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All City Hall is a Stage for Group

Mike Frassinelli
Morning Call

Handing out 99-cent bills with Al Gore's likeness, a hardy band of 'political street theater' actors dressed as Buddhist nuns and monks serenaded befuddled passers-by Tuesday at city halls in Bethlehem and Allentown.

'When Buddhist nuns/gave lots of cash/at that temple/campaign bash/ it didn't seem like funny money/when Buddhist nuns gave lots of cash,' sang Jack Clayton to the tune of 'When the Saints Go Marching In.'

His monk getup -- orange sheet and nylon made to resemble a bald head -- was a not-so-subtle reference to a 1996 Buddhist temple fund- raiser attended by Vice President Gore. Tax-exempt religious organizations such as the temple are not permitted to give political donations.

Two women from the conservative Public Advocate group of Falls Church, Va., dressed as Buddhist nuns, while another man wore a Gore mask. A fifth group member drove the van and sweet-talked the police who stopped by Bethlehem City Hall.

Other than the police and the press, the group didn't attract much attention in Bethlehem.

The group targeted Gore, President Bill Clinton and even Republican U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Specter was on their satirical hit list for voting for a hate crimes bill the political theater players dubbed the 'Thought Control Bill.'

Clayton said all murders should be treated equally, regardless of race or sexual orientation.

Not surprisingly, the group has a song about the bill that sums up its feelings. Dressed up as thought control police in English bobbie outfits, they sing (to the tune of 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly' from 'My Fair Lady'): 'Oh, wouldn't it be lovely/pass my bill and you're my slave/thought control is what I crave/that is why I rant and rave/ oh, wouldn't it be lovely.'

The group performed Monday in Philadelphia and today is set to play in Scranton. The week will continue with performances in Altoona on Thursday, Pittsburgh on Friday and Harrisburg and Lancaster on Saturday.

'It's all thought out very carefully,' said Mark Roberts, who donned a Gore mask and handed out a 99-cent bill -- 'not worth a buck' from the 'Embarrassed States of America.'

Clayton, 60, hails from Mt. Vernon, Va. , 'home of a real president,' he tells you.

He was asked if, like Shakespeare actors in the Globe Theatre, his group has ever been pelted by objects from a rowdy crowd.

'I can't think of anything actually thrown, other than the hate epithets,' he replied.

The group, founded by conservative Eugene Delgaudio of northern Virginia, shows up in key cities in states it deems important for elections.

'People are really curious,' said Alysia Brown, a computer programmer from Alexandria, Va., who dressed as a Buddhist nun.

The actors often write the songs in the car on their way to Capitol Hill.

'We don't have to write a script,' Clayton said. 'The script is written for us by the...White House.