Archive for Hilary Chaplain

A New Original Silent Comedy by Trav S.D.!

Posted in Clown, Comediennes, Comedy, ME, Movies, Movies (Contemporary), My Shows, Silent Film with tags , , on December 19, 2013 by travsd

hilary celery

We are pleased to present A Change in Brunch Plans, one of several silent comedy experiments we are making in connection with our new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube. Our goal was to learn a few things about the making of comedy films both now and a century ago. For the purposes of this particular experiment, we worked within several intentional limitations:

For this one, I was interested in looking at what Andre Bazin called “filmed theatre”, the shooting style of Charlie Chaplin: long takes, with the camera placed far from the actors for the purpose of seeing their whole body in performance. I was inspired by seeing the great clown Hilary Chaplain’s drunk routine at Triskelion Theatre, which reminded me of Chaplin’s “One A.M.” The idea was to have her re-create it on video, with a couple of brief establishing scenes to frame it and make a story. Joining Chaplain in the film are her terrific fellow clowns Audrey Crabtree, Deborah Kaufman and Mik Kuhlman. This technique is necessarily more effective projected large in a theatre where we can see the clown’s facial expressions and body work than on the tiny Youtube screen.

Other parameters in this experiment:

  1. The video is at natural speed; not sped up for comedy effects
  2. The video is in color, as opposed to black and white
  3. The story is contemporary, not period
  4. No effort is made to artificially distress it or make it look like old film
  5. The entire shoot took less than two hours
  6. The rough assembly of shots was done in about the same amount of time
  7. And obviously, no spoken dialogue

Many of these variables will likely be changed (and/or changed back) in later experiments. For example, just about all of them are different in our next experiment Too Much Nutcracker, which we’ll be releasing in a few days (that one has shorter takes, is sped up, in black and white, and is a period piece.)

This video was shot about a year ago in Park Slope, Brooklyn; an earlier edit (thanks Frank Cwiklik!) was screened at the Brick Theatre earlier this year. And thanks Billy Schultz, who sadly (through no fault of his own) wound up on the cutting room floor!

For more on silent and slapstick film don’t  miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc


For more on the variety theatreconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 


All-Star Clown Benefit Tonight!

Posted in Clown, Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , , on April 29, 2013 by travsd


Even if you don’t know the gentleman the event is to raise money for this is going to be a LOT of show for $50: Bill Irwin, Audrey Crabtree, Hilary Chaplain, Amy Gordon, the Hot Sardines, etc etc etc.

Read more about Ben’s journey at

Cirque Off!

Posted in Circus, Clown, Contemporary Variety with tags , , , , , , on January 21, 2012 by travsd

Tonight is the last performance of the current edition of Cirque Off, Triskelion Arts regular festival of circus (mostly clown) acts. They promise “amazing” acts in their flyer, and when I caught Friday’s show I was indeed amazed several times over the course of the night:

* Audrey Crabtree and Billy Dee Bedlam did a bit called “No Reservations” directed by John Towsen. It started off as a funny, dialogue driven sketch about a couple on a first date…then launched into unexpected vistas of physical comedy, bawdy, deft and surprising.

* Neon Lights amazed just because Jeff Seal and Chris “Buttons” Manley are just always such funny guys. The highlight of the set was Buttons’ child-like (but subtly arch) observations about a Hello, Kitty calendar. And the dance they exit to is a model for all others (at least all other vaudevillians) to follow!

* Hillary Chaplain introduced a hilarious new bit where she was a drunken bridesmaid after a wedding. The two part piece chases a bravura mime passage (reminiscent of Chaplin’s in One A.M.) with a fuzzy tongued monologue that was as touching as it was funny. I hope to see more of this piece as she develops it!

* Vangeline presented some more of her beautiful, graceful butoh-inspired movement, in collaboration with Jonathan Nosan, who had the most amazing (truly memorable) moment of the  evening — a back bend that he held for what seemed an eternity — most of the time without his palms on the floor for support. He seems superhuman in his strength and flexibility, and the effect of his upside down face looking at us from his horseshoe-shaped body was a surreal showstopper.

* Andy Sapora did not amaze or surprise by cutting several lengths of pipe in front of the audience with a circular saw, sparks flying, but he did disconcert and unsettle — and I bet that suits him just fine.

Like I said, there’s one more show left. Tonight you can catch Carol Lee Sirugo and Honey Goodenough, Audrey Crabtree, Tanya Solomon, Hilary Chaplain, James and JF, Groundgrippers Dance Company, and The Maestrosities (with Jennifer Harder)

Presented by Cirque This & Triskelion Arts
January 19-21 at 8pm

Triskelion Arts’ Aldous Theater
118 North 11th St, 3rd Floor
Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211
Directions: L train to Bedford Ave. Walk north on Bedford, left on North 11th St.

Tickets: $15
Reservations strongly recommended: or 718.599.3577

Vaudephone #11: Hilary Chaplain

Posted in Clown, Contemporary Variety, Television, Vaudephones, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , on January 18, 2012 by travsd

And now, here’s a classic routine by the great Hilary Chaplain, the next installment in our Vaudephone series. Hilary is on my very short list of favorite clowns, so I am pleased as punch to be able to share this with you. And the very generous accompanist Ben Model of the Silent Clowns, is just offscreen to the right.

ALSO: please note the swell theme music, by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Don’t miss Vince and his swingin’ band for dinner and dancing every Monday and Tuesday at the Edison Hotel! (Details are here).

Vaudephone is a co-production of Travalanche/ the American Vaudeville Theatre, and

To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


Hilary Chaplain’s A Life in Her Day

Posted in Clown, Comediennes, Contemporary Variety, Jews/ Show Biz, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , on December 9, 2011 by travsd

The brilliant clown Hilary Chaplain’s show A Life in Her Day (directed by Avner the Eccentricis playing in the Voice for Vision Festival at Theater for the New City through December 11 (Sunday). Hither her blurb:

Unconventional and outrageously funny, A Life In Her Day is a wonderful mix of physical comedy and serious theatre about a Jewish woman in her publicly shared private world.  In transforming simple objects into human companions, Hilary’s character gets caught up in an alternate reality. While pouring a bowl of cereal, out pops a prize: a big diamond ring.  From here a lifetime ensues in the course of an hour in a lovely and humorous portrait of a woman who wants the same thing as everyone else – to be loved.  One thing leads to the next until she’s at the altar marrying a lamp with a paper towel veil and a dress made from the lampshade.  Her adventures continue with a Hawaiian honeymoon, giving birth to a son fashioned from a roll of paper towels, and becoming a rabbi wearing a Hostess Snowball yarmulke performing a bris on her newborn.   In the end, the audience is left with the sense that everything she needs can be created and that all she really needs is herself. 

For more details go here.

Stars of the AVT #40: Hilary Chaplain

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Clown, Comediennes, Contemporary Variety, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , on June 25, 2011 by travsd

Photo by Nelson Bakerman

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

I’m proud to have presented Hilary Chaplain many times over the years: in 1998 at Surf Reality, in 2002 at New-York Historical Society, and at 2008 at Theeater for the New City.

I first knew her as a Big Apple Circus hospital clown (she’s worked there since 1987; I was there as an administrator in the mid 90s), and she’s also a founding member of the New York Goofs, whom I’ve raved about here. She was an original cast member in Bill Irwin’s Largely/New Yorkand appeared on Broadway and at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park as the Goddess Ceres in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Tempest directed by George C. Wolfe. She played a featured role in the movie Forrest Gump, and a lawyer on Law and Order Criminal Intent.She is currently touring the globe  with her award winning solo show A Life in Her Day.

Hilary is one of the few artists I know who actually resembles the people she cites as influences and inspirations. That is, she emulates them SUCCESSFULLY. While many women go into clowning, fewer of them go in for slapstick per se. Hilary is a master at it. Thus it is not surprising that Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Imogene Coca top her list, nor, truth to tell, Charlie Chaplin, Sid Caesar or the Three Stooges. She also cites some “clownier” folks: Tony Montanaro and the Celebration Mime Theatre, Bill Irwin, Avner the Eccentric (Eisenberg), Ronlin Foreman, Bob Berky, David Shiner, and Swiss clown Gardi Hutter.

And here she is, being her own inimitable self, in my 2008 revue No Applause, Just Throw Money:

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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