Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) [in Theater Arts]


Theater Arts




Herb Gardner -- 1934-2003 -- Thousand clowns



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, 53 [1] leaves)


The project chosen for partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Teaching in the field of Theater Arts was the production of Herb Gardner’s comedy, A Thousand Clowns. This particular play was chosen because it met production requirements more closely than any other script considered for the project. The project involved, after selection of the script, casting the characters, a six-week rehearsal period, consulting with the technical staff on matters of lighting, setting, and costumes, four performances at the Portland State College Idea Theater, two performances at the Oregon State Penitentiary, and the compiling of a complete Play Production Book which describes all phases of the production. Existing standards of play direction and projection book composition were observed throughout the production period. Special emphasis was placed on each actor’s development of his character, remembering that an educational theater situation is also a learning situation for all concerned. Character relationships became extremely important to the sense of script, as the play is actually built on a series of character sketches in which we see many contemporary American types. The play’s conflict is seen through character and is obvious from the first few lines of Act I. Murray Burns has made his value judgments on American society and has found the latter to be far below his expectations. He is now attempting to live by his own eccentric rules and, at the same time, retain custody of his nephew, who is in the process of being removed from his home by the Bureau of Child Welfare. Into this theme of individuality versus structure is woven the familiar boy-meets-girl pattern. The entire play, consequently, depends on character and inter-character relationships. The play’s pure entertainment value was stressed, rather than any moral message which might have been present in the script. The play is funny, but there are definite deficiencies in the areas of plot development and the play’s philosophy. The purpose of the production was to present consistently a humorous, enjoyable evening of theater for the audiences and a beneficial learning situation for the actors, director, and production staff. After several casting difficulties and minor technical slow-downs, A Thousand Clowns enjoyed near capacity houses at P.S.C. and an extremely warm reception from the members of Oregon State Prison’s Upward Bound program. The show increased in effectiveness at each performance. Character came through to the audiences. Serious pace problems involving quick timing from beginning to end were solved. The actors did the work themselves. They improved their craft and learned and benefitted from this experience. From the director’s standpoint, the experience was enjoyable and profitable, provoking new ideas and calling upon new methods to work them out.


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Portland State College. Dept. of Theater Arts

Persistent Identifier