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Preposterous Pie #4 Photo by Leslie Swan.jpg


collaboratively devised by the ensemble




Gwen Grastorf, Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Sarah Olmsted Thomas & Alex Vernon.

Set Design/Construction/Painting

Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Alex Vernon


Costume Design

Sabrina Mandell


Show is approximately 50 minutes with no intermission

“Happenstance Theater is a delightfully precise group of actor/clowns, all hell bent on making you smile.

It will be a smile that goes directly to your heart. If they're in your neighborhood, grab a friend or relative

and hurry to buy a couple of tickets. You'll be sure to have a wonderful time.”

                                                                                                                                                     -  Paul Binder, Founder, Big Apple Circus

PREPOSTEROUS! premiered in the summer of 2017 at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s 50th Anniversary featuring CIRCUS ARTS and it has been performed at The National Theater as part of their Saturday Morning family series and has toured to venues in the Northeast USA. The show is a pared down version of the award winning production IMPOSSIBLE! A Happenstance Circus about which the Washington Post said "Happenstance Theater specializes in the old skills - physical theater, clowning, mime - all served here with winking whimsy."

Imagine a circus where five clowns do it all: they're the band, the animals, the ringmaster, the roustabouts, and even the calliope!



The Circus 1870 – 1950 Published by Taschen

Here We Are Again: Recollections of an Old Circus Clown (1926) Robert E. Sherwood

The posters of Fred G. Johnson

La Strada and The Clowns Films Directed by Federico Fellini

The Circus (1928) Charlie Chaplin

Clown Scenes by Tristan Remy

“Time is a Circus always packing up and moving away.” - Ben Hecht, 1894-1964

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.” - Anatole France, 1844 - 1924

Potatoes, Potatoes. “Bulbes” Yiddish song

Solid Potato Salad (1943) Don Ray & Gene de Paul, Transcription of The Ross Sisters’ from Broadway Rhythm

Sidewalks of New York (1894) Chas. B. Lawlor

“Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don't take anything too seriously, it'll all work out in the end.”

                                                                                                                                            - David Niven


Mark Jaster (co-Director/Ensemble) is Artistic Co-Director of Happenstance Theater with the abstract subtitle, “Structure & Ground.” He has co-directed and appeared in all Happenstance productions since its founding in 2006, winning Theatre Washington’s Helen Hayes/Robert Prosky Award for his performance in Impossible! A Happenstance Circus in 2016. He studied mime with French masters Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau, and served as Mr. Marceau’s teaching assistant in a 1980’s series of seminars in Michigan. Performance credits beyond Happenstance include 35 years as a featured act at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, 20 years with the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Unit, many years as Drosselmeyer in the Maryland Youth Ballet’s Nutcracker, performances with the Washington and Cambridge Revels, and frequent collaborations with world-class musicians: the late great jazz bassist Keter Betts, Celtic Harper Sue Richards, and Piffaro, the Renaissance band. He teaches frequently in artist residencies, theatres, and academic programs and has served as mime and movement consultant for many DC area theatres, including The Shakespeare Theatre, Ford’s, Round House, Theatre J, Olney, Constellation, Adventure Theatre, Imagination Stage, and Baltimore’s Center Stage.


Sabrina Mandell (co-Director/Costume Designer/Ensemble) is the founder, Artistic Co-Director, Executive Director, and “Visionary Tornado” of Happenstance Theater. Sabrina has written, produced and performed prolifically since the company's founding in 2006. She was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in 2017 and has won two Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Costume Design. Sabrina performed for 10 years with the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Program in DC and Baltimore and has taught Theatrical Clown and Physical Comedy at the Shakespeare Theatre DC, Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, Round House Theatre, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She is also a poet, visual artist, graphic designer and vintage clothing enthusiast.


Gwen Grastorf (Ensemble/Social Media Maven) is a performer and actor based in the DC metro area. She has been devising with Happenstance since 2009 and has been a company member since 2012. She is also the Social Media Maven for Happenstance. Gwen has worked elsewhere in DC with Constellation Theatre, Faction of Fools, Taffety Punk, Washington Revels, Rorschach Theatre, and the Tarot Reading. Gwen was raised in Frederick, Maryland, and got her degree at the University of MD, College Park. 


Sarah Olmsted Thomas (Ensemble/Minister of Thoughtfullness) is a fifth generation performing artist. ​In 2012, she joined Happenstance Theater with whom she has devised 10 full length productions. Sarah is also half of the Jim Henson Foundation awarded puppet theater company Alex and Olmsted which has played Symphony Space in New York as well as festivals in Denmark, South Korea, and Canada. Sarah trained with the Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Le Samovar, École de Clowns, in Paris. B.A., Sarah Lawrence College.


Alex Vernon (Ensemble/Tinkerer Extraordinaire) has been a Happenstance company member since 2012. He is an actor and puppeteer whose previous work has been seen with Constellation Theatre, Pointless Theatre, Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre, WSC Avant Bard, and Washington Revels. He is also the other half of Alex and Olmsted, with which he creates original puppet works that have toured internationally.


Happenstance Theater, winner of 5 Helen Hayes Awards has been called “DC’s leading peddler of whimsy” by the Washington Post.



Are you inspired?




Happenstance Theater is a fiscally sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Your donation helps us continue to make shows like PREPOSTEROUS!




OR send check/money order made payable to ‘FRACTURED ATLAS’ with

‘Happenstance Theater’ in the memo line to: Happenstance Theater

12718 Veirs Mill Rd. Rockville MD 20853



The Share Fund, Morgan Fund at Seattle Foundation, Nora Roberts Foundation, the Charles Hazlehurst Moura Family Foundation, Baltimore Community Foundation, Marilyn Meyerhoff and Sam Feldman, Nancy Rodriguez, April & Jerry Blum, Sharon Crissinger, Leslie Swan, and Karen Hansen, and to all those who have donated to Happenstance Theater through Fractured Atlas.

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