By Seth Bloom
Because of Dell’Arte… I headlined at the Big Apple Circus as a masked clown.
There are other “because of Dell’Arte” openings:
because of Dell’Arte… I spent years in Afghanistan.
because of Dell’Arte… I recently performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
because of Dell’Arte… I met my wife.
But the dream of mask making, mask performing, and clowning in the circus is the clearest lineage to Blue Lake.
Christina Gelsone (Dell Arte, ’98) tracked me down via the internet at a social circus program I was building in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2003. We met, as you do, in front of a destroyed building under an old tree near an orange dented Volkswagen surrounded by dust.
Both of us wanted to street perform in Europe. Both of us were in love with mask work. We wanted to bring some version of it back to life as street performers on the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe. Partnership formed! Thank you, Dell’Arte.
I’m a good mask maker. Thank you, Joe Dieffenbacher. I cast our faces, and I built two half-masks based on real clowns painted by Toulouse-Lautrec. Christina wanted a butt she could bounce on; our costume designer figured that out. I padded the shit out of my belly.
We looked good. We thought we were hot. We did the rehearsals, the practicing, we had the acrobatics, the juggling, and the grammelot down. We thought we would kill it in Edinburgh.
Turns out no one cared.
We sucked. Failed. Failed again. And again.
Long story short, 4 years later we headlined with this act at the Big Apple Circus.
Lots more happened to get us there - touring in China and Korea, performing across Europe, competing at circus festivals - but it’s the disillusionment and the hard knocks of the street that propelled us forward. Dell’Arte gave us the truth, the truth didn’t work out, we fought for every hard-earned laugh, we broke all the sacred rules, we reinvented the form, we got the big gig, we were wildly successful, and in the end… no one cared that we were the only circus clowns to perform in half masks. But we were funny. We did our job.
If you want more of the details, I know a great bourbon bar on 10th and 48th in New York City. Right now, I gotta ship 27 road cases to Melbourne.
Bios: (Since my career took off after meeting Christina my bio is joint with hers.)
Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone met at a circus in Afghanistan, were engaged while street performing in Scotland, and married in China. Since becoming clown partners in 2006, they have created five shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 20 countries, juggled on Letterman, and were featured in The New York Times. Seth is a former professional juggler who graduated from three clown schools and makes each clown mask by hand. Christina is a former professional ballerina who graduated from Princeton to become a clown. The couple lives in Harlem in New York City. Currently Seth and Christina are touring their new show Air Play all over the world.
Seth is a graduate of Wesleyan University ('00), Ringling ('93), Dell'Arte ('97,) LISPA (MFA '05) and has performed in 27 countries.