Clowning around at the Breckenridge Theatre
BRECKENRIDGE – Jim Jackson didn’t like clowns as a kid; little did he know, his life’s path would lead him right into the red nose he frowned on.”I found them pretty grotesque, scary and questionable – not entertaining or funny,” he said.The Backstage Theatre presents Jackson’s clowning antics in his one-man show “Art Guffaw,” about an employment-challenged house painter afraid of color and unable to draw a straight line, to the Breckenridge Theatre at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.Jackson didn’t start out in life thinking he would be a clown, but he did get some practice by playing the role of class clown.”I did little plays when I was a kid, but I tended to do it on a grander scale than most kids,” he said.He would talk his teachers into letting him do some interesting stunts, which would eventually cause chaos in the classroom, like his second-grade production of “Noah’s Ark,” complete with a large refrigerator-box ark and spray-bottle rain.Jackson later went on to college to pursue non-clown-related interests, but eventually returned to his dramatic roots, landing a job in a circus after college.
“I remember the phone call to the parents: ‘I’m taking my B.A. and joining the circus as a clown’,” he said.Jackson joined the Royal Lichtenstein Circus, performing as a juggler and acrobat in small, traditional tent circuses. He also learned high wire walking, unicycling, balancing, magic and clowning.”It’s such a circular route. You’re going in different directions and then come back around and settle on what you love to do,” he said. “It was never anything I thought I’d do for a living. There’s always that giant leap from doing what you love to do and getting paid to do what you love to do.”And being a clown is what Jackson loves, but he doesn’t consider himself a traditional clown. While traveling in Europe, he saw clowns that were both funny and very skilled – unlike the clowns he feared as a child.”That’s the kind of clown that I’ve tried to be for all these years,” he said. “If I say clown, I have to explain it. I’m not the birthday party variety or even the Ringling Bros. variety. The clown that I play is a much more three-dimensional character. He’s fairly optimistic, but there are times when he’s angry or when he’s pathetic.”Jackson said his clown is a developed character, similar to comedians who do sketch and more theatrical comedy.”It allows the character to play for kids and adults. Kids love the physicality of the character, and adults appreciate the jokes and improvisation,” he said.
He turned his attention away from the circus and more toward his independent performances after a fall from the high wire in 1981 left him unable to perform for six months. “It allowed me to develop shows,” he said. “I’m still able to do a lot of the (circus) tricks but on a smaller scale in the theater.”Some of the antics audiences at Saturday’s performances can expect to see include magic, giant bubbles, talking paintings and Jackson juggling ping-pong balls with his mouth.”Art Guffaw” is the kickoff to some special programming designed to draw families and younger audiences back to the Backstage Theatre, according to Christopher Willard, artistic director for the theater.”I felt it was a nice fit for our theater to get the ball rolling with family events,” he said. “I thought it was good to bring in a theater act that also focused on art. His whole take on this character is just delightful.”Currently, Jackson is involved with the Manitou Art Theater in Manitou Springs, a theater he started with his wife, Brigitta, five years ago.Tickets for Saturday’s performances at the Breckenridge Theatre are $10 for adults and $5 for children. For reservations or more information, call (970) 453-0199.
Jennifer Harper can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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