Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday July 19, 2015

The Sunday Series
Sunday July 19, 2015

This is Sunday. The day my life changed.  Hopefully for the better.  I have joined the circus last week, and my first performance will be today at the Hollywood Bowl.  Ever since I was a teenager, I had an obsession about being a juggler.  I even considered to go with my friend Robert Greene to a clown’s school in Italy, where they teach you the fundamental or basics of juggling.  I didn’t want to wear clown make-up, due to my fear of clowns as a child.  I find it slightly creepy, and I never out-grew that feeling of fear, when I come upon an image of a clown.  There are many groupings in life, and the Clown Gang is one that is the scariest of them all.  I remember as a child, walking down Venice (California) street called Electric Avenue, and seeing a group of clowns in make-up, but oddly enough, wearing street clothing. They were just sitting on the street and drinking out of a brown paper bag.  They were also smoking, both cigarette and marijuana, which made them even more sinister looking than normal.  

When I walked by them, one of them yelled out something to me.  I pretended not to hear them, but then as I tried to pass them on the street, one of them touched my shoulder and tried to force me to the ground. I kept on walking and I heard them yelling behind my back.  I refused to look over my shoulder, and I just kept going straight to my destination. It was then that I saw a brown paper bag fly over my head and shattered against a building’s wall.  I still cringe, when thinking about that moment and time.  It is odd, that now at the age of 60, I want to join the circus.  

“Cirque Musica' is a new traveling circus, that is nothing like the circus of my youth.  For one, they use a full live orchestra for their music, as well as having a school based in Southern Florida, where they trained all their performers.  They flew me there from Los Angeles to the South Florida Circus Arts School, and I never been to Florida before. In fact, I have never been to a Southern state in the United States.  Once I got there, it reminded me very much like California.  Yet, the weather was very high with respect to the humidity.  I never liked to sweat, and since I started training as a juggler, I sweat a lot. 

The school trains you under the hot sun, and I think they want to make sure that you can concentrate with all the bowling pins in the air.  The act itself is not that difficult, but the concentration is the art.   One must focus on the amount of objects you have above you, and not to get distracted either by who or what is walking by you, and of course, including the glare of the sun.  There is a zen-like peacefulness I get when I juggle alone. 

The powers-to-be at the circus suggested that I change my name to Beni Hasan, which had a nice exotic touch, and therefore I will appear in performance with that name.  Along with clowns, jugglers are looked upon as the type of performers of base morals or even dealing in witchcraft.  Believe me, if they actually saw my act, they will know that this is not the case whatsoever. 

I can’t count the times that I hit my instructor in the head with a bowling pin, due to my so-called skills as a juggler. While flying back to the Burbank airport (sometimes called Bob Hope airport) from Florida, various administrators from the circus school suggested that I may be more interested in working in the merchandise table at the Hollywood Bowl tonight.  The fact that my performance will go on tonight is making the entire school sick to their stomach.  I said “no deal.” I’m Beni Hasan, and I’m going on the Hollywood Bowl stage this Sunday night.  For an artist, when one is told that you won’t make it, or you can’t - well, that is like putting a red cape in front of an angry bull.  Of course, I am going to head towards that red cape as if it is an opening to another universe. 

My 60 years on this plane is pretty much of a joke.  No one is laughing, except me, and I laugh hard.  Even in my bed, wide awake from thoughts of failure, I pretty much mapped out the performance in my head.  Some count cows jumping over a fence, but for me, I’m counting the balls that are floating above my head, till I fall asleep.  In my dreams, I imagine myself in a show in front of an audience of old girlfriends and they’re watching me fail all over again.  I threw one bowling pin up, and then the next - and finally I have three in the air.  But the women in the audience are calling out my name to distract me from what I’m doing. I break out into a sweat, almost a panic, and then I let one of the bowling pins fall down to the ground.  I hear laughter from the audience and I wake up in a sweat. 

As I wait backstage at the Hollywood Bowl, I notice my fellow performers are ignoring me. I’m nervously throwing the pins in my little practice area, and basically dropping each one to the ground.  It is a remarkable moment when you either realize you don’t have the talent you think you may have, and when people around you clearly know that you don’t have the talent.   I put on my make-up on.  It has been decided by the powers to be, that if I was going to go on, I need to wear clown make-up.  The thing is if I drop the pins, it would look like a comedy clown act. Everything is a performance here, including my life.  I feel the need to drink water, but then the spotlight goes on the stage, which is the signal for me to enter that light, and clearly and with nothing but fear in my stomach and head, I run into the spotlight. 

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