David Shiner loves to make people laugh but he takes the art of clowning seriously. “In essence the clown is a character who helps us keep in touch with the sacred part of ourselves,” he explains. “It’s a difficult part to play. At the core of the character is longing and the wish to find meaning in life.”
David Shiner, who is best known as a clown, started out as a street mime in Paris and his career really took off in 1984, when was discovered at the renowned circus festival Cirque de Demain. He went on to perform with a succession of well-known companies including the German troupe Circus Roncalli and the Swiss National company Circus Knie. Between circus engagements he toured with Cirque du Soleil veteran René Bazinet performing the two-man show they created.
David’s first formal association with Cirque du Soleil came in 1990, when he co-created and performed in Nouvelle Expérience, touring for 19 months throughout Canada and the USA. Thanks to such antics as stepping through, on and over much of the audience and his classic improv-based staging of a mock silent-movie melodrama with four members of the audience, he is probably the best-remembered of Cirque's clowns. The production was filmed for HBO in 1991 and his other television performances include numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. His most recent Cirque engagement was as the Writer and Director of KOOZA in 2007.
David made his feature film debut in 1992, playing the part of a clown in Lorenzo's Oil, and the following year he played straight man to Bill Irwin in Sam Shepard's Silent Tongue. He and Irwin then created the two-man wordless show Fool Moon, featuring music by the Red Clay Ramblers. This evening of ‘inspired lunacy’ ran from 1992 to 1999, including three separate runs on Broadway. Fool Moon won a special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Presentation in 1999, a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, and an Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award.
In 2000 David originated the role of the Cat in the Hat, the host and guide of the Broadway stage musical Seussical. With the support of a grant from the Pugh Foundation he went on to develop a show at Seattle’s ACT Theatre and later adapted part of that show for his one-man production David Shiner in the Round.
“Banana Shpeel is pure, fun slapstick,” says David Shiner. “There are certainly elements in Banana Shpeel that are recognizable from vaudeville, especially in the eccentric dance, singing and great clowning. But while the content may draw upon the traditional form, the approach we’re taking is very modern.”
David was born in 1953 in Boston, Massachusetts.