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I'm going to audition for clown college, ideas?

Discussion in 'Circus and Stage Clowning' started by wallybrad, May 10, 2015.

  1. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    Hey guys, well it's been a little while since I was last on here, but I'm on the comeback trail now (I just hope I don't take a wrong turn at Albuquerque). I plan to audition for ringling in August. I've got a few months so I want to make it good. I'm just trying to get the creative juices flowing. I've been thinking of doing physical comedy with a folding chair but I don't know, it seems to be done a lot, what do you all think? (My grammar teacher would be so pleased with what I just said instead of saying: y'all)
  2. Fitzwilly

    Fitzwilly COAI Secretary

    If you can do a good bit with a chair then do a good bit with a chair. It is better than a so-so bit.
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  3. ToonUp

    ToonUp Member

    I'll be at the audition as well. I've been learning to unicycle for the past year, and have some dance experience as well. My bit will feature both of those, but the prime focus will be reactions and comic timing.

    Whatever skills you end up using, make sure to tell a funny story with them.
  4. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    Do whatever it is that you do best. That will showcase your strengths.
  5. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    I don't think they want to see that Toony, "if you know what I mean" ;)
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  6. Simply Knute

    Simply Knute Well-Known Member

    From my two times auditioning, I'd recommend having your routine nailed down so that you could do it in your sleep. Also chair gags are pretty common, but they don't necessarily look at originality as much as they look at your execution, and how you can make it your own.

    I did a chair gag at my last audition, and another kid that was there did one as well. His was a lot more thought out than mine was, and had a bit more of a storyline to it. He got a contract, I didn't. Make there be a reason why you're out there trying to sit in the chair. Any juggling or acrobatic/gymnastic skills that you have would be good to showcase as well.

    Stay away from balloons, or relying on words or talking. Both auditions that I went to had at least one person who got up there and tried to do a standup type routine. That's not what they want. Remember you don't get a mic and you're in front of 10,000 people so you have to rely on your movements for communication. Even though your audience at the audition will only be 20-30 people within about a 15 foot radius from you, still play to the arena.

    Lastly, if you do your chair gag, Remember, the floor of he arena is concrete with a thin rubber mat over it. There's no padding, so if you do any hard falls make sure you take a crash mat to put under you. I busted my tail bone during my audition and let me tell you, a 6 hour plane ride back from California is no fun when you can't stand to sit down. You can see the exact moment that I busted it at the 5 second mark in the video below. Had I had a crash mat, It would've been a lot more pleasant flight home. :)

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  7. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    Thanks kunte that is just the type of information I have been looking for. Just out of curiosity, did anyone (at ether audition) go over the time limit?
  8. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    Maybe one of the current or former Ringling clowns can give a little insight into what they are looking for in a clown.

    I have heard that sometimes they are looking to fill an opening. If a short female clown left the show, they might be looking for someone who can fit the costume/role she had been doing in the circus. Since each show lasts for two years, if you get hired for the show starting the 2nd year, they want to keep the acts they have. If hired for the other show, they have more flexibility as the programs haven't been printed.

    I have been told they want people who can take direction. This is their show and a new clown isn't the star of the show. They want someone who will perform the act the way it was designed each show and not someone who will just improvise with whatever comes to their head. I have met a few people who I think have a great talent to perform but who might be a little too independent minded to survive on Ringling.

    When I had my interview last year, I had the impression that they want someone who is able to leave home and be on the road for years. I have a job, a house, two cars, and other things that tie me down. I likely have too much baggage to easily go on tour for a full year. Call it age discrimination, but someone fresh out of school living with their parents or in an apartment would likely find it easier to leave everything behind for a life on the train.
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  9. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    Have you been talking to my dad? I sware that man is trying to get me a job for years. :) Good insight thanks.
  10. Simply Knute

    Simply Knute Well-Known Member

    I think the time limit is more of a suggested thing. I don't remember seeing anyone with a stopwatch. If your act is good, they're probably going to be ok with you going a hair long, if your act sucks they may pull you off before the time limit is up. You'll be able to tell a lot of how well it's going over based on how David Kiser is laughing. If he doesn't like it he will do a very obviously fake belly laugh. If it's good he's actually a bit more quiet and will laugh a little bit.

    The break down of how the day will go: You'll show up at whatever time it's scheduled for, and sign in, you'll probably find someone else auditioning to make small talk with until time to start. Once it starts they'll give an overview of what a clown is and what they're looking for, and you'll see a sample skit put on by either a couple of advance clowns or current alley clowns depending on if the show is actually in town when you audition. Then you'll do a big group movement exercise. At both of my auditions that was led by Karen Hoyer. and then they'll go into the individual pieces. When they're done they'll release you to sit and talk while the judges talk amongst themselves and they will announce call backs. They'll release everyone that didn't get a callback and if you get one, you will then kind of get a debriefing and they will talk a bit more about life on the road, and make sure they have contact info for everyone, and do a Q & A type session.

    One thing to consider before signing up for auditions is which one you're going to. Some of the auditions are more of a PR event than an actual audition. I had one of each of these experiences. When I flew to Boston, the audition was held in a conference room at the arena, it was held about a week or week and a half before the show got to town, and there were a lot more press people there. They involved one of the TV reporters in the juggling skit that the advance clowns did, etc. When I auditioned in Anaheim it was a lot more "real" feeling. It was actually on the floor of the arena, the entire alley was in attendance, The talent was ALOT better and a lot more people showed up, and they didn't play up the press as much (They were still there though)

    Nobody from the Boston audition ended up with a contract, and only 3 of us were even in the entertainment industry. Only 2 of us were already clowns, there was a girl who was an actress and now does burlesque performing, and a guy who is a burlesque performer in Kansas City and does some clowning with that.

    Anaheim was a completely different story. There were former Circus Smirkus kids, kids that worked at Disney Land, people who were in Cirque style shows at sea world, people from the Clown Conservatory, a dirty hippie who had dreads and a big beard and smelled like pot but he could walk on stilts and juggle fire, and do poi. (Which I think all hippies might do) Out of that audition, I can think of at least 6 people that got contracts, probably more that I'm missing since it was like 4 years ago and not all of them are still on the show. (The hippie didn't get a contract. They asked him if he'd shave and cut his hair and he said no.)
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  11. Simply Knute

    Simply Knute Well-Known Member

    Oh and it's true that they want someone who can pick up their lives and move into a train. It would make no sense for them to hire someone who had a career already, to be in the circus for a week and then decide that they had too much tying them to home. You live on a train about 45-50 weeks out of the year depending on if you're having to learn a new show over Winter break or not. They do tend to go for young twenty somethings that haven't developed "lives" yet. There are a couple of clowns who are older, but they are the type that grew up in the circus and their family is all on the show, so the circus lifestyle is all they know.

    This was one of the biggest reasons I stopped pursuing it. I met my wife shortly after the last audition I did. Once we started dating and getting serious, and me realizing that the circus dream isn't for everyone, I started focusing more on settling down. Now that I have a successful career in Real Estate, and a wife and baby, I couldn't see myself on Ringling anymore either. I have thought it'd be fun one day to save up some money and go do a season or two with a smaller mud show like Kelly Miller or the like. A camper is a little bit roomier than the 4x6 room that you get on the train. :)
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
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  12. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    My advice is to know what you are trying to get out of the audition/experience going in to it.

    A job? Ok. Fine. But the majority of people who attend these auditions won't get hired.

    So what else do you want to try to assure yourself of? Perhaps the experience, itself, is enough. Possibly, you're looking for the confidence of performing original material in front of an audience. Maybe the actual development process of a routine is important to you. You may find like minded friends and build connections. Perhaps you'll even receive a little press. Some free education, courtesy of the Feld family.

    I've seen and heard stories from numerous people who walk away disappointed because they didn't get hired out of one of these auditions, or a call back, or anything. That's life in the arts!

    But if you have some hopes and aspirations apart from just the job possibilities, you can pretty much assure some personal success no matter what, and see to it that the experience serves as a positive building block, whether you're hired on or not.
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  13. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    Do you guys have some names of current ringling clowns?
  14. Simply Knute

    Simply Knute Well-Known Member

    DJ Weiss on the blue show is a good friend of mine. We roomed together my first year of Moosecamp, and he is Pricilla Mooseburger's adoptive son. I'm going to see him tomorrow in Louisville. Also Julia Bothun which is Pricilla's daughter is on the red show. Chris Sullivan is on the Red show, and used to be active on the forum as Christopher Clown.

    All three are super nice, and I'm sure would be happy to give you any pointers if you asked them, Look them up on Facebook. Do you know which show will be in town when you do the audition? It seems like it was usually the red show for some reason when I was auditioning, but That could've been a coincidence.

    Those three are really the only ones that I know in real life anymore. I could probably name more, but I don't know them personally, and they wouldn't know me.
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  15. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    That's what I needed thanks knute. The blue unit will be in dallas (same place as auditions) yeah I will defiantly fb him. (Be sure you mention me to him) :)
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  16. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    The two auditions I have heard about are the one at the World Circus Summit in July and another in Dallas, TX in August.

    I would expect the competition to be fairly good at the World Circus Summit as it has circus performers and fans from around the world to have a joint convention. I would think that anyone who isn't with a circus would have a harder time here as there is potential for seasoned circus veterans to also audition.
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  17. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    I'm not so sure about the Circus Summit auditions... and that it won't be more of the "media event." The organizers seem to be attracting mostly old folks from the traditional circus groups. (I'm viewing it somewhat as a last grand hurrah before everyone dies and that sort of circus disappears.... which I'm not knocking, but actually want to experience to have something to remember it by.) And while there will certainly be seasoned circus performers present, why would they care to audition for what is considered a low paying, entry level circus job? Given, there will be some youth circus performers in attendance, also. So some may want to audition from those communities, perhaps, which would be legitimate talent worth getting to know. But I haven't heard a ton about younger circus people especially aware or strongly interested in the event, by and large.
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
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  18. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    I understand it is their first summit, but I have never really heard what it is all about or what activities it has planned. Supposedly, COAI and WCA are both participating, but no real information on how. Their website says,

    Are they expecting clowns to be in makeup and costume all of the time?
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  19. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Clowns all clowned up constantly? I don't think so, no. Perhaps some will be, but not everyone would be expected to do so.

    They are planning on having some strolling entertainment, primarily from youth circus kids.

    I know the organizers well and have known about this event for five years. Basically, the idea is to get people with circus interests together to talk and collaborate for the greater good in moving forward. All in the context of a big circus festival party atmosphere. There are apparently expecting upwards of 600 attendees and representation from at least 50 organizations, which will likely make it the largest such U.S. festival ever.

    The basic schedule is on the website, though it seems to be something of a constant work in progress.


    Cole Brothers is playing the dates and there is an add on sidetrip to see Smirkus. AYCO is also hosting a show. There will be seminars on various topics (though the circus "today" topics appear to be more of circus of the 1980s and early 90s, considering who the speakers are... there appears to be almost no one from any sort of more contemporary shows or endeavors represented on the panels or in topics.) The Windjammers will play a classic band concert.

    I think the ultimate idea is to promote fellowship of those with an interest in circus and enable networking in the hopes of future collaboration and growth.

    It looks like fun. But it also appears to have taken a certain sort of circus centric focus.
    Last edited: May 19, 2015
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  20. wallybrad

    wallybrad Active Member

    I've been so busy I forgot to give you folks an update. I was not able to make the audition (that's the life of a police officer) however, I have recently resigned from the force to pursue my first love: acting. Fingers crossed, in January, I will be attending: The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA. But I have not ruled out a life on the road with Ringling entirely.
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