A mime of a time: ‘Snowflake’ clowning around- 28-year-running one-man show to make final performance at Forest Roberts

Above+and+below%2C+theatrical+clown+Gale+LaJoye+employs+his+junkyard-scrounged+Yooper+props+during+one+of+his+performances+of+his+critically+acclaimed+silent+stage+comedy+%E2%80%9CSnowflake.%E2%80%9D%0A%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Gale+LaJoye

Above and below, theatrical clown Gale LaJoye employs his junkyard-scrounged Yooper props during one of his performances of his critically acclaimed silent stage comedy “Snowflake.” Photo courtesy of Gale LaJoye

Noah Hausmann

While the art of silent comedy isn’t around as much today as when Charlie Chaplin charmed film-goers, stage performer and Marquette-native Gale LaJoye has enjoyed a 43-year career entertaining audiences around the world with his slapstick mix of comedy and pathos.

This weekend, LaJoye will bring to campus his critically acclaimed, one-man-show “Snowflake,” which is an original, family-friendly silent stage comedy. The show will perform at 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday in NMU’s Forest Roberts Theatre.

In a run lasting 28 years, LaJoye has performed “Snowflake” over 2,000 times worldwide, from Minneapolis to Mexico, Scotland and Japan. Since all the acting is silent, LaJoye relies upon physical jokes, props and nonverbal communication; like the age-old skill of pantomime, the storytelling he does transcends language barriers.

“There are no words in the art of clowning,” LaJoye explained. “You keep it basic, just simple visual jokes. The simpler you are, the more emotions you can reach.”

LaJoye isn’t the stereotypical clown; he doesn’t wear tons of makeup and a red nose. What he does better resembles Charlie Chaplin’s silent films, he said, adding “there’s more depth than meets the eye.”

LaJoye’s Snowflake character is a bumbling Yooper, a tribute of sorts to a real-life, once iconic Marquette resident nicknamed Snowflake, who was beloved by him and many other community members, and who was often seen amid the city’s streets and bars, LaJoye said, adding, “I decided to place Snowflake in a homeless setting.” During the first performance in Marquette 28 years ago, LaJoye placed the real Snowflake in the front row to see it for himself. Snowflake enjoyed the show, he said.

The storyline is the heart of the show, with its ups and downs. It’s a commentary of sorts, examining themes like self-worth and what constitutes a family unit, he said, while also being aimed to entertain an audience of all ages.

“It’s pathos and comedy,” La-Joye said. “First you’re in tears, and then you laugh.

“I hope people will walk away with good feelings. It’s looking at homeless people different. Everyone has a life story and was loved by someone. They’re real people. [“Snowflake”] isn’t a homeless show, it’s just [about] a guy who lives in a vacant lot… who tries to make people smile,” LaJoye said. LaJoye studied at Northern for three years, where he found an affection for the physical performance side of theater. Then he went to mime school and clown college to learn the fine “art of clowning,” which landed him a job with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, where he rose to the rank of “boss clown” and a circus director. He eventually left the hectic circus life to focus on his one-man shows.

Being the sole performer on stage, these shows require precision, timing and endurance.

“It’s all on you. Every second on stage is you. If you drop your character for one second, the whole show drops,” LaJoye explained. “It takes a heavy art form to pull it off.”

LaJoye always wants to create new performances. The next plan on his drawing board is writing a stage memoir about his own career in circus and theater. One of the most traumatic times in his life was when LaJoye broke his neck in a car accident, was paralyzed and practiced circus skills, such as balance and juggling, in order to recover his health, he said. But now this is the final tour for the “Snowflake” show.

“It’s time to move on,” he said with a nostalgic smile. “I still love the show so it’s time.”
For students and children, tickets cost $10 in advance from NMU ticket outlets or $12 at the door, and for adults $17 in advance or $19 at door price.

For more information, visit la- joye.com.