Mark Gindick in Wing-Man (Photo by Florence Montmare)
If you were lucky enough to catch the PBS documentary Circus then you’ve already met Mark Gindick whose antics as a Big Apple Circus clown were prominently featured in that six-part mini series which followed the lives of the performers and crew during their 2008 season. Or, you may have been lucky enough to see Mark perform live as he captured Big Apple Circus audiences with his delightful Singing In The Rain routine alongside Grandma The Clown (Barry Lubin).
Of course, you may have caught any one of a number of Mark’s other great performances with Big Apple Circus or The New York Goofs. He’s also no stranger to The Brick’s Amuse Bouche having performed in their 2009 festival. He now returns to The Brick for this season’s Amuse Bouche as creator and performer of Wing-Man, a show directed by Barry Lubin. I was lucky enough to chat with these two very talented men to find out what it took to get Wing-Man off the ground.
Today I kick off the two part series with Mark. Read on to find out how he fell into clowning, what set him on the path that changed his life, and what he’s most excited about for this year’s Amuse Bouche …
For those who enjoyed the PBS documentary Circus – many people were fortunate enough to watch as you and Barry Lubin met, formed a strong creative team, and worked on new routines together. As one of those people who enjoyed that documentary I’m thrilled to see you come together for “Wing-Man”. Tell me how meeting each other at The Big Apple Circus changed your creative paths.
MG: I’ve known Barry for a long time. It started as me going to the Big Apple Circus as a kid for many years, watching and admiring him. Then I met Barry at Clown College. I didn’t work with him much there as it just didn’t turn out that way but then Barry saw a show I did called How To Be A Man, and this is where we really hit it off. He saw it and gave me so many amazing notes, that I wish I came up with those ideas myself! From there I started studying with and working with Barry to play Grandma on the summer season of Big Apple Circus. Five years later, I got to work WITH Barry in the ring and it changed my life! We came up with this Singing in the Rain piece and it felt like we were completing each other sentences while we were working on the piece, and everything just magically came together. This is what I always look forward to when working with Barry. It’s rare to find someone that you just trust so emphatically that you feel comfortable trying anything! It is a real gift for a clown to be able to risk, and risk big!
Comedy is so broad, from stand up, to physical comedy, to the understated comedy of people like Larry David. Tell me how you discovered which type of “funny” you were – and what you did to hone your craft? In other words – when did you realize you were a true clown?
I started studying film at SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory. I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was raised on Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers so I wanted to put those physical comedy techniques into my film-making. I took time off from film school to go to the Ringling Brothers Clown College to learn those techniques but with no intention in actually become a clown myself. But when I went to clown college I was bit by the bug. Clowning chose me, not the other way around. My years of martial arts, watching the Big Apple Circus, watching the greats like Charlie Chaplin, just all came together into a perfect storm and I became a clown!
There’s got to be a different energy coming from a theatre audience as there is from a circus audience. What are the challenges of putting together a dynamic show in each environment? What works in the big tent that doesn’t work on the smaller stage? Or is it relatively the same?
I find on stage since you are not playing in a round you can play everything subtler.
Bad acting is painful to sit through, but bad clowning is positively mortifying for an audience. There is a fine line between brilliant clowning and someone just making a fool out of themselves – and some performers unfortunately never catch on. You (and Barry) are both very successful at not only putting a crowd at ease but winning them over. Tell me how you know when you’ve found that “sweet spot” in a routine – when you know you’ve hit on something that will bring the crowd to its feet.
You don’t know the sweet spot until the audience has told you you’ve hit the sweet spot. There are many times where I find something very funny in rehearsal and the audience hates it and other times when I don’t think something is going to work and someone I trust says, try it anyway, kicking and screaming I try it anyway and it kills. Truth is I never know when something is going to not just work OK, but kill, so you try everything, and you know it works when they audience goes crazy, and you say in the back of your head, “ah ha! I will do that again tomorrow!”
Finally, what do you look forward to most about being part of “Amuse Bouche“?
There are two things that I look forward to about this festival. First, you get to share this awesome art form of clowning with other clowns from different disciplines learning and sharing with each other. Just gets me charged up. Second, I’ve worked with groups, (happyclowns.com, nygoofs.com,bigapplecircus.org) and partners (Grandma, Joel Jeske, Katty Braggos) before but this show finally gives me the opportunity to try something solo, something I’ve always wanted to try and see if I can pull it off…Lets hope I can…!
Mark, I’m very much looking forward to watching you perform up close and personal in Wing-Man next week! It will be exciting to see you do what you do best from just a few rows away.
For the rest of you, don’t miss the second part of this interview where I ask Barry Lubin, director of Wing-Man to tell me what it was like to collaborate with Mark for this production. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out this and all the other great shows of Amuse Bouche!
~~~WING-MAN Created and performed by Mark Gindick Direction by David Shiner and Barry Lubin . Sat 9/24 @ 10pm & Sun 9/25 @ 5pm Without a single live spoken word, Mark Gindick flies in the tradition of silent comedians and clowns, bringing his audience as his date, showing and never telling us to say less and lust more. Wing-Man has direction from Broadway’s Fool Moon/Cirque du Soleil director David Shiner and Big Apple Circus’ Grandma aka Barry Lubin, with Michael Bongar producing. . Playing as part of Amuse Bouche 2011: A NY Clown Theatre Festival Hors d’Oeuvre The Brick | 575 Metropolitan Ave | Brooklyn NY
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