My Birthday is a glorious occasion to celebrate the clown. Michaela Lind, has developed a delightful clowning framework to explore the complexities of the ritual of birthday parties and how unmet expectations around these events gives a “tragic” clown a lot of material. It is a heartbreaking and heartwarming interrogation of our need for friends and family at key moments of our lives. It’s a charming, playful and earnest little gem.
Lind follows in the strong female clowning tradition that started in Greece in the 7th Century with the Dorian Mime troupes. We see female clown prowess in Medieval England as “glee-maidens” who could sing, dance and do acrobatics – much like Lind in her solo show. Back in these medieval times the fool/clown/jester was one of the only professions open to women and they were frequently seen entertaining the royal courts. Lind draws on this long history of female buffoonery to craft the various gags, bits and business that she weaves into My Birthday. She wears elements of all of the great female clowns –Mathurine (French Court), Commedia Del Arte’s over the top Harlequina, Smeraldina, Columbine and Franceschine in her romp through some of the great routines and clowning techniques.
We meet an eccentric character preparing for her birthday party (in the most gorgeous costume with hoops, ribbons and secret pockets) and in the space of an hour she experiences every human emotion possible as her elations and disappointments take her on an adrenaline fueled rollercoaster ride. Every little task like blowing balloons, setting a table, unwrapping a present become extraordinary feats of skill and dexterity. I particularly enjoyed her singing, gibberish and wild dance routines. She was like a pinball gone rogue she bounces around lighting up every part of the stage she bumps into. It’s a lot of fun to watch. She can flip from a hopeful, docile clown to “Pennywise” in a heartbeat. I was whooping with laughter at her “cup” table setting dance!
Michaela Lind has been creating this work under the guidance of Kendall Cornell who is at the helm of the all-women clown troupe, “Clowns Ex Machina”. She is guiding Michaela to uncover her inner clown and bring her kicking and screaming out in the open.
It looks like an enormous amount of hard work has gone into crafting this show and I am sure it will continue to evolve with each reincarnation. Every “scene” in the production can stand alone as a piece on it’s own. I would love to see the web series of this work where we can tune into ongoing installments of this unhinged birthday party. I would be an instant subscriber.
This show will appeal to all ages (I feel even coulrophobics would stay seated). Lind is a Swedish-American and brings a European sensibility to her work. Her approach to the traditional clowning entrée’s and side dishes is unique and interesting. I look forward to the next installment of this brave, developing work.
Running time: 60Minutes
My Birthday runs 13, 14, 15 November, 7:30pm at Theaterlab. (357 West 36th street 3rd floor.)
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