As the lead clown in San Francisco's Pickle Family Circus, Joan Mankin consistently pushed the character of Queenie Moon to the riotous edge with pratfalls, emotional explosions, wild juggling, overblown vanity and uproarious unpredictability. Ever nimble, Mankin the actress also portrayed serious characters in the theater repertoire—Chekov, Stoppard, Shakespeare—even while bringing her sharp comedy to the public with the San Francisco Mime Troupe or Make-a-Circus.
Any clown can tell you that it's not all laughter and fun behind the makeup, and Joan Mankin has unfortunately been dealt a one-two punch. Diagnosed with both ALS and dementia related to Alzheimer's, Mankin is in need of help. To paraphrase It's a Wonderful Life, no one is poor who has friends, and naturally, Mankin has many. This week, they take to the stage in The Queenie Moon Conspiracy, a benefit for the beloved actress.
Geoff Hoyle, Marga Gomez and Lorenzo Pisoni are part of the show, as is Diane Wasnak, Queenie Moon's longtime partner Pino.
Company Cirque en Déroute, Sara Moore, Sharon Lockwood, Michael Sullivan, Calvin Kai Ku, Tristan Cunningham, David Roe, Ross Travis, Kelly "Texas" Holly, Andrea Snow and Emma Mankin are all on board, too, and Mankin herself is slated to appear.
Two clowns on stage Sunday night will be instantly familiar: David Shiner and Bill Irwin, the stars of Old Hats, currently running at the Geary Theater. The Tony Award winners were last seen at the Geary in Fool Moon, 13 years ago, and the two have made a grand return in a run that's been extended through Oct. 12. (Trivia: that's Irwin with Robin Williams in Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" music video.)
With a nonstop program of musicians, clowns, actors and friends, The Queenie Moon Conspiracy is a rousing night for a good cause.