by Kate Karstens
The 10th annual Capital Fringe Festival in D.C., which kicked off last week, plays host to a variety of showstopping artists ready to amaze audiences. Among those are performances such as “#SEXTS,” “Apocalypse Meow,” and “Barenaked Comedy,” all ready to push society’s boundaries of what the performing arts should exemplify.
And yet, amongst naked comedians and cats with guns, one man is prepared for his audience to cry…from laughter.
George Mason High School graduate and Falls Church native Michael Burgos has written, produced, and will be performing his one man show, “The Eulogy.”
After a startling death from an excess of eggs, a man’s funeral seems unfit as the scene for a clown’s performance.
But Burgos pushes boundaries and portrays a character who arrives at the funeral to deliver a eulogy, only to realize his notes were anything but appropriate to the setting.
Soon he will discard these notes and go off book, only to dig himself a deeper hole, to the delight of audiences.
“You have to interact with the audience, feed off of their laughter and emotion,” said Burgos. “Silence is boring and boring is death, and because of that knowledge, I have to connect with each audience.”
Burgos depends on creating intangible balls of comedy to toss to the audience, in the hope that the audience will toss it back and develop a relationship. Connection with his viewers is key, because without which, he is simply a man on stage, speaking words into a void. He plays with the audience, rather than simply putting on a performance.
“You have to be super honest with yourself,” said Burgos, who expects the audience to be honest in return.
“Theater is a place where you get to have this magical shared experience in an intellective way and there’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Burgos’ theatrical education began with a degree in Music Business from Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he learned how to handle the production aspect of his performance.
It progressed to clowning school in France with Philippe Gaulier, and has yet to reach its end, as he continues to attend improvisation classes.
It is from clowning school that Burgos has developed the talent to make audiences laugh at a man’s funeral.
“Philippe Gaulier was like thunder being thrown into your viscera,” said Burgos, whose eyes grew wide with the mention of Gaulier, owner of the school and mentor to Burgos. “He destroys you and then you build yourself back up…teaches a really pure form of clowning.”
“It’s not about you, dummy, you’re not funny but you need to play with the audience and pay attention when they laugh,” said Burgos to imaginary aspiring clowns, mimicking his instructor’s lessons.
His first form of clowning, a relationship with the audience, took place at Mason, at the biannual junior varsity talent show. When he was a junior, Burgos exercised his talent, drumming for a student band, with a twist.
“The drummer of No Doubt was a big inspiration to me,” said Burgos. Every time the band performed, the drummer would play without pants. Burgos followed suit and as the audience roared with laughter, he didn’t miss a beat.
It seems only fitting that Burgos would return to the birth of his clowning persona to perform in the Capital Fringe Festival.
After Washington, he hopes to continue performing this piece, departing for Australia in the coming year, to Canada next summer, and finally, to explore the French circuit of performing arts, the home of his clowning education.
To enjoy Burgos’ piece before he is no longer on the continent, he will premier with a Sunday matinee, July 12, at 3:45 p.m. at The Argonaut in D.C. and will perform the following weekends, both Saturday and Sunday until the 26.