all wear bowlers

all wear bowlers draws from the world of 1930s-era physical comedy to tell the story of two silent film stars who fall off of the screen to find themselves trapped in a clown show.  Without a thought in their heads, the duo persists in trying to make sense of their situation, only to succeed in deepening their disorientation until they lose all sense of time, place and self. all wear bowlers is a two-man absurdist play that combines physical comedy routines with visual metaphor, stage magic, filmed images and vaudevillian patter in an exploration of identity and memory, nostalgia and amnesia. The pathos of Laurel and Hardy, the desolate humor of Samuel Beckett, and the quiet poetry of René Magritte collide to create a surreal world of venomous ventriloquists and belligerent bowlers.

Through grants awarded by Philadelphia’s Independence Foundation and the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, co-creators Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford have spent three years creating and workshopping all wear bowlers.  In 2003 the pair was awarded a grant to train with renowned new vaudevillian David Shiner (Fool Moon, Cirque de Soleil) and participated in the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP).  bowlers had its first showings at HERE and premiered at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2003.  After further development with director Aleksandra Wolska (University of Minneapolis, Minnesota), bowlers was first professionally produced by 1812 Productions in Philadelphia in January ‘05 and then in New York in February ’05 as part of HERE Art Center’s season, where it sold out both a full run and its six-week extension.

Production History: 
Philadelphia Fringe Festival - 2003
1812 Productions (Philadelphia) - 2005
HERE Arts Center (NYC) - 2005
Aurora Nova (Edinburgh) - 2005
Princeton University - 2005
Kirk Douglas Theatre (LA) - 2005
Genoa, Italy - 2005
Berkeley Rep - 2006
Sydney Festival - 2006
Ruhrfestspiel festival (Germany) - 2006
BIPAF (South Korea) - 2006
La Jolla Playhouse - 2006
London International Mime Festival (Barbican Center) - 2007
Studio Theatre (DC) - 2008
Emelin Theatre, Mamaroneck, NY - 2012
Kingsborough College, NY - 2012

The play’s absurdist veneer lends … familiar illusions fresh charm, and the perfectly choreographed slapstick coalesces into something delightfully darker. Rubber-faced, lithe-limbed and sleight-handed, Lyford and Sobelle are surreal vaudevillians who ply their craft in an alternative dimension.
— Los Angeles Times
Existential vaudeville. Waiting for the Marx Brothers. It’s fall-off-your-chair funny and it’s catch-your-breath moving, full of imagination, split-second timing, classic magic tricks, ventriloquism and astonishingly skilled clowning around. The brilliantly talented Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford created and perform this homage to Beckett, Laurel and Hardy, and the painter Rene Magritte. Don’t miss it!
— Philadelphia CityPaper
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the kind of daring and ingenuity in all wear bowlers in the commercial theater. It’s one more reason to feel foolish about spending money on a Broadway show.
— The New York Times


Created and performed by Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford
Director: Aleksandra Wolska
Sound: James Sugg
Lights: Randy "Igleu" Glickman
Film: Michael Glass
Film Composer: Michael Friedman
Costumes: Tara Webb
Vaudeville Consultant: David Shiner


NYTimes (2)


Drama Desk Nomination – Unique Theatrical Experience
IT Award Nomination – Outstanding Ensemble
IT Award Nomination – Outstanding Performance Art Production
Philadelphia CityPaper Best of 2003