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The Donovan Ensemble was founded in 2005 by Johnnie Niel and Joe Kolbow for the purpose of collaboratively creating new works of live theater. The company’s work is influenced by the work of physical theater teacher Jacques Lecoq and his disciple Philippe Gaulier. In 2006 Mr. Niel and Mr. Kolbow studied in Paris with

M. Gaulier.

The Donovan Ensemble’s first project Terrible Things, was written and performed by Mr. Kolbow with guidance from Mr. Niel. The piece is a creative retelling of Mr. Kolbow’s experiences as a 14 year old freshman at a conservative Lutheran boarding school in rural Wisconsin. It premiered at the 2006 St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival and also appeared in the 2006 Minnesota Fringe.

In 2008 The Donovan Ensemble joined forces with actor/director Deanna Fleysher to begin workshopping its first clown theater piece. Niel and Kolbow originally approached Fleysher to act alongside them in the project but she quickly spotted the chemistry between the duo and demanded they create a two person show with her as the director.

The result, Super Spectacular!  To Opera with Love, 6 Operas, 2 Showman. 6 Operas. 1 Hour.

Has-been/never was actor Merril Garrick (played by Kolbow) prepares for a big comeback with the help and occasional hindrance of his sidekick Emmet (Niel). Super Spectacular! was first performed in Union City, NJ and has since performed in Tennessee, Wisconsin, New York and Canada where it was called, “A glorious, fabulous show,” by Uptown Magazine and “…absolutely hilarious,” by CBC WinnipegSuper Spectacular! was awarded

“Best in Fest” for Kansas City and Minnesota Fringe and has also appeared in New York City at Dixon Place and the New York International Clown Festival.

Philip Burgers is a London based performer currently touring his show 'Dr. Brown Behaves’. He has performed all over Europe  and Australia in cabaret's and on the comedy circuit. He graduated from Trinity College and studied at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris and enjoys gardening. Dr. Brown is the winner of the coveted Best Show Fosters’ Edinburgh Comedy Award 2012.

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Artist Core


Joe Kolbow  is co-artistic director of The Donovan Ensemble, based in Union City, NJ.  Joe created Merril Garrick for their last show Super Spectacular! Stage credits include Tina Howe's NY premiere of Skin Deep at 59E59, The Minnesota Opera,

The Illusion Theater, The History Theater and The Alabama Shakespeare Festival: Arcadia (Valentine), Comedy of Errors (Antipholus of Syracuse) Macbeth (Lennox). MFA: U of A / Alabama Shakespeare Festival, BA: St. Olaf College. Additional training includes The Actor's Center and The Wynn Handman Studio in NYC as well as Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris.

Johnnie Niel is co-artistic director of The Donovan Ensemble and created the role of Emmet in Super Spectacular!. Johnnie sang seven seasons with The Minnesota Opera, danced his way to Central America performing with dance-theater troupe

Shawn McConneloug and Her Orchestra, hoofed his way to Boston tapping with Joe Chvala and His Flying Foot Forum and holds a B.A. from Centenary College of Louisiana an M.A. in Theater /Speech from Louisiana Tech University. Johnnie also studied at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris.

Marianne Bayard studied acting at Emerson College and clown and physical comedy in Paris at the Ecole Philippe Gaulier .

Her one-person show Cher! A Love Story was a resident feature at Improv Boston’s Comedy Lab in February 2011. As writer and producer, Marianne stared in her own video short Eloise Cooks and has collaborated in many original sketches for the Boston based improv group The Line. She was seen in Beyond Therapy and True West as a Williamstown Theatre Festival apprentice and Taming of the Shrew at Ecole Philippe Gaulier. She is currently starring in the independent film Substitute Culture shot in Cambridge, MA which debuts Fall 2011. 


Deanna Fleysher is a teacher and clown. As an improviser, she has performed at the UCB, PIT and Magnet, created “Kill Me Loudly” “Foreplay” and “Echo”.  As a clown, she has studied with many luminaries including Eric Davis, Giovanni Fusetti, Sue Morrison,

Chris Bays and Bob Berky. She trained as an actor at Amherst College and in the world.

Dave Bobb has his MFA from Michael Kahn's Academy for Classical Acting from the Shakespeare Theater Company - recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award.  And he also studied for 6 months in Wynn Handman's master acting class.  Since moving to NYC, Dave has been cast by Mackey/Sandrich Casting at principle scale and shot Luc Besson's movie The Family in a scene with Robert DeNiro.   Dave Bobb is a man about town, and if you check your Facebook page most likely a friend of yours will be a friend of Dave Bobb’s. http://www.davebobb.com/