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UI junior fosters clowning passion

BY JULIA JESSEN | DECEMBER 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Circuses and clowns terrified Alex Zaprudsky when he was growing up.

"I had this huge fear of everything," he said.

Now, years later, his phobia has transformed into a passion for clowning.

The University of Iowa junior and communication-studies major decided on his clown career in eighth grade while taking a mandatory careers class with a teacher he didn't like.

"So [the teacher] goes, 'Zaprudsky, what do you want to be when you grow up?' " Zaprudsky said, his voice taking on a deeper, more menacing, quality to mimic his less-than-beloved teacher.

Zaprudsky told him he wanted to be a clown. At the time, he was joking to get a few laughs from his fellow classmates and infuriate his teacher.

The teacher accused him of making a mockery of the class and informed him that he couldn't make any money as a clown and that he was being foolish.

"That just gave me more reason to want to be a clown, so I just did it to prove him wrong, and from that it just blossomed into what I do now," Zaprudsky said.

He started out doing small birthday parties and other events around his hometown. He took some classes but is mostly self-taught. Eventually, other organizations started to hire him to teach at different workshops, conventions, classes, and lectures.

Zaprudsky said his favorite thing about clowning is meeting new people and interacting with them.

"That's one of the reasons I do it, you affect someone," he said. "When they see you, you make their day brighter."

Last summer, Zaprudsky utilized his communications skills in the circus world by working for Circus Smirkus, a youth circus in Vermont as its public-relations representative. He wrote a daily blog, updated the circus' social-media platforms, and acted as an on-site contact to answer questions while the circus went on tour.

Zaprudsky said he was jealous of the performers but enjoyed being able to connect performers with the media.

Zaprudsky also does public-relations work for two of his mentors: Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs.

Copeland said Zaprudsky possesses talents needed for clowning, such as a good sense of humor and great personality.

"The only limitation to how far you can go is yourself," Copeland said. "And he's got the talent and the drive to go as far as he wants to."

Another person who is sure Zaprudsky will find success is his mother, Audrey Zaprudsky. She said her son always had a flair for performing since the days he would make up plays at holidays and give each family member a part.

"Whatever he puts his mind to, he will succeed at, and if he wants to be a clown, then he'll be a great one," she said. "Whatever he sets out to do, he usually accomplishes."

Zaprudsky, who puts hours of time and effort into his clowning, said the result is an expression of his raw emotions, using all of himself.

"It's like taking me and pouring my insides out, just dumping all of me out for everybody to see, so it's just emotionally and physically exhausting," he said. "But it's very rewarding to be able to express yourself so much and have other people appreciate you for being you."


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