Clown enjoys classical comedy

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Clowning around at a symphony concert? The very idea might make purists cringe.

But for Dan Kamin, that might be the point.

Mr. Kamin, of Mt. Lebanon, is a professional mime and physical comedian who has traveled around the world. He will perform Saturday and Sunday with the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra in a show he calls "The Classical Clown" at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.

"The premise of the show is that I'm an uncooperative guest artist," who originally doesn't show up for the concert, said Mr. Kamin, a Miami native who studied at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mr. Kamin is credited with creating Johnny Depp's physical comedy routines in the movie "Benny and Joon," and he also trained Robert Downey Jr. for his Oscar-nominated performance in "Chaplin."

He calls the shows that he has created over the years "comedy concertos -- a symphony that goes wrong."

"The Classical Clown" is the one that has been performed the most.

"I don't say a word in the show," Mr. Kamin said. "That's why I can do this show all over the world. The conductors can speak their native language." He has performed in Taiwan before 10,000 people.

In "The Classical Clown," the orchestra will perform several classical pieces by such composers as Beethoven, Grieg and Stravinsky. That's when things get a little hairy because, by the end of the show, Mr. Kamin becomes the conductor.

Part of the act is, frankly, for marketing purposes.

"We needed something to engage the new audiences," such as college students and children who wouldn't be inclined to attend a symphony concert. So he puts on the white face and starts moving around.

"This is like a splash in the face for the usual audience, but in a user-friendly way," Mr. Kamin said. "It just removes all the stuffiness from the symphony."

Although he lives in the Pittsburgh area, he said he hasn't done a symphony show in Pittsburgh for 20 years. The Edgewood Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating its silver anniversary, got a grant to bring him in and do some special production.

During the second half of the program, the orchestra will play two popular John Williams scores, "E.T. Theme: Adventures on Earth" and "Star Wars Suite."

Shows will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Katz Performing Arts Center in the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, 5738 Darlington Road, Squirrel Hill. The cost is $15, $10 for students and free for children younger than 8. Tickets are available through www.edgewoodsymphony.org or at the door.

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Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.


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