October 8, 2010

Peanut Gallery riffs on the theater of life

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The founder of the U of C’s latest comedy group doesn’t clown around about becoming a fixture on campus.

Then again, the Peanut Gallery Players, which joins Off-Off Campus and Occam’s Razor among the University’s comedy offerings, doesn’t adhere to traditional clown expectations. Part improvisational and part scripted, the troupe wants to bring a theatrical edge to clowning and become part of the University Theater community.

“Clowning, for me, is anything goofy and out of the ordinary,” second-year founder Fred Schmidt-Arenales said. “[It’s] exaggerated from what a normal person will do in everyday life.”

Schmidt-Arenales hopes to make use of unorthodox clown attire and performances, and in the process bring a new definition to the word ‘clown.’

Imagine a dinner scene where the dinner table is on a seesaw and a couple and their waiter must try to keep the table balanced. As the waiter pours a glass of water, the table tips to one side. To counteract the shift in weight, he must quickly pour a glass of water on the other side of the table. In an abstract way, the scene becomes a juggling act.

Schmidt-Arenales hopes to use unconventional scenes like this to perform typical clown acts. “Our style is clowning,” he said, “and our method is a community-based, learning, explorative type of group.”

Though the group is still in its infancy, Schmidt-Arenales plans on showcasing the group’s atypical clowning style during University Theater Day later this quarter.