Thursday, January 22, 2009

Circus Freak-y?

Tonight I had my first session of tutoring writing in the school library. Not very busy, which gives me plenty of time to surf the internet, which allows me to find great fodder for my blog. (I just looked up the word "fodder" in the online dictionary and it means "any foodstuff that is used specifically to feed domesticated livestock." I'm not implying anything with my use of the word; it just sounds great.) Here's is tonight's great gem and the Kevin Bacon-esque story of how I found it.

I'm in a children's publishing class right now, and I'm supposed to spend half an hour every week browsing the blogs of those in the kid lit industry. I find Sarah Miller's blog (I have no idea who she is, but I'm sure she's connected to the kid book biz), where, in a recent post, she mentions a book by Twyla Tharp. The name rings a bell, but not a Jeopardy! buzzer, so I head over to the trusted source of internet knowledge--Wikipedia.

For those of you who, like me, know Twyla Tharp's name but don't know why, let me tell you the high points before I get to the low point. She is an American dancer and choreographer who worked on the Billy Joel-inspired musical Movin' Out and with everyone's favorite Russian danseur, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Those works earned her great accolades, but her most recent Broadway venture was not so lucky.

But before I tell you, I need to take a little side trip. My family loves the game "Balderdash," especially when we are priviledged enough to play it with our favorite cousins. One playing of this fine game has become one of the top five family jokes. I don't remember what word we were redefining, but one of my cousins offered this gem as an answer: "an Albanian circus freak." Okay, so you probably had to be there (and, let's be honest, most of my blog readers probably were) but that one phrase--circus freak--has caused hours of laughter for more than ten years now.

And here's where Twyla Tharp meets the Circus Freak. I take this straight from her Wikipedia bio. "A recent Broadway venture was The Times They Are a-Changin', which places the music of Bob Dylan in the context of a small family circus, in which the clowns rise up against a cruel ringmaster. It was a critical disaster, torn to shreds by practically all, and closed after 35 previews and 28 performances. The orchestra pit was covered with trampolines, and the folk/rock band was on an elevated platform on stage." Who knew a musical about clowns and Bob Dylan songs would be "a critical disaster"? Probably the many people who consider clowns one of the ten scariest (or should I say "freakiest"?) things. It even has an official name: coulrophobia--but don't ask me to pronounce it. In fact, I was just looking up the official name when I discovered, through my friend Wiki P., that there is even a movie called Fear of Clowns. Not that surprising, actually. I wonder if there's an official name for the fear of Bob Dylan, or Bob Dylan music. . . . In any case, I'm not 100% sure why someone would make clowns the heroes of a musical, but the answer, my friends is blowin' in the wind if someone hasn't captured it yet and put it on Wikipedia.

PS I can't help but write this. Heath Ledger's rendition of the Joker should be a good indication of why this didn't work. Not only did Heath portray the freakiest clown around, but he also played Bob Dylan. Coincidence? Kevin Bacon and I don't think so.