Play Nice With the Killer Clown

Making it with local theater's kindest bad guy and smartest dummy

"Another thing I did [in the '80s] is I worked in a group home for people with mental illness," he tells me over a beer. "I learned an enormous amount of acting from those people. It was beautiful. And a lot of these things I took with me, as far as characters. There was this one woman. It was my first night working in this group home. She sat down, and she said, very sincerely, 'I don't know if you've heard about this, but they're putting poison in the well in Sauk Center. Yeah, they discovered that. This isn't known, but my husband works for the city, and my family is sick.' And I totally bought into it. She was so believable. And later on, I read her chart, and part of her mental illness was that she was dealing with delusions of poisoning.

"That's what I love about theater, seeing it happen in real life. Like this morning, this beautiful thing transpired. My kid went out to wait for the bus, and the kids were all out there. And all of a sudden, I'm pouring coffee, and I hear the neighbor lady yelling, 'Caleb!' and all I see is this green piece of paper and this arm out the door. And he's waiting for the bus. And I looked at the clock and it's 27-after-8:00 [a.m.] and I know the bus comes at 28-after. He has to make the run all the way to this green piece of paper, this arm floating out the door. And I thought: This is going to be great drama here.

"So he sees it, and in his life, there's nothing more important than getting this piece of paper and getting back before the bus comes. It's beautiful because he doesn't think, Well, if I miss the bus, then my mom will take me, and maybe it'll be hard but nothing will happen. I see him run, he's running as hard as he can, and he slips on the ice. And our neighbor boy says, 'Hurry up! Run for your life! Run for your life! Because you'll get a tardy!' And he gets the paper, and the other kid's yelling, 'Run for your life!' And he's running as fast as he can, and he gets on the bus just in time.

"And this kind of thing is like the analogy to so many other things. It could be war. It could be love. It could just be a kid who runs really fast so he doesn't miss the bus. But it's absolute commitment. You can't intellectualize it, because it's sheer passion."

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