Laura Ricci

WHAT COULD PROMPT an actor who?s attended the prestigious Eugene
O?Neill Theater Center in Connecticut to run off to San Francisco
to clown school? A love of the circus, boredom with standard stage
work, and the archetypal allure of clowning itself. In the fall of
2002, 31-year-old Ricci, a native of west Texas, enrolled in a
one-year course in the Clown Conservatory, part of the San
Francisco School of Circus Arts?in the face of skepticism from
bohemian theater pals. ?They asked me, ?What are you going to do
with it??? says Ricci, laughing. ?But clowning unifies so many of
the parts of my personality that it?s a natural. It?s great
theater: Clown routines are short and distilled, so every moment is
intense and powerful. And it?s a privilege to be the first
performing artist that many children see.?

Clown training is no laughing matter: intensive work in Chinese
acrobatics, a skills class (wire work, juggling, and other tricks
with props) and ?Core Clowning,? which explores the great clowning
themes and practitioners, from ancient Roman fools to Bugs Bunny
and Mr. Bean. For now, Ricci spends most of her time at the school,
hurrying home to her Haight district flat to collapse and dream of
the not-too-distant day when she?ll take her place in the tradition
of one of the world?s oldest, and funniest, arts.

?Jon Spayde

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