Once a month on a Sunday afternoon, Dick Monday’s Irving home goes from a quiet, suburban residence to a circus. Literally.
Monday directs and hosts a new, monthly vaudeville-style show at Pocket Sandwich Theatre with his wife Tiffany Riley called the Hopped Up on Goofballs Cabaret, and he holds rehearsals for each new show on the freshly varnished floor of his living room.
A typical Sunday means a bizarre collection of sound effects including shoes tapping on hardwood floors, ukuleles being tuned and vintage music bookended by the annoying voice of Siri, the iPhone “helper.”
When they're bringing a new show to the theater, like the one they'll premiere at 7:30 p.m.Tuesday, Monday and Riley hold these rehearsals once a week.
“It’s all based on variety entertainment,” Monday says, sitting in his living room, which is filled with circus artifacts such as huge trunks that double as travel bureaus and circus and show posters. “The circus arts are making their way back up in the Dallas area.”
Monday has dedicated his life to studying and performing the circus arts. The Columbus, Nebraska, native attended the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Clown College before becoming its official director in 1994. Then in 1999, he moved to New York to open his own school and show in an Off Broadway theater that became the New York Goofs, a collection of circus artists, jugglers and musicians.
Monday’s group toured all over the world and even performed on stages at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, but in 2005, when Monday and Riley had their second child and things started to get tight, and it had become harder to “get people to go downtown to the theater,” the circus family packed up their trunks and moved down to our neck of the woods.
Monday’s collective still tours and performs, but here at home, they get to do the show they dreamed about when they taught themselves how to juggle and do handstands as lonely teenagers. Each edition of the Hopped Up on Goofballs Cabaret is an entirely new show.
“I do love the challenge and danger of doing new material,” says Monday.
Their last rehearsal featured an interesting mix of juggling, acrobatic and musical acts, but nothing that would reveal the trick behind the curtains to observers or non-show folk. I had to nag to get Riley to explain an interesting chair trick, and even then she would only give me a little hint. I’m not going to repeat it because I feel bad for nagging.
The rehearsal begins as soon as the other cast members knock on Monday’s door. It starts with “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” by a ukulele trio of Kirk Marsh, Shawn Patrello and Monique Abry, and discussions about light rigging. Kelli Ramazino, half of the husband and wife juggling duo Julio and Kelli, warms up by doing handstands on the hardwood floor. Lily Monday, daughter of Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley, walks into the room and looks at Ramazino as though she’s seen this scene in her home a zillion times. It's like the family dog jumping on the couch.
Lily and her brother Chet also perform in the show. They sing, play instruments, dance and even rap, and the Goofballs show is only one of several they perform in.
“It’s never dull,” Riley says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We come from performing families, and with this show, we’ve found a way to make a living at it.”
Every Goofballs show is a collaborative effort and anyone can suggest ways to tweak any act. Julio and Kelli’s two-person juggling routine is more than just two people keeping six clubs from hitting the ground. They also tell a story with their talent, and variety performer Kirk Marsh suggests a funny way for Julio to get an extra laugh by catching a club between his legs.
Monday even helps Kelli and Julio develop the emotions of their juggling characters. Singer and dancer Monique Abry says the acts are rooted in experience with improvisation and theater.
“We always use improv as the basis for the clowning we do,” Abry says. “We show that physical comedy is a beautiful art form.”
Of course, the only way any show can work is if the people on stage are having fun, and by the end of the rehearsal, the entire cast is on their feet and dancing in unison with big smiles on their faces.
“It feels great,” Julio says. “This is a very unique experience. It’s very goofy.”
The Hopped Up on Goofballs Cabaret returns to the Pocket Sandwich Theatre with a brand new show at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 6.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE...
Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune,Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.