A Student's Perspective

In May the circus came to town. . . the Gooseflesh Niteclub Circus, that is.

Directed by senior Walker Lewis, performed by students, and held in Jones Field House, the Gooseflesh was neither for children nor for the timid. Consisting of a series of skits and dance pieces accompanied by live music, the experience was a distinctly interactive one. It began for the audience as they waited for the house to open. A bow-tied, placard-wielding evangelist harangued them, warning of the immoral and unnatural activities they would encounter inside. The Niteclub proper was dim and smoky. Topless waiters served free beer, and actors circulated in character before and during the show, chatting with, propositioning, and yelling at customers. Among the spectacles of the evening were a neurotic stand-up comic; a sleazy, con-artist magician; a fire swallower; a storyteller; and a striptease or two.

Lewis became interested in circus performance and clowning four years ago, when another Oberlin student organized the Plum Loco Circus. He has since worked at Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theater, and has toured Russia with a clown troupe.

"The real joy of clowning," he says, "is being so close to the audience. There's not the same kind of wall between them and the stage that you find in other forms of theater."

Lewis, who had never directed before, wanted Gooseflesh to be "darker" than a conventional circus, so he mixed "nightclub genre" performance with circus performance based on clowning. "I wanted to mix horror and comedy," he says. "I wanted it to be sexy and scary, but also funny-humor makes things accessible to a larger audience."

--Rachel Coen '98

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