I appeared again at the New York Downtown Clown Revue as the cleaning woman (Maintenance Staff) character I have been working on for the past several months.
I got twice as many compliments on my work after the show as I did last month. In answer to one, I responded “It’s coming along.” to which the fellow clown responded, “No, you’ve got it.” which is really cool.
Perhaps it came together tonight because today was the first time that producer and MC, Christopher Lueck, and I actually took the time to talk through the show beforehand. Perhaps it came together because the character finally has a name, “Aquarium”.
I could make a whole post about how I came up with that name and how Terrarium was a close second and how part of me is ready to open up the whole discussion with myself again and do more research, going on babynamer.com and looking for other long nouns with potentially pretty connotation and a Q-sound and an -elle or an -ette or an -ie sound at the end. But, the name I have chosen will stick for now.
I had reservations about playing this character on Martin Luther King Day, because even though the character is definitely not African-American, some people have make the leap. I winced when another clown referred to me (as yet unnamed) as Shaliqua, last month. I like to think of her as one of the many unnamed children of Brandine and Cletus on The Simpson’s.
Living in Brooklyn, as I do, I am so very aware of how pale I am. But, I did buy the wiglet in Fulton Mall. It is the exact same brown as my own hair. But, it does have that hair-so-processed-that-it-looks-like-unrolled-cassette-tapes look. Still, I am self-conscious and careful. Unlike some clown’s I know, who go out of their way to provoke and push buttons. That’s not my style. I want to be nice.
The clown does not speak. I am not Black. Unless a person were to infer from the apparent occupation that… Uh oh. I wouldn’t go there…
Where I’m from nearly everyone is White, which means that if White people don’t do that job then nobody does that job.
If somebody is doing that job then it must be done. If it must be done, it must be important. If it is important then it has dignity.
Which brings me to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life we celebrate today.
When I’m at home, I listen to NPR, and today there was a segment on Dr. King’s involvement in the labor movement–a topic chosen by WNYC producers for its timeliness due to the whole Mayor Bloomberg not having enough sanitation workers on hand to clear the snow because of recent layoffs and demotions. Surprise, surprise the ad hoc contractors that he had counted on being available in case of emergency were otherwise engaged on the day after Christmas.
So anyway, I have this character who I imagine belongs to a union and as such is paid a living wage and has health insurance for herself and her children, and a sense of dignity. The indignity lies in having to be at the NYC Downtown Clown Revue venue as presented by the shameless huckster Christopher Lueck and the rest of the college educated 30-somethings who make up acts instead of going out and getting real jobs.
Therein lies the comedy.
Before the show tonight, I was talking to a friend about the role I play, and she said, “I wonder how people with jobs like that can ever be happy.”
“It’s the hair and makeup.” I replied.