Philippe Gaulier, something of an international treasure, at least in the clown world, told us to bring in suitcases. It was optional, and so most people in the class, so traumatized from being yelled at pointlessly and barely getting any stage time, opted to not. Myself included. But I remembered Gaulier saying dreamily, in his old-frenchman way, “A Clown… always has a suitcase…”
The clown Gaulier dreams of in his old-frenchman dreams is a vagabond, and of course that vagabond has a suitcase falling apart, marked with age and experience and wonder.
I did not have The Suitcase when I was in Gaulier’s workshop. But I have it now.
It was intended by the manufacturers to be a keyboard case, but since it houses my streetlight and often a lot of bubble wrap, it ends up looking like pretty suspicious at Baggage Claim. The bag itself is restitched in several places (Thank you, Mom), it has zip-ties instead of zipper handles, it resembles a big ol’ ragtag corpse sack. I am very fond of it.
My costume is a big old trenchcoat that was made for me by Mollie, a wonderful costume designer in NY, 8 years ago. She made it from a pattern of an actually nice trench coat she saw in a fancy store. It’s been mended a lot since then (again, thanks Mom). My pants and tie are Goodwill. The shirt used to be a shirt I just wore as a normal person, til it got too yellow in the armpits and became my costume shirt. The body stuffing is the same stuffing I’ve been using for a while now; I just switch out the stockings that house it when they fall apart.
I’m not sure I realized, when my character Butt Kapinski was born, that having a cheap-and-dirty-ass costume was going to be super convenient. But it really, really is. I can roll around in it, sweat in it, wash it in a washer, dry it in a dryer, and voilà. Throw it in the body bag and hit the town.
On the touring circuit, I have friends who have been worn down and bummed out by high-maintenance costumes, costumes that demanded constant refurbishing or hand-washing or mending. It is a pain in the ass, and not what you want to be focusing on.
So I recommend the vagabond aesthetic, because it is easy and because it invokes a great tradition of schlumpy travelers going from place to place spreading laughter and joy and then getting out of Dodge or Calgary or wherehaveyou.