L'HISTOIRE D'AMOUR: A Clown Love Story


The Fishtank Performance Studio & HYBRID: A Theatre Collective presented an original window play in the late summer of 2009. The play was L'HISTOIRE D'AMOUR: A Clown Love Story, featuring Heidi Van & Matt Weiss (actors) Dan Eichenbaum & Peter Lawless (live musicians, composers) and Corrie Van Ausdal (director.)

THE TANGO from L'HISTOIRE D'AMOUR was one of four featured presentations at the Arts KC Luncheon at Starlight Theatre on Friday, March 5.

See photos from the show!

L’Histoire d’Amour is a window into the soul

By Alan Scherstuhl

September 08, 2009, The Pitch

The humble miracle of Corrie Van Ausdal's Fishtank performance studio isn't simply that such a lark exists, although it is remarkable: a theater where actors perform behind a storefront window for a crowd seated in folding chairs on Wyandotte. Still, theater today is always unlikely; this one is just a touch more than most. What's most worth celebrating is that the theater at Fishtank has been so memorable.

First, Van Ausdal crammed herself behind the glass to star in a version of Sorry, Wrong Number that took on the voyeuristic edge of Rear Window. Even better, Van Ausdal has now paired up with clown-of-all-trades Heidi Van — also adept at bringing the unlikely to life — for L'Histoire d'Amour, a daft dream of a romantic one-act. It's a show that could only find life at the Fishtank, mining all the possibilities of a window, a street and clowning.

Wearing a great red nose and padded out like a comic-book sexpot, Van flounces behind the glass as a Parisian pastry chef smitten with her own delicacies. Smitten with her, meanwhile, is the window washer played by Matt Weiss, a clown himself, who charms the crowd, woos the girl, and folds a tissue into a white rose with comic aplomb. He courts her through the window; eventually, with that glass still between them, they tango. Both Van and Weiss are adroit physical comedians, and their dance is as odd and hilarious as one might hope. It's also charged with an undeniable clownish eroticism and even a little violence.

Like all good love stories, L'Histoire d'Amour teeters between passion and pain. Faced with the typical misunderstandings that love stories depend upon, these lovers also dip into surprising anger. What struck me most, though, were the highs: Weiss pirouetting around a signpost, Van painting a heart in pastry cream right on the glass. Without words, and in just a half-hour, L'Histoire d'Amour works up more excitement between its lovers than most full-length romances.

Van Ausdal, who directs, ably proportions elements that might otherwise have conflicted. Original music composed and performed by the accordion-and-clarinet duo of Dan Eichenbaum and Peter Lawless is invaluable. Its melancholy whimsy shapes these characters' lives just as much as the window does. I relished the clarinet glissando that accompanies every wipe of Weiss' squeegee — except when the glissando doesn't, for some reason, and these moments are funnier still. Stumped by the silence, Weiss glares at the squeegee, and then at the clarinet, and then tries again. He wears a clown nose but no face paint, so his frustration — like his passion — feels like the real deal rather than an abstraction. He and Van are proof that clowns don't need the makeup to show us the human.


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