We had the good fortune of connecting with Russ Sharek and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Russ, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“ijo wan lon tenpo wan.” This quote was originally taught to me in a minimalist and poetic language called toki pona. Roughly translated into English, it means “one thing at one time.” People are remarkable at over-complicating, over-stuffing, and over-doing things. Learning to slow down and savor every moment has been incredibly useful in my efforts at being both a theatrical clown and human being.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Clowns are emotionally present entertainers who playfully engage their audiences to help them remember to feel optimism, silliness, and full of wonder. As *mascots of the misfits*, we celebrate all of the absurd and magical things that make us all feel alive and human. As creators of physical theater, we back up that lofty purpose with a broad array of variety performance skills, original interactive characters, and classically trained big top circus talent. We are, as one of our young (and extremely wise) fans said, “more people-y than people,” and that’s what makes the Circus Freaks awesome. Behind our philosophically-guided red noses, we are an ensemble of passionate performing artists who take our creative direction from the clown-in-charge, Russ Sharek. Russ has been described by reliable sources as a zen fool, benevolent supervillain, misanthropic community leader, clown father figure and Impish Cabaret Rasputin. A self-described “student for life” in the world of theatrical clown, eccentric performance and variety entertainment, he has chased living circus legends around the world in hopes of gaining a small measure of the “clown wisdom” they possess. Each time, he’s returned from these journeys with a head full of freshly acquired nonsense, and we’ve slowly evolved into a far wiser group of fools for the trouble. Beyond our leader’s ever-helpful descent into madness, we’ve also received classical training from improvisation experts, mimes, mask performers, object manipulators, stilt dancers, and at least one grumpy Russian acrobat. All of these experts worked with us behind the scenes for a single purpose: to expand our range of play into a superpower. Play is more than a pleasant distraction. It is a magical ability to manifest a contagiously happy state, to discover games in the moment, and enjoy getting fully lost in them. In a world that has gotten a little too grown-up, reclaiming that childlike state of wonder can not only re-humanize a gathering, it can inspire and remind people that they are capable of making their own magic too.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Assuming the pandemic is safely behind us, here are 13 things our clowns enjoy in Dallas: Combine the joys of caffeine and book discovery at Wild Detectives. Eat a patio lunch and meditate in the temple at Kalachandjis. Get freaked out by (and grab a selfie with) the Giant Eyeball downtown. Get something tailored at Art Tailor. Seriously, they are that good. Grab a soy chai at Cosmic Cafe, and then eat there because the food is amazing. Have a beautiful espresso at Palmieri in the Dallas Farmers Market. Meet a relatively sane hatter at Dallas Pinup. Practice acro-yoga at Soar Creative. Ride velocipedes (of varying wheel numbers) around White Rock Lake. See who’s occupying the stage at Klyde Warren Park. Stuff your face with the largest plate of nachos conceivable at Spiral Diner. Tinker on an art project at the Dallas Makerspace. Window shop the succulents at Dirt in the Bishop Arts District.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Angela DeCastro of the Why Not Institute in London completely redefined the way our company approaches the work of the clown. She is an amazing teacher, mentor, and father figure.
Other: In the last couple of years, we’ve been looking closely at where the ‘shout-y’ and ‘share-y’ portions of the internet seemed to be heading, and came to realize that way of communicating with people simply didn’t feel healthy for us. As an experiment, we’ve decided to move our company entirely off social media. So far, we’re happy to report that it’s been a magical experience. To be clear: We aren’t suggesting, or even recommending, that anyone else suddenly decide to declare themselves a ‘digital vegan’. What you do with your internet presence and online time is your own business. We’ve come to believe there many ways to accomplish the goal of genuine human connection. As clowns, we’re completely comfortable with being the weird ones out there exploring other possible ways of accomplishing the task.