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Pies are round. Determining the surface area of a pie involves application of the Euclidean formula: Pi (3.141593...) times the radius squared (pi R squared). However, Pi: The Physical Comedy Troupe is not square; they're six hip clowns. And they're coming to perform a show called Slices for All at the Arcata Playhouse.

Now based in San Francisco, the troupe first came together a bit further down the coast. "We were all students at UC Santa Cruz; we started the group there," said Pi managing director/clown ringmaster Andrew Quick. "Once we graduated we all moved to San Francisco and went to clown college. From there we just kept performing together."

Humboldt connections abound: Ace juggler Tyler Parks is originally from Fortuna; clown Bruce Glaseroff is from Arcata, the son of Dr. Alan Glaseroff and Humboldt County Public Health director Dr. Ann Lindsay.

And, said Quick, "The school we went to, Clown Conservatory, is kind of a sister school to Dell'Arte." (To be precise, they were trained in the clown program in the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, which evolved out of the Pickle Family Circus School.) 

Pi is what you might call a fringe troupe. They won a "Best of the Fringe" award at the San Francisco Fringe Festival a couple of years back and just returned from the Berkshire Fringe Festival in Massachusetts, where they debuted the Slices for All show.

Quick sees Pi as more theatrical than most clown/circus companies. "We're definitely theatre artists who've gotten into the circus; that's how we're different from most other clown troupes. We're more based in theatre and we use circus skills of juggling, acrobatics and things like that in our theatre shows." 

The material is aimed at an all ages audience. "We like to say it's for kids ages 3 through 99," said Quick. "Kids like it, but some of the jokes land harder on adults because they get the subtext, the overjoke."

And the new show, what's it about? Quick hesitated at the question then repeated it. "What is it about? Well, we examine the world we live in through a lens of wonder. We kind of travel and explore the absurdities of life while we show the circus skills.

"I'm the ringmaster clown working with three other clowns and we have two stagehands. So, some of us have red noses, some of us have no makeup. That's part of the show: We have the clowns, but the stagehands -- who are not in makeup -- are really the clowns of the show. So we're exploring the different ways one can be a clown.

"It doesn't always take a red nose or a bright-colored wig. No big costumes. No oversized shoes. We play off what we already have, our own vulnerabilities. We put that on stage and make it bigger. We're exaggerated versions of ourselves."

Pi: The Physical Comedy Troupe presents Slices for All one night only, Friday, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m. at the Arcata Playhouse, 1251 9th St. The country blues band Back Seat Drivers (including Drs. Glaseroff and Lindsay) opens the show with a short set. Tickets are on a sliding scale $10-$15, and can be reserved via email at [email protected]. For more on Pi: The Physical Comedy Troupe go to

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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