Sunday, February 12, 2012

Clown Summit 2012 (part one)

This past week I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to the 2012 Clown Summit. This was a series of interviews broadcast over the internet. Each day a different clown educator was interviewed. These interviews burst with amazing views on the clown, but it wasn't limited to just the clown. The beautiful thing about each interview was how it would drift from the clown to art in general, theatre in general, or what it is like to LIVE as a human being and how studying the clown opens these doors.

Here is the website for the clown summit: Clown Summit You can purchase the interviews from the week. They are all inspiring. Each person had a passion and love for their work and in educating us on their clown work. I could hear the love they have for this subject pour out of the speakers. It is inspiring and empowering.

I do have a few notes from each speaker. But for the full experience, I HIGHLY suggest purchasing the interviews, they are worth every penny!

WARNING: this entry is fairly lengthy. I will do my best to keep it interesting...but it is about how can be anything BUT interesting, right?

p.s. I am going to break it up into two parts!

Sue Morrison 
Sue Morrison was the first clown educator interviewed. Here is a little blurb about her from her website: Sue Morrison

Sue Morrison has been teaching, directing and collaborating on Clown and Bouffon across the globe for more than 20 years. Her students are currently featured in Cirque du Soleil, Slava's Snow Show, Blue Man Group, Second City and on other international stages. Sue trained with Second City and Keith Johnstone and performed improvisation throughout Canada and later became a Second City main stage writer/performer.

On a 'quest to work from her heart', she met Clown through Mask visionary Richard Pochinko, and after working with him for many years, he asked her to be his apprentice. Today, Morrison's unique and powerful work brings together the diverse elements of Native American and European Clowning, Bouffon, le Jeu, and Improvisation, ultimately creating dynamic performance spectacles. Sue has been Artistic Director of the Theatre Resouce Centre since 1993. She has taught at the dell'Arte School of Physical Theatre, and works regularly with the LUME company of Brazil. During the past 3 years, she has been a presenter at International Theatre Conferences in Brazil and Argentina. The Bravo Arts Channel aired 'Burnt Tongue', directed and co-written by Morrison and her work has been the focus of several international documentaries.

Sue collaborated on 'Absence of Magic', which was acclaimed by Time Out NY and the Village Voice. Other recent works in NYC include John Brown theatre's, 'The Bastard American Show', and creator of the popular bouffon, 'Red Bastard'.

GREAT QUOTE: "Clowns are the children of the Thunder Gods"
She said she works from her heart and not her head to be funny and wants to work in a way that feeds her soul. She said that she wants to have a profundity and to have the audience walk away with something. This is one of the reasons, she explained, that she started clowning.

She explained that clowns work for the delight. They are the connectors between the gods and people and they serve a bigger purpose. A clown doesn't have to be stupid. They serve as a release. They break the tension. The show us that everything is sacred and nothing is sacred, because nothing is sacred to the clown. (How beautiful)

ANOTHER GREAT QUOTE: The world is happier after the terror of the storm. 

She said that the gods sent the clowns to learn how to live on the earth and to break the tension from ritual. They are here to allow people to have a release and thus, transforming them. They relate and reflect humanity and help us accept our humanity. The clown is a place you work from, it is not a style. Masks are to be revealed through and not to hide behind. Masks are to help articulate what we cannot express. If it is something coming from you, someone in the audience will feel it and relate to it too...they will put their own personal story. Being able to laugh at ourselves is a moment to moment learning experience. If you are continually dealing with what is happening in the will transform your piece rather than take you out. Shows are constantly evolving, if you want a show to always be the same, make a film.

YET ANOTHER GREAT QUOTE: Clowns live between thought and action, panic and possibilities, tension and the fact that anything can happen.

We are potentially capable of anything at any moment, let's not limit ourselves.
Clowns remind us of our own limitations by always saying "Yes", by being present and available.

Clown is important because it allows for everything and DEMANDS EVERYTHING. so, WHY WOULD I NOT WANT TO DO IT?

You need people to love you as your clown [on stage], you are taking them into their lives and their memories and engaging them as individuals. Make people feel like they were seen. In our world of mass marketing people crave to be seen as individuals.

Clown can't stop - it'll stop when people stop.

ADVICE: take the clown work into other work you do. There is a level of accountability with the clown: am I working THROUGH, am I in conversation, DO YOU SEE ME, and I SEE YOU. ARE YOU DOING OR ARE YOU BEING? Build on what feeds you. What do you want to have happen? Keep a committed vision for yourself. Participate in their reality.

A Clown is the silence between the notes in jazz, clown is in Chekov. Clown is in everything.


Joe Dieffenbacher
Our next clown interviewee! Here is a blurb about him from his website: Joe Dieffenbacher

Joe Dieffenbacher is a former circus clown and elephant jumper, physical comedian and master teacher in the art of Clown, Mask Performance & Design, and Slapstick. He has taught  at the Dell’Arte School in California, Teater Studion in Stockholm, the Belfast Community Circus, and universities in North America and Europe. He is the co-founder of theater company Nakupelle, based in Oxford, England, touring Europe with their original circus and mask-based theater shows.

Our modern culture is cynical and aggressive. Clown engages with the world, is curious about the world, and laughs at things. While stand up comedians point their fingers at the person who falls, the clown is the guy who takes the fall. People recognize their own struggle in the clown and are sympathetic. This is what the world needs now and why clowning is so important. 

He said said that the magical thing about the clown is that you remember the spark, then once you are in the world, you seek to find more magic. You seek to find connection and transformation in the audience and world. You develop a clown consciousness; you are more aware of the universe you live in relating to the world. 

Find the game. Walk out onto the stage and play a game with the audience in any rold. . This is how clown work blends into the world of other areas of theatre. In clown work, anything can happen. However, it is individual to each person. It comes from their sense of play and their struggles. Clowning can include anything. You never know what is going to inspire you, so you MUST always be open. There is a shamanistic element to the clown; the transformation.

Ask yourself: I am growing, but is my work growing?

Book: the Death and Ressurection show.  
Circus Center  (clown conservatory)

Ronlin Forman 
with Joe Krienke & Gabe McKinney  

For those who have been reading my blogs, know about a couple of these guys. They are the brilliant director and professors at Dell'Arte. I spent a month studying under them this summer and they changed my life. I am forever grateful for them. 

If you are interested in reading more words of wisdom from these wonderful artists any of my entries from the summer will be full of pearls. 

Blurbs from the Dell'Arte website:  Dell'Arte Website

Ronlin Foreman joined the full-time faculty of Dell’Arte in 2002 after a 20-year association as a master teacher. His career in theatre began in 1976 and encompasses areas of performance, playwriting, directing and teaching. As a performer, Ronlin has received numerous awards including Alliance for Arts in Education and Solo Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His solo works include Pigeon Show: a Play of Fools; A Happy Fellow; Images; Adagio; Terre a Terre; and Donkeys, Donuts, Feathers and Floats. He has been a featured performer at the Lincoln Center in New York, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and Danceworks of Toronto as well as at numerous national and international movement theatre festivals. Ronlin’s teaching credits include work with graduate programs at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, the University of Tennessee, Memphis State University and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Undergraduate teaching positions include residencies at Austin Peay State University, Towsen State University, Dordt College and the University of Ohio. Ronlin also taught at Ringling Bros.Clown College and has conducted workshops and lecture demonstrations extensively both nationally and internationally. In 1991 he was invited to participate in the Playwrights Laboratory at the Sundance Institute. As an author and director of devised works, he has collaborated on many solo and ensemble projects including Fool and Angels for Touchstone Theatre and The Fool of Roseles which received Best Play and Best Director awards from the Memphis Arts Council. Other directing/coaching credits include: The Visit at Washington’s Arena Stage, The House of Bernarda Alba at the Center for Creative Arts APSU, Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale at Touchstone Theatre, and Virtual Reality with K de Calle Theatre Company in Zarragoza, Spain. He is the director of the Dell'Arte Company's 2009 production, Inverted Alba: Fable & Roundelay After Images of Garcia Lorca.  Ronlin has a BFA in Acting/Directing from the University of Southern Mississippi. He trained in Mime and Physical Theatre Styles at The Valley Studio and was trained in Performance/Theatre Dynamics at L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France. 

Joe Krienke has been a member of Dell'Arte's core faculty since 2006 after several years as a guest instructor specializing in acrobatics and clown, and five years as a faculty member in MFA Actor Training Program at University of Missouri at Kansas City. Joe has toured nationally as a clown with the New Pickle Circus, and as a puppeteer with Tears of Joy Theatre. Some of his original works of theatre include: Whatnot!, a hybrid of clown, puppetry, and mask- parts of which were seen at the Here Art Center in New York City; Bluff, a clown play that premiered at Dell'Arte's 2001 Mad River Festival; The Barnabies Five, a clown play featuring an eccentric family of traveling musicians; and most recently, Three Trees, a clown play performed as part of Dell’Arte’s 2010/2011 season. Joe is a Dell'Arte graduate, has trained at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, and is a certified teacher of the FM Alexander Technique. 

Gabe McKinney: Graduate of Dell'Arte International ('10), Guest Faculty, University of Western Kentucky 

Ronlin started the interview with a little bit of his background and how he came to be in theatre. He said what drew him to theatre was the provacative nature of the deep empty space before the people and filling the space was his great provication. 
He was drawn to the clown because as the clown, no one could call him out on being a 'fake' becuase that was him. 

The benefits of studying clown for the actor is the vulnerability and availability the actor gains. A vulnerability and availability to play directly from a personal place to the audience. The actor is one who takes on the other. An actor is transformable. How I give myself to become this other: wear another mask, change of person and personality, change of center of gravity, change in tempo rhythm.

A clown does not derive from plot or story, it is it's own self and full in it's own self. A clown an active engagement of personal character. 

We cannot know ourselves by ourselves, in society we then discover how we function. We get to know our clown more when they can interact. They are great then self. 

One beautiful new idea Ronlin brought up was a different look at the concept of suspension of disbelief.  His view is an abject rejection of it and that is it is an invitation to believe. What the audience sees is what is happening, but we can move reality into poetic dimensions. (I love how he and the faculty of Dell'Arte turn what we think we believe upside down to bring clarity on a subject. They tear down the old mindset we have and break away the chains we have as the viewpoints instilled in us...only to set before us a new point of view. It is beautiful) 

GREAT QUOTE: The audience should run out of the theatre laughing and screaming saying "I want to be as real as the clowns"

The nature of the imagination: no one creates anything. We find and discover, the creation has already happened. We are to be journey-ers, provokers, inspirer-ers, and discover-ers. To move from solid to spirit. 

People gravitate toward clown because it is an accommodating figure, it is non-threatening. A performer should not be ashamed to be in front of people. Performers hide behind misguided masks: they want to say something, but are ashamed of where they are, afraid of being revealed, afraid of being vulnerable. Fear can be a conduit to show what courage is; shame to show humility. 

The awakening of the clown is similar to that of awakening the conscience mind. When the masks are gone, who are you. 

ANOTHER AMAZING QUOTE: Laughter is a river of living water flowing out of the soul of a person. 

SO MUCH AWESOME! SO, to wrap up this section I have some AMAZING NEWS! Three Trees the AMAZING clown play from Dell'Arte is looking at touring 2014. For those who do not know about it here is a link to a past blog Three Trees explanation I had the wonderful opportunity to see it when I was at Dell'Arte this summer. I HIGHLY suggest looking into booking them, or if you know anyone who has the authority to do such a thing, PLEASE let them know. Or if it is coming to place near you GO SEE IT. It will be one of the best shows you will ever see, I guarantee it. Clowning at its finest. Joe Krienke is one of the clowns (on the far right). If you are interested, here is the website Dell'Arte. It'll help you navigate to where you need to go. Or I can help you as well!

Three Trees 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

UR/TA Experience

The past couple weeks have been consumed with thoughts of The UR/TA Auditions. Dun dun dunnnn. For those who do not know what UR/TA is, it is basically a cattle call audition for grad schools.

Here is a better explanation of what they are and purpose they serve taken from their website: UR/TA website

The University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA) advances theatre by connecting educational theatre programs with professional theatre and performing arts industries, promoting professional practices and artistic excellence in higher education, and assisting students with their transition into the profession.
U/RTA is the nation's oldest and largest consortium of professional, graduate (MFA) theatre training programs and partnered professional theatre companies. U/RTA provides a variety of services and informational programs to its members, and to non-member students, theatre professionals and producing companies.
Services include the U/RTA auditions (NUA/Is), which assist theatre artists (actors, designers, directors), stage managers and administrators pursuing professional training at graduate programs. The U/RTA Contract Management Program (CMP) is the largest not-for-profit contract management service of its kind in the country.  In addition, U/RTA maintains important agreements with major theatrical unions that provide contracts for use by universities and other institutions in employing professional artists.

Pretty cool, right? There is  a long list of schools that are UR/TA members, but not all grad schools attend this audition either. This is just one of the many ways to be seen by grad schools and to start marketing yourself. One of the coolest things i found about this audition, was that auditions for undergrad programs were also going on. It was awesome to see so many people who are interested in theatre and passionate enough to put themselves through one of the most nerve wrecking three minutes of their lives. Those high schoolers, although none of them knew it, inspired me so much. They inspired me to just keep plugging forward and to BE HAPPY. I just wish I could have inspired some to NOT wear heels because they had a hard time walking in them.

So, here is a brief run down of how the audition process went down. If you have any questions, please email me! If you are at all interested in going through this process, I do not want you to go in blind!

Signing up: The form is online and extremely simple. You have to name a nominator and a coach that you will be working with, name your school, and everything else that would go on a normal application. And then you pay. That's all. I signed up on the last day which was mid-December. Start looking when the Fall Semester starts. There are limited spaces, so look early...I was EXTREMELY LUCKY I received a slot. You will then receive a bunch of emails and a packet of information in the mail from a woman named Sara Falconer who HAS to be a superhero. She was amazing. She is similar to a stage manager who not only coordinates the Chicago audition, but the Los Angeles and New York ones too. There was a mix up on my original application that I emailed her about and she responded almost immediately and fixed it! SuperWoman. The packet you get and emails you recieve are so very helpful too. It lays out the schedule for the week, places you can stay/eat at, and some Do's and Don't's in regards of what monologues to do, whether or not you should sing (very much encouraged NOT to), what to wear, etc. They lay everything out for you.

Pre-Audition: The auditions this year in Chicago were in the Palmer House Hotel. I am not sure if it is there every year or not, but it was a super nice hotel close to Michigan Ave. The people there were nice and tried to be helpful. A few times, I got lost in the labyrinth of the hotel and had to ask a lot of questions...I got a couple blank stares and some people had NO clue WHAT I was talking about, which made for some funny conversations. I always found where I needed to go and had a good chuckle and adrenaline rush along the way! So, my advice: get their early so you have time to explore and find out where you need to go. There is an orientation at 8:30am on the day of your audition. Here they explain EVERYTHING to you. How the day is going to go, more Do's and Don'ts, and where to go to see your results.

Audition: Ok! So, the AUDITION! Here is the thing, there are several rounds to the audition process. The first is the screening audition. You audition in front of two screening judges. These judges decide whether or not you get passed on to the finals. At the finals you audition in front of tier one grad schools. I am still unsure about how they rank the schools....but that's that. You have three minutes to introduce your pieces and perform them. They do cut you off, if you are over. The stage managers I found were all really nice and encouraging. They tell you in the orientation that these judges WANT you to be THE ONE so they are totally on your side from the second you walk in. And I really felt it.

My audition was very quick. As soon as orientation was over, I checked in, they called my name and I performed. That was it and it was perfect. I didn't have time to scare myself or overthink things. It was really nice! You have to do two pieces: one classical piece and a contemporary. I did one from Othello as my classical piece (although you CAN use other classical playwrights, not just Shakespeare) and one from Love Song.

After your audition you are free to go. There are schools all around the hotel. The majority were undergraduate programs, but there were a number of grad schools there too. They had flyers and info packets everywhere. Some of the schools had walk in auditions. You can sign up and audition for them. Some of them cost money though. I spent the time after my audition looking around and auditioning for three different schools. A couple schools worked with me; gave me adjustments, talked through my pieces...or had me sing (woof). Two then had an interview with me, where we talked through my resume, why I wanted to go to grad school, they talked about their programs...and one asked me why I found myself in theatre and why I love it (BOY did he get a passionate earful).

Results: SO...after a day of marathon auditioning, we all gathered together to get our results. We each received a comment sheet where the judges made comments on our audition pieces and other things they saw as well as whether or not we advanced to the finals. If you do not advance, you automatically are registered for the Open Call. Open Call meets the same day as the Finals and gives you the opportunity to audition for many different grad school representatives at once. The finals and open call were held the day after the screening audition.


Scramble: So...I MADE IT. However, I was totally unprepared. I didn't have a hotel room, any change of clothes, anything to shower was a mess. But on the happiest day of my life, it didn't matter! After talking to Steve Snyder and my Mom I came up with a plan. I got a room at the hotel the auditions were being held in and made a trip to Walgreens. That night, I ran and ran and ran my monologues, trying to keep the adjustments I was given and comments in mind. 

Finals: ....were terrifying. We had an orientation in the morning again. But this time in a smaller room with far less people...and a lot more eyes. We walked through the space which had a nice stage set up and bunch of chairs. This time after the orientation I had about 3 hours to wait. I walked around the block a bunch of times warming up and running my monologue. I then spent some time in the building playing the ukulele and hanging out with my friend who came for moral support. When I went in to the auditions I felt good. Nervous...and maybe they got the best of me...but I felt like I did what I needed to do and the best I could have in that moment. Most of the people in the finals were older then me and really good, but I hope I at least held my own. 

I talked with a couple schools afterward, passed out headshots/resumes and came home. It was a long two days....and it was hard to believe it was only two days. I have my eyes set on a couple schools...and hopefully they have theirs on me, so now it is just the lovely waiting game.

UR/TA auditions were an amazing experience. Even if the only thing I got out of it was the opportunity to perform several times...THAT in itself made it worth it. Being surrounded by people who are passionate made it worth it. Seeing the different paths that are available to me made it worth it. 

I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support. If anybody has any questions or wants advice on the process and weekend, please shoot me an email. I would love to help you out! 

OH! and UR/TA isn't just for actors, but for designers and stage management as well! 

.....and in the spirit of putting myself out there and trying to get my name and face out in the is my headshot and resume! Please pass it along to anybody who would like to cast/enroll me! ;@)