Looking at that photo of Annie Fratellini the other day got me to thinking...
Seeing as how really good clown makeup design and application is such a difficult thing to master, and the proliferation of bad makeup design and application is such a large part of what is fueling the "scary clown" thing and killing clowning as a profession here is America, why don't we try this...
Why don't we just stop?
Why don't we ask the Shriner's to agree to stop using wearing circus makeup in parades? Why don't we ask the suppliers to stop stocking it? What don't we stop holding seminars and teaching circus-style makeup design and application at conventions?
Why don't we just stop?
We could probably end the non-circus use of whiteface, auguste and tramp makeup in America tomorrow simply by changing the WCA and COAI judging rules. Circus makeup? No trophy!
If we stopped makeup from being the very FIRST thing taught to amateurs to making makeup the very LAST thing a skilled clown EARNED after completion of training in many other aspects of performance then we might just be able to restore the public's perception of classical circus clowning.
Proper, professional circus-style clown makeup was a closely guarded secret until the advent of Ringling's Clown College. The old timers believed that if their secrets got out then everyone would be able to approximate the look of a professional circus clown and their days would be numbered.
Which is, pretty much, exactly what happened.
Which is weird because the old timers secrets were passed to the young Clown College grads who taught it to the amateurs who watered down the product to the point where the professionals working in circus today have adopted lighter makeups to better distinguish themselves from the backyard amateurs.
Which means that circus makeup, which evolved in order for a performer's expressions to more easily be read from very far away is now usually worn by people working to audiences of 20 or less, up close, in a backyard setting and lighter makeups which were intended for more intimate venues are now worn by people playing Madison Square Garden.
Since "rules" have become such a popular feature in clowning organizations in the last 30 years or so, why don't we adopt these?
1) If you are strolling, doing "meet & greet", table hopping, or performing to an audience of 500 or less, a clown should forgo classic circus makeup and wear something lighter, less exaggerated and more naturalistic.
2) If you are working to an audience of 1000 or more, or performing in something larger than a one ring show, you should consider slapping it on big and thick if you want to be seen.
Which is not to say that these rules won't have exceptions (Tom Dougherty looks quite at home on the floor in Ringling arena shows, Barry Lubin is excellent at meet and greet outside the Big Apple tent in New York) but might be adopted as a general rule of thumb.