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The Emmett Kelly Story



His silence spoke to a nation!


     As the audience enters the theatre lobby they are greeted by the uplifting sounds of a calliope and the smell of fresh popcorn. As told through compelling narrative and sound effects, the play’s expressionistic set is that of a vintage circus ring and the backstage area known as Clown Alley. The playing area is enclosed by canvas sidewalls from which various images are projected. Through vibrant and hauntingly beautiful circus music, personal and period multimedia imagery, inventive use of puppetry, voice-overs and simple props such as his costume trunk, the life, thoughts, fears, emotions, triumphs, and heartache of this amazingly humble artist are expressed for the audience to treasure.


     From humble farm boy beginnings to international fame, his genius and ingenuity came in the simplicity of his comedy. The honest, heartfelt sentiments he conveyed in the character he created, known as Weary Willie, were expressed without ever uttering a single word. It was the character’s silence that spoke to a generation of Americans and the story of “Willie and Me, In The Spotlight Again” gives new voice to a humble and common man, a father, husband, and the most famous circus artist ever to grace an arena. He changed people’s lives through the honesty of his character and the affirmation of the human spirit and his name was Emmett Kelly, Sr. 


     “Willie and Me, The Emmett Kelly Story” is the loving portrait of the man behind the makeup and how his life experiences were the genesis of his character, Weary Willie, told in this 90-minute bio-drama.


     Using carefully selected moments from his amazing life we pull back the circus canvas in metaphoric juxtaposition to the romantic and often harsh reality of the circus. The show recounts the relationship of a celebrity father to his children and family while maintaining a career that often took him away from the home he loved.


     These stories were collected and adapted from a variety of sources including interviews, personal accounts, letters, television, and film appearances. Throughout his career, Emmett traveled through Depression-era America with some of the most famous circuses while achieving a fame he never dreamt of.


     Emmett’s life story is delivered through unique storytelling and multi-media experiences making it a distinctive theatrical experience.  His longing for a place to call home, the loss of traditions, aging and work versus being with his family all shaped the psyche of a man who captured the hearts of the world with luminous hope. This is no more apparent than in his most famous “sweeping the spotlight routine” which is the finale to the play and the only time the actor turns into his character of Weary Willie.

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