Featuring: Geoff Hoyle
Directed by: David Ford
When: January 23-March 1, 2014
Where: The Marsh Berkeley Main Stage, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley
Tickets:$25-$50. Call 415-282-3055 or visit www.themarsh.org.
'Geezer' at The Marsh
Geoff Hoyle started to develop "Geezer," his very funny and often poignant one-man show, in 2010.
"I was starting to feel older' the first line of the show," he said during a recent phone call. "I was starting to think, 'How much time have I got left?'
"This is the fine print in the contract of life 'Caution, may cause getting elderly.'"
A few years later, at age 67, Hoyle is reviving the show at The Marsh Theatre in San Francisco, running September 18 through October 26, 2013. Update: The show has moved to The Marsh Berkeley, running January 23-March 1, 2014.
Hoyle is renowned worldwide as an actor and physical comedian. With training in his native England, and with mime master Etienne Decroux in France, he has developed an idiosyncratic blend of British music-hall style and mime.
On the West Coast, his accomplishments are legendary, and include working as one of the original clowns of the Pickle Family Circus, work with Teatro Zinzanni, appearances in shows he wrote (including "Geezer") and theatrical work at Seattle Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, La Jolla Playhouse, Stanford Summer Theatre, and at Berkeley Repertory.
In New York, he originated the role of Zazu in Julie Taymor's highly successful and Tony Award-winning "The Lion King," has starred on European stages and English streets, and appeared in Robert Altman's unusual movie musical, "Popeye."
He's a very funny fellow and a constant performer.
When I called him, a woman answered the phone. I thought.
It was Hoyle, imitating the voice of his wife, poet and educator Mary Winegarden. During our almost hour conversation, Hoyle used dozens of voices. It was fun.
But, back to this getting older thing.
"Eventually, you start to get it," he said. "Part of that American optimism is that denial of death.
"I thought, as a fool or a jester, as a comedian, as a speaker of truth, I needed to wave that fact a little more clearly in all our collection faces. We need to be confronting the problems of the Boomer generation, putting more thought into the problems. .... give fulfillment to an aging population. ...
"And do that not in a dry, National Science Foundation mental health thesis, but do it comically, which is what the profession I am loosely affiliated with should be doing."
A question, he pointed out, is "Who will take care of us, besides us?"
Hoyle, who developed "Geezer" with David Ford, who also directs it, said, "I don't feel old, but definitely feel different from when I started doing the prat falls, the back handsprings.
"I have good stamina and energy, which sometimes astounds me, doing this two-hour show.
"I'm in pretty good shape, knock on wood.
"Apart from things I don't know about."
And, he is enjoying doing the "Geezer" show again.
"Yeah, it just gets better. We refine it, make snips, add things. I'm more comfortable with letting it rip."
Working for the great and creative film director Robert Altman, he played "Scoop" in the movie "Popeye," which starred Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, along with Hoyle's Pickle Family Circus pals Bill Irwin, Larry Pisoni, and Peggy Snider (credited as Peggy Pisoni).
"Bill Irwin was a key hire for that movie," Hoyle said. "He knew and was plugged into the entire circuit of alternative performers in San Francisco."
I am one of the few people I know who love that movie, I mentioned.
"It's a kind of like a cult for the initiated, the aficionados," Hoyle said. "People either love it or can't stand it. It's got its pluses and minuses.
"It was great working with Altman. He was very hands off, although he was very much sort of a guiding hand. He wanted to elicit anything he could from us. He set up a situation where you felt you had to rise to the challenge of the setup.
"We all rose to it ... He did things so assuredly, with such pace and style, I thought, 'I can't let this guy down.'"
It was while working on "Popeye," on Malta in 1980, that Hoyle's son Dan was born. The younger Hoyle has followed dad into the biz, writing and performing in his own one-man shows, including "Tings Dey Happen," about Nigerian oil politics.
In a 2008 interview with Steven Winn of the San Francisco Chronicle, Dan Hoyle said, "I have a lot of pride in continuing the family business. I've learned a ton from watching my dad. He imitates everything. I do people. He does dogs and plants everything."
Hoyle's other children are Jonah, a teacher in Oakland, and Kailey, a restaurateur in Paris.
Winegarden is why Hoyle, born and raised in England, came to the United States.
"Cherchez la femme," Hoyle said, explaining why he moved, in 1973. "I met my wife in London, working in the streets. It was like busking, but more legitimate. A non-profit community arts program, working with children. She came on late to the program.
"Then she wanted to go back to America. And I wanted to see America. I wanted to see if my suspicions were accurate," said the man who was born in 1946, in tough times following World War II. "That it was extravagant, wasteful, naive, Polyannaish ... and scary, with undercurrents of horrific racism.
"And all that was pretty much confirmed," Hoyle said, "but also there was massive optimism. .. For an English person after World War II, the Cold War, the cold weather, I viewed it all with suspicion, because America is so big, and has so many resources."
These days, Hoyle at age 67 is drawing from Social Security and three pension plans he's at least comfortable so mostly looks to do work he cares about.
"I mostly work in live theater," he said, "The poor relative in entertainment. I don't go to New York for film and TV work.
"If you really like the work, you're probably not going to get paid much. ... I'll take a high-paying job if I can, but my real work happens in small theaters.
"Recently, the last few years, I am less interested in what's going on in major theater. I feel like it is less commentary and more marketing.
"The cultural community is what is interesting to me, the mirror to life."