Twenty-nine years ago, in 1991, I came to Atlanta to perform at Oglethorpe University. I performed in a tent in the middle of a field. Now, in 2020 I’m back at Oglethorpe University, once again performing under a tent in a field. In 1991, I worked for the Georgia Shakespeare Festival. I completed one of my favorite roles, Porthos, in The Three Musketeers. Now, in 2020 I’m working as clown/stiltwalker and juggler for the Atlanta Opera in two shows, Pagliacci and the Kaiser of Atlantis.
A lot has changed in those 29 years from 1991 to 2020. I see a lot of those changes by merely going to work. When I drive to the tent at Oglethorpe, I take the same path I took to and from my first apartment here in Atlanta. The drive takes me through some familiar tracks. The roads are the same, but so much has changed around them: new businesses and buildings stand where there were once empty lots. Old familiar sites have been replaced with more modern fancier buildings. Most noticeable is the construction site for the new campus Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is building. It’s especially notable for me because I’ve spent 20 of those years performing at the other campuses of Children’s Healthcare Of Atlanta as a clown.
I moved here to Atlanta in 1991 because I was frustrated with the work I was doing. I spent over a year performing at Universal Studios in Florida. I liked the variety of performing I did. On any given day at my job at Universal Studios, I could be asked to perform in five different shows. As much as I like this variety, I wanted to take a more artistic approach to my work. Performing at Universal Studios paid well. However, it wasn’t the cultural and creative outlet I wanted. When I was offered the opportunity to perform in Atlanta at the Georgia Shakespeare Fest for their repertory season that summer, I eagerly said yes. The Georgia Shakespeare Festival was doing three shows in repertory that summer, The Three Musketeers, Richard III, and Two Gentlemen of Verona. I was ready to get away from amusement park performing and to work for a theater company.
When I moved here that summer, I knew that I had come to Atlanta to stay. After that summer season at Georgia Shakespeare, I had the opportunity to go back to Orlando at Universal Studios to my old job. I thought about going back to Florida, but I knew that I wanted to start my new life in Atlanta. It was a tough decision. I was turning down a sure paycheck for the possibility of the new life I wanted to create. The life of artists doesn’t always pay well. But I knew I had to follow by heart.
During my time in Atlanta, life happened as I was making other plans. I fell in love and got married to a woman I met while I was performing. I became a father. I changed and grew. I came to Atlanta as a theater person, an actor who was interested in clowning and circus. Now I’ve spent the last two decades working as a clown, who sometimes still does some theater.
Now I’m back at Oglethorpe in 2020, this time performing as a stilt walker and clown and juggler.
I’m also grateful for the opportunity given by the Atlanta Opera to do my first life, in-person performance since March. I’ve done many video streaming performances on WebEx and Skype, and Zoom these past seven months. That said, It feels good to be in front of a live audience performing again.
I’m also grateful for the artistic director of Atlanta Opera, Tomer Zvulun, especially for his approach to doing these socially distanced shows during the COVID pandemic. Tomer made a statement that struck me. He talked about the importance of art and how artistic expression can speak to our life experiences, especially in times of distress during the COVID pandemic. A lot of work goes into making the performers, technical crew, and support staff safe during this time. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this team.
I’m back where I started in a tent performing for a live audience!
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