Clown spreads message of perseverance on show

A love of circus clowns and children’s television shows led Rachel Einglett Elliott to create “Calliope,” a goal-oriented clown who stars in a weekly show of the same name that airs on WCAG-TV 33 in LaGrange.

She and her producing partner, Jack Bagley, a schoolteacher, collaborate on each show’s message.

Elliott, 38, who grew up in Cataula, lives in Pine Mountain, with her husband, Terry Elliott, and her 16-year-old son, Aaron McSwain.

She is an artist and performer, often taking on historic roles at the Little White House.

“I went to college to be an art therapist,” Elliott said. “When I was young, I would pretend to have my own talk show. Now as an adult, who would have thought that I’d be doing this?”

How and when did you come up with the idea to do this show?

Last year for my birthday, my husband, Terry Elliott, wanted to do a something a little different. I love the circus and had never seen a really big circus, so we decided to go the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Atlanta. I went dressed as Raggedy Ann. I thought to myself that I might like to do this on the side. After I made that decision, I decided to do a children’s television show. Jack Bagley, my partner, pitched the idea and, boom!, “Calliope” was born.

How did you meet Jack?

I was just starting Scottish country dancing. We became dance partners and here it is, six years later.

Which children’s shows did you grow up watching?

I was coming up right at the end of “Captain Kangaroo.” For me, it was “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street.”

Who are the writers on this show?

Jack and I both collaborate. He puts it in television script format. I tell him what elements I want, what the lessons are going to be and who needs to be involved.

What kind of clown training have you had?

None. I’ve just always loved clowns.

Why are some people terrified of clowns?

I think maybe it’s the external, exaggerated makeup. I like the balance between realism and surrealism. I use regular stage makeup. I don’t do the typical clown makeup. I have not had children afraid of me.

Who is Calliope?

She is a bumbling, stumbling clown who wants to join her Papa’s circus, Calico Alley. She has friends who help her. In turn she helps them. There’s always a lesson with threads of perseverance. It’s a reflection of my own life. I’ve had fifty jobs from Burger King to being a bookkeeper. But I’ve found the calling. I’ve been on stage since I was 7 years old. My mother has always said I was dramatic.

How did you come up with the name Calliope?

I’ve always loved the name. I’m a poet and she is the muse of heroic poetry. Calliope means “beautiful voice.” And the calliope organ is the instrument predominantly played in the circus.

Who made the costume?

I came up with the design and found a pattern, then I altered the pattern. Linda Parsons, who owns a shop, sews them. I find the fabrics and then I accessorize the costume. I make my own headpieces and I do my own makeup.

Do you have guests on the show other than the puppets?

I had a juggler, Todd Key, from the Atlanta Renaissance Festival. He helped Calliope, of course, But she needs to keep working on it?

Can you juggle?

No. I keep trying, just like Calliope.

How many episodes have you made?

We have 23 finished and we’ve got three more. And we’ve been renewed for another season which starts in September.

What’s the response been like?

We’ve received warm response. In an e-mail through the TV station, a grandmother watched the show and loved it. She said she can’t wait to watch it with her grandchildren. Another woman applauded the station that carried wholesome programming. We’ve gotten some response from Columbus. Everything’s been a blur; it’s coming so fast. From the time it was conceived, to the time we aired the first episode, it’s been six months.

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