the Face of Convention
Little "Mayor Yo-Yo," a 4-year-old cancer patient, took charge of the fourth floor at the Seattle Children's Hospital in Washington. With an excited "whoop!" she informed her neighbors when the clowns arrived and shared gossip with any doctor or nurse who would listen. Yo-Yo had been at the hospital long enough to know the jester's shtick, so when a silly song was repeated or a dorky dance redone, Yo-Yo crossed her arms, gazed sternly at "Dr. Pozzo" Luongo, and asked, "Haven't you got anything new?"
Luongo performed in his share of plays in Oberlin's Hall Auditorium before moving his talent from the raised stage. "I became interested in theater that happens outside of theater," he says, "like story telling, street performing, and the circus." He paired with friend Sam Schneider '93 to create the "Plum Loco Circus" during their senior year. A one-ring thesis of sorts, it featured acrobats, jugglers, and lots of fire.
After graduation, he and Schneider hit the road. It was a comical sight, their six-foot unicycle strapped to the roof of a late 1970s VolksWagen loaded with juggling equipment. They street performed from Boston, Massachusetts, to Missoula, Montana, and along the way, Luongo married Obie classmate Amanda Garris '93.
When their van blew up in Seattle ("the largest one-car fire Seattle had seen in 15 years"), the team decided to settle down. Hospital corridors have become Luongo's office space, where with bubbles and fiddle in hand, he enchants the young patients. With a 9-year-old blind patient, he and his partner became especially creative and improvised a rainstorm using a whistle and rattling metal. Luongo sometimes drops the act--especially around older teens who think clowns are a drag--but in the end, silly routines prevail.
"I didn't know this would be such a great performance experience when I started," Luongo admits. "But it's been rewarding beyond belief. I've been doing this peculiar circus thing for a while; this distant cousin of traditional theater. It seems like a comfortable area of theater for me to keep exploring."