Part clown show, part mock election comes to South Shore school district
Get ready for four days of clowning mixed with election fever — from Sept. 27-30, a group of four actors from New York City will travel to South Lake Tahoe with their show “Democrazy: The Other Party,” a mock election in which four clowns run against each other for the title of Clown President. The performances, which come as part of this year’s Tahoe Arts Project programs, will be conducted throughout Lake Tahoe Unified School District with one public show offered at the end of the week.
“For our 30th anniversary celebration we are bringing in performers that grew up here in Tahoe and have gone on to pursue careers in the arts,” TAP executive director Peggy Blowney said.
LTUSD graduate and “Democrazy” performer Sebastiani “Bubba” Romagnolo surveyed South Shore teachers to find out what students were eager to learn. One answer stood out — the kids are interested in politics and the current election.
“We came up with this idea to hold basically a mock election where the kids and teachers got to be really involved. It gives them the practical experience of what it’s like to be a voter and to have a voice and to have some influence in the democratic process,” Romagnolo said.
The result is a clown show-turned-mock general election, in which four “clowndidates” are in the race for Clown President. The show features crazy clown antics such as dancing and making music, culminating in the “most Raucous Caucus this side of Capitol Hill” with the audience voting for a winner.
“We’ve been working a little bit off common characteristics of [political] candidates. There are specific characteristics we pulled from current and past political candidates,” South Shore native and “Democrazy” actor Rebecca Kushner said.
She plays An Extremely Nice Clown, who is marked by a love of everything — the character’s list of favorite things is over 10,000 items long, and includes baby elephants, butterfly gardens and sunflowers in the month of August.
Romagnolo plays Carl, a clown who was diagnosed with an overwhelming, inexplicable and incurable case of sadness. A few things that make him cheer up include highly structured social interactions, rules and holding a mug of hot coffee on a cold day.
Actors Ryan VanDenBoom and Heather Thiry, who play RIOT the Clown and Secretary Clown, respectively, join the South Lake Tahoe natives in their performance of “Democrazy.” RIOT is an opportunist who will stop at nothing to seize the spotlight, and is good at nearly everything he does. Secretary Clown can type 5,000 words per minute and is proficient in Microsoft Excel.
“We modeled the whole thing on the electoral process.
“It’s a different performance at every school based on how the kids are voting. Everyone gets one vote, but the decision is made up of delegates,” Romagnolo said.
During the performance attendees have the opportunity to participate in the election process. Prior to school shows each class elects a delegate. After the performance, all students vote for a clown, and the delegates will take that information in order to cast their vote for which candidate should win the presidency.
“Performing arts education in the schools, and this particular program being in the election line, it’s going to teach the kids a lot about voting and the whole election process. The timing is great with the election coming up,” Blowney said. “We try and provide all different types of programs to our students so that they’re not only being entertained, but they’re also learning something. There’s an educational component to it.”
TAP and the four performers hope “Democrazy” sparks student interest in the United States’ election process.
“Our hope is that it fosters dialogue in the classroom where kids are able to take what they’ve been learning about the democratic process and apply some practical experience that they’re going to get in the show. We hope that starts some conversations about what it means to be a voter, why we vote and how our democracy is or is not working,” Romagnolo said.
The public performance will be held Friday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. at the South Tahoe High School theater. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children under age 18. They are available for purchase at the South Lake Tahoe Visitors Center or by calling Blowney’s office at 530-542-3632. If the event doesn’t sell out, tickets will also be available at the door.