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This Grandma with attitude has become one of the most lovable characters in the Big Apple Circus.
There's something about a misbehaving geriatric that gets us laughing. Maybe we hope in our hearts for a day when we can duck under the ropes of social convention and do a handstand on a whoopee cushion. Maybe we secretly harbor a desire to be wildly inappropriate, to sit in a bald man's lap and kiss the top of his shiny head. Or maybe we hope that when our clock is ticking down, we'll still have the gumption to dupe the ringmaster into letting us take over the show, if only for a few minutes.
"The character is really you or aspects of you," says Barry Lubin of his homegrown clown character, Grandma. "You accentuate (your personality) and turn it into a performance character. A lot of me is in (her): I'm mischievous; I don't like authority figures telling me what to do, and that works well with the ringmaster/clown dynamic. Plus, I get to live out my favorite fantasies. I can be a sports figure or a famous actor."
In 1980, Lubin's antics in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus in Madison Square Garden caught the eye of Big Apple Circus Founder Paul Binder. "He was dressed as this little old lady on a skateboard with a box of popcorn who would skate right into a wall," remembers Binder. The dreamy grandmother character who muddles around on stage, gets lost, but always finds her way to the next place appealed to Binder. "(Grandma) represents the audience," Binder explains.
And Lubin's enormous physical control and grasp of humor is what breathes life into this lovable character year after year. "Barry is a minimalist. His moves are very small, not grandiose," says Binder. This season, Grandma pairs with clown (and clown alternate for Grandma) Mark Gindick to present a parody of the American classic, "Singin' in the Rain."
"The audience has got to want to care about you to spend time with you. They must adore you in some way. It doesn't matter what you do for the next seven minutes, (the audience) has got to love you," says Lubin.