News Column

She's not just clowning around

June 25, 2014

By Kelly Ardis, The Bakersfield Californian

June 25--Going to the circus is exciting for any child, but the awe induced by the clowns, acrobats and animals usually lasts no more than a couple of weeks.

Not so for Holly Kapler, 18, who after seeing the Ringling Brothers circus at age 11 decided she'd found her life's calling. She described the show as "the most amazing thing I'd ever seen."

"It was absolutely spectacular. It was thrilling and beautiful, funny ... I knew ever since I wanted to be a clown. It's what I was meant to do."

Last summer, Kapler attended Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp in Minnesota for the first time, working with top clowns in the circus industry, who gave her the encouragement to keep going.

"(I got) more tips than you could ever use in a lifetime," Kapler said of the weeklong camp. "Anything you want to know, they'll teach you."

But Kapler said she needs another visit to Mooseburger in July before auditioning for the Ringling Brothers in August. Unfortunately the recent high school grad doesn't have the funds to send herself, so she's asking for help, via an online fundraising campaign on the Indiegogo website.

As of Wednesday at noon, she's raised $695, about 36 percent of her $1,950 goal. The campaign closes Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. Rewards for funders include an autographed picture ($20), a juggling lesson ($150) and the chance to throw a pie at Kapler's face ($100). If she doesn't meet her goal, donations will not be refunded.

Attending the camp isn't required to audition for Ringling, but she noted that three of the eight Mooseburger alums who auditioned for the famous circus last year were hired. If she is able to go to camp this summer, Kapler will take more advanced courses to prepare her for her August tryout.

"It's never been harder to get into (the circus industry) than it is now," Kapler said. "People are doing more training, at younger ages."

Being a good clown is an art form, Kapler said, and it's a lot more work than people realize. But Kapler, who just graduated from Liberty High School with a 4.0, knows all about hard work. Her dedication to clown arts has made her proficient in many clown skills, including riding a unicycle.

"It takes a lot of falling off," she said. "When I first rode it, I felt on top of the world."

Some things are harder to master than others, though. Juggling took Kapler six months to learn.

"It doesn't come naturally to me. Then I learned the Chinese yo-yo, and it comes much more naturally."

Over the years, Kapler has refined her makeup and character; she said it's now pretty much where she wants it to be. The makeup is simple but exaggerates her eyebrows and lips, while highlighting rosy-red cheeks.

Sural, Kapler's clown character, does some of the typical falling-down and acting silly, she said, but is still intelligent. Sural is "me, just amplified."

As Sural "I feel confident," Kapler said. "It's a completely different side of me -- the performer side of me. It's a lot more fun and easy. I move differently, I talk differently -- everything about me is different.

"When I'm not performing, I'm shy and reserved; I don't talk much," she continued. "When I'm performing, I'm constantly making jokes, I'm not so soft-spoken."

For Kapler, being a clown means making people happy. She wants to spread joy and awe as a clown the way those in the Ringling Brothers' circus did for her seven years ago. Still, she knows clowns sometimes don't have the best rap.

"When people think of clowns, they think of (Stephen King's villanous) 'It,'" Kapler said. "But (clowns) are more human than human, and they have hearts the size of Texas."

Getting to Mooseburger will help Kapler's dream of performing with Ringling Brothers, but if she can't raise the money to attend, she won't give up hope. She'll audition for Ringling in August, and if that doesn't work out, she'll attend Bakersfield College in the fall, while working on her clown skills and preparing for the next audition, even if it's not for Ringling. But a job as a local clown won't cut it for Kapler.

"I know a lot of really good birthday clowns, but my dream is the circus."

Kapler said her friends are impressed every time they see her perform a skill. Her parents are also supportive of her dream.

"My dad thought it was a phase, but seven years is a long phase," Kapler said. What changed his mind was "the fact that I'm very dedicated, working very hard on it and making a very strong effort to do this. If it makes me happy, (my parents) want me to do it."

Her mother has seen all this hard work, too. Yevette Kapler said she's proud of her daughter and likes the idea that Holly could help people through laughter. She also remembers the circus that started it all seven years ago.

"I could see how she could get swept off her feet -- it was a good show," Yevette Kapler said. "When we went, I never would have thought all these years later she would still be interested."


(c)2014 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)

Visit The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters