Be a Clown: Bill Irwin's Mr. Fox: A Rumination Conjures Forgotten American Actor

News   Be a Clown: Bill Irwin's Mr. Fox: A Rumination Conjures Forgotten American Actor
Bill Irwin's new work, Mr. Fox: A Rumination, an exploration of the life of American pantomime star George L. Fox, opens April 13 as the final show in Signature Theatre Company's all-Irwin season.
Bill Irwin in Mr. Fox: A Rumination
Bill Irwin in Mr. Fox: A Rumination Photo by Joan Marcus

The piece, directed by Signature artistic director James Houghton, continues to May 16.

The world premiere focuses on the popular 19th-century actor known for his wildly famous Humpty Dumpty show. Fox, part of a theatrical continuum that includes Irwin, is all but forgotten by modern audiences.

Calling the show a rumination allows Irwin a lot of room to create the space, mood, action and story he wants. Irwin paints his face white, powders it down and jumps into the Fox's world, full of backstage tensions, racial ironies, financial risks, artistic rivalries (with his brother, no less) and cutthroat producers. Irwin purposely rejects the idea of a well-made play to create the sort of energy that was so abundant in the days when "entertainments" dominated live pop culture in the United States.


Performances play the Signature's Off-Broadway home at the Peter Norton Space, 555 W. 42nd Street in Manhattan. Performances began March 24. The first two productions of Signature's Bill Irwin were The Harlequin Studies and The Regard Evening, and both were extended due to popular demand.

According to production notes, Mr. Fox: A Rumination "is a reflection on the life and work of one of theatre's most celebrated clowns, George L. Fox (1825-1877). Fox delighted audiences from the Bowery to Broadway with his raucous and ribald performances, but he could not escape his greatest success, the white-face role of 'Humpty Dumpty.' Mr. Fox: A Rumination is one clown's rumination on another, on the life of a performer, and on the act of performance itself."

The cast includes Bianca Amato, Jason Butler Harner, Geoff Hoyle, Marc Damon Johnson, Peter Maloney (playing famous 19th century showman Augustin Daly) and Richard Poe. Set design is by Christine Jones, costume design by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward, lighting design by James Vermeulen, sound design by Brett R. Jarvis.

Music for the production is by Loren Toolajian.

Single tickets for Mr. Fox: A Rumination are priced at $55. For subscription and ticket information, please call (212) 244-PLAY. For additional information, visit

Bill Irwin in <i>Mr. Fox: A Rumination</i>
Bill Irwin in Mr. Fox: A Rumination Photo by Joan Marcus
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