And So Came the End of the First Day…

It was a long day, but did not seem long at all.  There was so much to take in that every moment was trying to expand to be a sponge to get as much in as possible.  So many of the exercises were action based that it wasnt hard to do the action part, but the responding part was alien.  I have worry about some things, such as when Dick Monday says that things like timing can’t be taught.  What if I can’t figure them out?  I am realizing how important this is to me, to succeed.  And I am realizing I am going to find out dramatically, and unequivocally if I can do this or not.

Ate a rotten supper at TGI Fridays.  What indifferently placed crap on a plate that was.  I am going to stick to buying supper food at the delis in Manhattan during lunchtime and just tote it home in my handy Marks & Spencer sling shoulder lunchbag.  (Only 10 pounds – money that is, from Kettering UK)  This way I can just relax in my great room at the Awesome B&B after class, and eat, read, nap, study, whatever.  No extra walking or stair climbing involved.  I got a great assist in maneovering all the luggage through the subways to Brooklyn from Carl Jones staying at same B&B.  An awful lot of stair climbing to commute in NYC.

I signed up for the Wednesday nite performance.  Although I am totally clueless on what I will do, I figure this is why I came to get help on “what to do”.  If I don’t put myself out there, I won’t get any feedback.  Random ideas on the piece – something to music?  -something about the hole in the floor? – give Polonius’ speech from hamlet to the big flower prop? – give a speech that the clown keeps forgetting what to say?

A Red Nose Doth Not a Clown Make

First Day of Clown School
Our schedule
Introduction – D. Monday
Movement – T. Riley
Character – L. Pisoni
Scripts – D. Monday
History – H. Burgess

MOVEMENT {Day One, Session 1} Tiffany Riley
The movement session consisted of warmups taken from a whole variety of sources and cleverly modified and combined by Tiffany Riley to take into account the incredibly diversity in our physical abilities (and limitations)  It is pretty amazing – Tim is here taking the course with one lower leg in a cast.
We did some exploratory walking on different parts of the feet.  Then came what I’ve termed “The Name Game”.  Going around the circle, each person states their name and performs an action of an activity that they like to do.  The next person repeats the name and action of the first person, and adds their name and action.  And so on.  Aha – using kinesthetic and verbal intelligences to introducing names.  (and it worked – quite often in first few days I would remember the action for the person, and then the name would come)
Lastly, we began learning the Charleston dance steps.  So far so good.

CHARACTER – {Day One, Session 2}taught by Larry Pisoni of Pickle Family Circus.  He actually started the circus up.  A daunting idea, that.
He distills the clown process into four steps: Observation – Experience – Reflection – Manifestation/Presentation … and then the cycle begins again.
The qualities a clown has to work with are their own, which can be gender, ethnicity, age, etc.  The goal is to create empathetic moments where others can relate to the clown’s experience.  It is not going for “funny”.  “In my class, you can’t do anything wrong.  Surprise yourself.  Surprise those you work with.  Surprise me.”

Exercise 1 – Relationships [partners]
Variation A: From opposite sides of the room, walk forward with eye contact until foreheads touch.  Then circle around each other, and walk backward looking at each other.
Variation B: Same as before, only part touching is forehead.  One partner needs to touch, the other doesn’t want to.  However, you are committed to walking forward.
Like his process, first we experienced (did it).  Then we reflected (discussed).  Observations on this exercise were the choices in strategies that could be chosen such as approval/disapproval, tension/release, dominant/submissive, initiator/follower, etc.  And to think about what this says about how people are together.  Most emphatic observation: TAKE YOUR TIME.  First rule of improv:  Always say “yes” to those you work with, even if script calls for saying “no”. 

Exercise 2 – Opposition-Tension. [partners] [participants given “secret” instructions]
One person is uptight and trying not to laugh – the other is laughing and trying to make the other laugh.   You must make sure that you are seen by your partner.  You must make sure the audience feels “seen” as well.  Have to give some time to establish chemistry with audience.  Have to give them the chance to take in what is happening.

Exercise 3 – Infection [partners] [participants given “secret” instructions]
pair begins with back to audience.  They turn, giving big smiles and serious eye contact.  First one yawns, then the other, then both yawn. 

Traditional European Clowning Trio
Leader – “White Clown”, the alpha clown, like a rooster is always posing, costume traditionally from the Pierrot of Pantomime Theater
Anarchist – “Auguste Clown”, the instigator, rebel, rule-breaker, etc
Mediator – (sometimes called the contra-auguste) – seeks approval of white clown and dominance over auguste clown

Exercise 4 – [three] [this was demonstrated by Hovey, Dick & Larry]
Three enter and stand in a row.  By mien and body posture, identify the three clown archtypes.  Walk in a circle, see if roles change.

SCRIPTS – {Day One, Session 3} Dick Monday
Music can be quite inspirational for improvisation, character, movement etc.  Nino Rota is one composer for “clown music.”  It is important to begin by forgetting our individuality, and do group things to “turn up” our listening and perception.

Exercise 1 – Walking [entire group]
Begin with random walking and no eye contact.  Then walking and talking and/or clapping.  Then walking in jello.  Then character walking in jello.  Then walking as felines.  Then walking through minefield.

{some stuff }

Exercise 2 – Aquarium [entire group]
Entire group in diamond shape, begin “swimming” in unison with the person on point being the leader.  On the leader’s direction, turn 90 degrees, and then the new “point” becomes the leader.  Continue.

Exercise 3 – Attitude Party [People in sequence]
First person is alone on stage.  Is the “host”. Sets the scene. First “guest” knocks, bringing a “dish” with distinctly different attitude, which then the host takes same attitude.  Second guest knocks and enters, with different attitude, which all take on.  Continue. 

Children entertain visually, adults are more engaged intellectually.
Creating and/or obtaining focus is most important.
There are some problematic choices on stage – sitting down loses energy.  Closing eyes breaks audience contact.

Exercise 4 – Machine [Sequential people]
First person enters and begins a repetitive motion.  Second person enters and “adds on” with a different motion to the Rube Goldbergesque “machine”.  Continue.   We did to a maximum of about five participants.

Clowning is telling stories clearly.  You must be vulnerable to be affected.

Exercise 5 – Theme Animatronic [Groups]
Store window figures – themes – snowfall, wedding

Exercise 6 – The Expert Talker [Three]
Variation A: Sitting in a row of three chairs.  First person says one word, the next says the next word in sentence, and so on and so, on to create the narrative improv one word at a time
Variation B:  One person is given the theme of their expertise, and audience asks them questions which they have to answer.
Variation C:  The Man in the Middle.  Three people, two expert talkers in different subjects on either side of neutral party.  Goal is for expert talkers to gain interest of the man in the middle.  We analyzed the tactics that the expert talkers could use to gain attention such as volume, gesture, rhythm.

You have to let go of “you” – and find the rhythm between the players. 

Homework:  Identify ten (10) tactics for persuasion that can generate a lot of action.

HISTORY – {Day One, Session 4} Hovey Burgess
Clown Characters in History
All cultures have had the role of clown – it may have had different functions though. SW Pueblo peoples – holy clowns eg.

Greek literature – Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus

Italian Renaissance – revival of play writing after Dark Ages – and evolution of Commedia Dell Arte – root of all clown archetypes in Western culture.  He talked about example archetype characters such as Il Dottore, El Capitano, etc.  Arlecchino was a second Zanni, while Brighella was a 1st Zanni – an instigator.  Then there was Pedrolino – “little Peter” with whiteface and costume that evolved into Pierrot and Petrouchka.  He was a baker’s assistant and had fallen in the flour – that is why the one archetypal clown has a white face.

The Grimaldis – aprx 1779-1837  Giuseppe Grimaldi and Josef Grimaldi born in London.  Stage Pantomime in Pantomime Theatre age.  Josef Grimaldi’s clown was a little boy that had gotten in a jam jar – big red mouth.  Also blue mohawk hair and “+” on cheeks.  The circus term “joey” for clown, comes from Joseph, eg Joseph Grimaldi.  Showed George Cruikshank illustrations.  And stamps from Gibralter that have clown history. 

Grock – real name ADrian Weltock 1880-1959.  Swiss. Retired in 1954.  Started as Brick & Brock, which became Brick & Grock, and then just Grock (with no name partner).  He was insufferable to work with, but brilliant and eventually gave no billing to the partner(s) he worked with, because he cycled through so many.  Grock wore a skullcap to be bald on top, with dark circle eyes and hobo-ish mouth.  White tux shirt and bowtie.  Illfitting overlarge white vest.  Oversize plaid or black jacket/long coat.   

{check out notes – add info if necessary}

Going to Clown School

I was very anticipatory arriving at clown school.  I packed huge green suitcase which just barely fit in train luggage compartment.  I also took smaller traveling luggages.  I went directly to the Flea Theater downtown from Penn Station, con todo mi equipage.  It was a larger class than I expected, which was scary.  If it had been very small and intimate, I’m sure it would have been scary too.  I was also one of the most visibly excited people. 

In almost a spur of the moment decision, I decided to be called “L-C” instead of “Linda” which I have never liked too much.  I was very happy about that as time went on.  I like being “L-C”. 

I was sure I would become acquainted with folks as time went on so I wasnt worried about “meet and greet” when I arrived.  I lugged the luggage up the risers in the small group of seats in the rear of the theater, found a seat, and sat down.

I was ready.