all of us. The production hopes to convey to never forget the childlike sense of play, adventure and whimsy without forgetting to make everyone laugh along the way.


  The play stars and is co-created by Charlie Peters and Jalisa Gonie as the clown duo Oblong and Oboe. It also stars Ashleigh Hicks as the Rabble. The play is directed by Johanna Arnott.


  The loose plot is that Oblong and Oboe are royalty in a fairytale-esque kingdom. It’s a play within a play. The play’s premise is the story of middle management royalty. Themes such as class, specifically world change, revolution and system change. “That’s fun to do in clown because it’s sometimes easier to engage in big and scary and world altering things if we’re laughing at them instead of being scared of them and that’s a nice synergy.” Peters explained.


  Peters and Gonie who play the clown duo Oblong and Oboe both fell in love with clowning and trained at Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance Performers (MCCPP), albeit at different times.


  Founded by John Turner, it has subsequently closed and has been succeeded by One North Clown and Creative which continues this work 


  One of the techniques used is the Pochinko tradition, created by late Canadian Clown, Richard Pochinko, it utilizes seven different styles of masking.


  Peters, who goes by ze/hir/hirs pronouns embarked on this particular adventure in Summer of 2016 to deviate from artistic challenges ze was facing. “I was sort of frustrated in my practice. I was feeling stuck as a performer and cerebral and word centered and thought of clowning as a possibility. I wanted to find the joy in my art practice again.” ze said.


  Gonie first fell in love with clowning through one of the drama instructors at The University of Saskatchewan, Pamela Haig-Bartley. Clowning was part of a short unit the drama department offers to students in the third and fourth year programs.


  Haig-Bartley actually encouraged Gonie to peruse it. Gonie had seen posters for the institute at the John Mitchell Building which houses the University of Saskatchewan’s Drama Department. Gonie went in 2018 for the baby clown program which they compared to summer camp. “We took a baby clown course, it was two and half weeks roughly, you sleep in a tent, learning how to be a clown. It was wild being so out of your element.” Gonie said.


  The earliest development came from an invitation to co-host at Free Flow Dance Bingo event in clown, and enjoyed the experience they continued the partnership. The first inception came from an artist at residence at MCPP .in 2018 “So we were selected that summer as artists in residence and so we did both training but spanned, specifically development of the work and those things blurred. The training was duo clown which we sometimes call Joey and August but we were also developing the characters, the relationship and their world.” Peters said.


  This iteration of the clown duo, Oblong and Oboe, has been gestating for several years through workshops, previous iterations and is now confident to tackle a full length production. They’ve done versions in Ontario, Edmonton and online work during the pandemic.

Their previous teacher now mentor, John Turner and actor and fellow clown, Alyssa Billingsley have consulted throughout the previous iterations and development process.


  Another team member was needed to complete the process which was director Johanna Arnott. Arnott, who is a performer, playwright initially began as a stage manager for one of the previous incarnations. “I had a weird experience in school with clown and the two of them we’re like ‘no we think it’s for you.’ And I trusted my two friends.” She came on as a stage manager in that particular iteration and found it not only a learning but collaborative experience.


  The experience was so enjoyable it changed Arnott’s perception on the clowning process. “It’s a collaborative room Stage managing is really different, contract to contract. And it was really a learning experience of what it can be like.  And at the process they gave me my first red nose.”

Arnott then went on to do a clown boot camp last summer.


  Each iteration became fluid as pieces was added that allowed the story to become linear “There’s segments we call turns that clowns do around a circus ring. I would call it a clown play, it has an arc, narrative but it uses the clown style.”  Peters said.


  Ze explained that for hir, a particular clown style is the traditional and familiar one in our culture the red nose.  There’s not a lot of makeup, physical comedy the bulk of the story telling is physical.”  

  An element that was very exciting was the audience engagement and its potential but it did not come without caution.“Comedy is central to it and a certain amount of improvisation to it. It’s not an improv show, the same story will happen every night but one of the principles of clown is to be honest. If things don’t go as you rehearse, something happens in the audience, something goes wrong on stage, you always engage with that and at its best it makes it an electric experience.” Ze elaborated.


  While the audience engagement is needed, consent is crucial to what the production “Part of our job I think is to make sure the audience is on board for what we’re asking them to do. Ultimately for my money, I’m the one who chose to be on stage, not you. My job is to make it a fun experience for you.” ze said


  The rehearsal process has been both exciting and educational for Arnott watching a very different style they she is used to.“The big thing they take about is honesty, that’s one of the rules and there’s something childlike watching clowns play and work and develop something and adding and then taking things away from the script. The area of play is unlike any theatre I’ve done.”


  Going forward, this has both changed and challenged Arnott’s process with theatre. “It’s really on your feet and it’s really interesting where the part is encouraged to be turned off. Let’s just play and make discoveries. It taught me a lot of how I think and approach theatre and what’ possible.”


  Oblong and Oboe Stir the Pot opens May 9- 2024 at The Refinery. Tickets can be bought online or at the box office.


“Good clowns are honest, surprising and physical and that looks different on everybody. I think good clowns is joyous and there’s a lot of sadness, fear and anger and sadness but its playful and it allows us to feel those big feeling playfully, which is pretty powerful” Peters said.

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