• I wrote this show as a way of dealing with my younger brother’s suicide at age 13. I had discovered the power of art in dealing with my own deep depression as a young person, and decided to create a show around art beating death. You don’t usually think of puppets and clowns and suicide all at once, but this show helped me to articulate my own survival after losing my brother.
  • Story: Black nose clown Pasqual is late to catch the Circus Train and the abusive Ringmaster is ready to leave without her. As she frantically packs up her cluttered  tent, she unearths memories of her painful childhood as the Baby in the Punch and Judy show, and her many challenges as a young clown growing up in the Circus. Each painful memory invokes Death, who appears in various guises, enticing and encouraging Pasqual to end her life.
  • However, being a clown, Pasqual is not successful with her many suicide attempts: trying to shoot herself in the head only results in her catching the bullet in her mouth, and trying to beat herself in the head with a bat doesn’t work either, as she of course only has a clown bat.
  • Eventually Death appears with a red rose, and the two of them tango around the stage. Pasqual takes a giant circus rope up the stairs, and seemingly finally successfully hangs herself behind a shadow screen. Death dances a victory dance, until… the screen falls and Pasqual is revealed, sitting on a swing with an accordion! She begins to play a crazy clown jig, in harmony with her younger self on a miniature accordion…which effectively finishes off Death once and for all.
  • Sold out houses and an extended run at Bindlestiff Studio. All of the puppets have made multiple appearances over the years, but the show has never been remounted.

Venue and Dates

  • Bindlestiff Studio, San Francisco, 1997


  • written, designed and performed by Chrystene Ells
  • puppets and set by Chrystene Ells
  • Additional Puppeteers: Mark Hidzick, Lorna Velasco

All of the beautiful photos are by Rocky Heck