Hunter Gardner is a writer and comedic performer in Charleston, SC. Also, he's nice.
Clowns. They may delight you or terrify you. You may think clowns are silly or childish or foolish or well--ya know--clowns. But the archetypal clown is probably not who you think he is.
The role of the clown is to tote the line between light and dark, often working in opposites. The clown finds joy in the face of loss and sorrow, truth from a nest of lies.
A clown is an emotional, feeling person but also a witty and playful one as well. The clown wants to turn the world on it’s head. But what happens when clowns find themselves in conflict?
CLOWNS IN LOVE is a dark-comedy musical about a true-believer rookie clown slipping into show business and falling in love--only to find out that the circus is no funny business.
Told in two acts, the musical follows Sam (“Squawky”) and Sally (“Squeaky”) during a time that will test their artform, their love for each other, and even their lives.
Sam and Sally are co-workers in a town called Averageville. One day at happy hour a figure from Sally’s circus past, Bonkerz, enters to host a clowning open mic. With Sally’s encouragement Sam goes up, impresses Bonkerz, and is given a shot to become a real-life clown.
Sally, however jaded by her circus past, still harbors ambitions of returning. When Sam insists that he won’t go without her--his encourager--she agrees.
After signing a very (very, very) long contract with The Ringleader, Sally is officially back on the circus roster and Sam’s dream of being a real-life clown has come true. But it is clear that the circus is interested in one thing: profitable entertainment, not artful choices.
Sally believes that the circus can be how it once was: a place where there was no Ringleader and everyone created thoughtful performance.
Sam is enamored with Sally and likewise her philosophy of clowning as a craft that tells the truth. They kiss--clowns in love--and we are ready to cheer them on.
By the end of Act One, Sam and Sally have developed their two-person show and are ready to show the circus that art can be both entertaining and truthful.
The show is a wild success. Sam and Sally are called into The Ringleader’s office where he offers a deal: a shot at the circus’ top show, “the front line”. But there’s only one spot...and he offers it to Sam. In love and a true-believer, Sam turns it down...
...but Sally jumps in: She’ll take it.
Sam is distraught, alone, and made a fool of--everything has been a lie. Even Bonkerz sympathizes with this, but tells him that’s just the biz, unfortunately.
We don’t know what to make of this, who’s side is Sally really on? But she redeems herself when we see this was all a ploy to make The Ringleader look foolish during a front line show.
The Ringleader is furious and condemns Sally to be thrown into the lion’s den, the harshest punishment of the circus. However, Sam and Sally’s love has reminded Bonkerz of the circus’ old ways and he releases her back to Averageville--and makes her promise a vow of silence.
Sam is told the news of Sally’s death by the sinister Ringleader. He is filled with guilt for thinking Sally would betray him and enraged at the deed of The Ringleader. He wants out--but there’s that very (very, very) long contract he signed.
The Ringleader offers Sam some "good" news: the new opening on the front line. But Sam must prove his loyalty by doing the typical one-two-trip-on-my-shoes routine in a solo performance. This is a big opportunity: The circus has never put up a solo act. Every newspaper within a hundred miles will be there.
Sam starts with the one-two-trip-on-my-shoes routine, but it quickly turns dark. Fueled by his lost love and hatred for greed, Sam takes elements from his and Sally’s two-person show to put on a solo performance that exposes The Ringleader and his evil ways.
The Ringleader is tossed to the lions and the clowns are free to take back over the circus. Sally has snuck into the show and reunites with Sam. They decide they don’t want the lights after all, just each other, and return to a life in Averageville.
In the final scene, we see Sam in a nightmare state. He cries out for refuge from the lions. He doesn’t want to be a clown. He cries out for Sally. We think maybe all of this has been a dream until...
Sally enters with their newborn son. They admire him. They smile. They kiss. They are clowns in love.