Mustache Party! The Dalí Show by Box of Clowns
August 13 – 16, 18 – 20 at Venue #8: The Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre
More information: boxofclowns.com
An interview with Jeff Desautels, an ensemble member of Box of Clowns.
Describe your show in five words.
Salvador Dali meets Monty Python.
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
Hang on to your Mustache, things just got Surreal. Award-winning physical theatre troupe Box of Clowns is hosting the Mustache Party of the century. Inspired by the life and work of Salvador Dali, Box of Clowns will transport audiences into a hilarious dream world of melting clocks, bizarre characters, and magical mustaches. Shave the date.
What was it about Salvador Dalí that inspired Mustache Party! The Dalí Show?
Our work always starts with an image, and there is a lot to be explored by the images conjured by the unique mind of Salvador Dali. Early animation in America was inspired by the Surrealists, and indeed, Walt Disney was inspired by Salvador Dali himself. On a related note, Salvador Dali referred to Harpo Marx as an American surrealist. We were excited to translate Dali’s surrealism into theatrical physical comedy. The artist himself is somewhat of a clown – defying the public’s expectations and indulging in absurd publicity stunts. There is a wonderful book by Salvador Dali and the photographer Phillipe Hallsman called Dali’s Mustache (the photo of Dali in our publicity materials is from this collaboration) which is also a huge inspiration of the show.
How do you incorporate the surrealism of Dalí’s work into Mustache Party! The Dalí Show?
We started by using exercises originally used by Surrealists, including stream-of-conscious writing and a collaborative writing exercise called “Exquisite Corpse” (participants pass around paper composing one line at a time, reading only the previous line). Salvador Dali used the “paranoiac critical method” to compose his paintings, connecting seemingly disparate ideas into one piece. In this spirit, if one of us came to rehearsal with a proposal, we would run with it, no matter how disjointed it seemed from what we had been working on before. Little by little, we built a show that lived in a distinct world, albeit very different from the one you experience day to day.
What’s the story behind the title of your show, Mustache Party! The Dalí Show?
During World War II, Dali wanted to throw a benefit to raise money for refugee artists. (He was living in America at the time.) He concocted an elaborate Fantasy Forest themed party and gave a shopping list to his publicist that included things like zoo animals, one thousand pairs of high-heeled shoes, and a wrecked automobile. Dali ended up spending so much money on the party, he did not make a profit from the benefit. The publicity, however, was priceless, as guests included Jack Benny and Bob Hope. There is a clip of the party on YouTube called “Dizzy Dali Dinner.” Also, Dali was known to carry a cigar case around with him at parties that was filled with fake mustaches. He would offer guests mustaches instead of cigars. Both of these anecdotes fascinated us, and informed the first part of our show.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
There are so many interesting Dali stories we discovered while researching this show, so here is one more:
Dali greatly admired the work of the mathematician Renee Thom. They met once when Thom was studying tectonic plates. Dali questioned Thom about a railway station on the border between France and Spain, (which previously Dali had declared was the center of the universe), and Thom replied that the location of the train station was the exact spot that Spain pivoted upon. Whether this story is true or not, it only adds to the mystique surrounding Dali.
The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Tickets go on sale August 3 at noon and will be available at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.