Jan. 23 --It's not that Russell Taylor dislikes planning meetings, business suits and daily tasks. It's just that his preferred ritual begins when he punches out of his 9-to-5 life and transforms into Satori Circus, the character in white-and-black clown makeup who will commemorate 25 years as a performance artist with two shows Friday at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts . "It's always easy once I'm out of work," said Taylor, 53, who has enjoyed the nine years he has worked as a graphic designer at Gyro Creative Group in Detroit , but yearns for a life that would allow him to focus on performance and still pay all the bills on time. "Still trying to figure that part out. Maybe that'll happen over the next 25 years?" said Taylor, the do-it-yourself Detroiter whose choreography, poetry, music and comedy musings -- and signature clown makeup -- have provided the foundation for one of the city's most popular performance artists. "You know, the more Russ is in control, the more Satori Circus goes bonkers," he said. "I'm going to do what I need to do. And I'm not about to stop." Taylor isn't thinking about the magnitude of his two DFT shows or that Satori Circus is probably Detroit's longest-running performance artist. He has laundry to wash and props to consider and dress rehearsals to run through with a handful of beloved creative collaborators before Friday. He acknowledged that the DFT event will be special -- "one of his biggest" -- but as far as attendance goes, he's quick to point out the "insane" number of people who were at the Fillmore Detroit in October 2010 for the annual underground Halloween masquerade, Theatre Bizarre: "That was one huge show, just filled with people." Chris Jaszczak , owner of 1515 Broadway , said that he recognized Taylor's talent back when Taylor was in the art-punk band Fugitive Poetry in the 1980s. 1515 Broadway is a theater, cafe, studio, coffeehouse, meeting hall and longtime Satori Circus performance rehearsal space. "He's an incredible Detroiter and gifted artist, and even though he doesn't need it or ever really want it, it's nice that he's finally getting the recognition he deserves," said Jaszczak, who will be at the DFT with his 14-year-old son, Max, a huge fan of Taylor as a person and performer. "He's so talented and was doing things in Detroit that hadn't been done," Jaszczak added. "He could've easily been a star in lower Manhattan in the mid- to late-'80s with people like John Zorn and Laurie Anderson . He would've fit right into that downtown art scene." Act II: Taylor's divine comedy Born in Detroit , Taylor said as a youth he was a "spaz" who could always find some trouble. While attending Fordson High School in Dearborn , Taylor said he was a weirdo-hippie who rocked the long hair, hip-hugging pants and polyester shirts. "I'd wear three-piece suits without any socks or a shirt and people would say, 'You're a freak,' " he said. "No, I was a stoner and a weirdo." Influenced by his mother's beatnik past and authors J.D. Salinger, George Orwell and John Steinbeck , Taylor learned he had a passion for writing. Soon -- without any musical training or vocal coaching -- he began playing in an experimental art-punk music-poetry band called Fugitive Poetry with Rick Maertens . "I don't remember all the details of the show, but I remember this performance they did, a spoken word fund-raiser or something, and they just had these incredible visuals," Jaszczak said. "Russ and Rick, they wore all black, a typical theatrical device, and they connected their arms together while singing this song. And the way they moved their decorated arms and the lighting, it appeared that they created this large mouth and the mouth was singing the lyrics to the song. It was remarkable." Maertens, who was diagnosed with bone cancer, died in 1988. "I didn't know what the hell was going on or what I was going to do," Taylor said. "I think I cried nonstop for three days straight when we buried him." At the Michigan Gallery in September 1988 , Taylor debuted Satori Circus, a fearlessly entertaining creature of the night influenced by music, poetry, art, film, props, costumes, characters, vaudeville and more. "There are no limits with Satori Circus," Taylor said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to create my art, my project, and I'm going to do whatever I can for people to see it. Most of my writing deals with identity. I feel like (the Who's) Pete Townshend . I write about things I get affected by daily, and Satori, by acting dorky or quirky and singing a certain way, adds a lightness to that darkness." Act III: The show must go on Joe Van Bael , owner of the Tangent Gallery/Hastings St. Ballroom , said he has gotten to know Satori Circus and Taylor's alter-ego lounge singer Conrad Lee well over the past 10 years. And, whether he's laughing at Satori's 10-minute Beyonce Super Bowl spoof or moved by a thought-provoking performance piece, he says that Satori's talent is undeniable -- and that his heart might be even bigger. "I could imagine there would be lot of highs and lows since he started, but I can't imagine him thinking of it in that way," Van Bael said. "I've had an opportunity to get to know him and he's just this unique, beautiful person." Stein McGee said that it was easy to rely on Satori Circus to host her first two fashion-show and experimental performance art productions last year at Tangent Gallery/Hastings Street Ballroom . "He's a regular bag of tricks," she said. "And a total pro. I don't have to call him every day with all my new ideas. He just comes to the next meeting with this packet of printouts he had of our previous conversations ready to go. He helps any way he can." For Friday's "63 Mins (Of Random Balance)" shows, Satori Circus welcomed the opportunity to work with Brian and Dave Dambacher , the two brothers who helped with music and other elements of "Funy As Hell," the 2007 original production in which Satori, inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy," visits purgatory, paradise and hell. A third brother, Scott Dambacher , also will appear onstage, as will Lushes LaMoan, the burlesque beauty who recently worked with Satori on the raunchy spoof that took aim at Kanye West's "Bound 2" music video. "It's a real big honor to be asked by him to be part of such a huge production," said LaMoan. "I'm so proud of him for this anniversary show and I want to make him proud onstage. He gives me a lot of hope as a performance artist." Taylor said the past few years have been good, and this weekend's celebration should be special. "There will be glimpses of what Satori Circus was like in the '80s and '90s with these way low-techie props and low-techie lights. One of the ideas is what will Satori be like being able to use all these new, expensive instruments at the DFT? I don't know, but I bet it's going to be fun." ___ (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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