Clowns have been a part of human storytelling for thousands of years. Clowning has existed in many cultures and has served a variety of purposes. The oldest clowns date back to 2500 B.C. in ancient Egypt. Clowns from Italy’s Commedia Del Arte theatre tradition appeared around 1550 A.D. Chou, the clown from China’s Peking Opera, has been around for about two hundred years.
Walking the Tightrope’s clown wears a classic clown costume, white make-up and a bulbous red nose, just like circus clowns found in our Western culture. However, this clown has other jobs, besides making us smile. It serves as a symbol, or metaphor, in the play. The clown also acts as a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. Its role is closer to that of sacred clowns found in other cultures, such as the Native American Pueblo clown.
Walking the Tightrope’s clown was not a part of the original script. Director Debbie Devine added the clown character to the play in order to enhance the storytelling. Debbie had an “aha!” moment one night when she awoke from her sleep with the realization that the show should have a clown. She contacted the playwright, Mike Kenny, to get his permission for this addition. The clown would be a silent character, so none of the dialogue would change. This being the case, Kenny happily agreed. This situation is a perfect example of collaboration during the creative process.