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 clowns...so how can be anything BUT interesting, right?
p.s. I am going to break it up into two parts!
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 moment...it 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.
DO NOT TRY TO BE FUNNY. DO NOT LIMIT WHAT THE CLOWN IS SUPPOSED TO DO OR NOT SUPPOSED TO DO.
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.
Book to read: CLOWN THROUGH MASK
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)
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!