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back row: Otis Otis, Wally Otis, Lil' Francis Creampuff, front row: Virginia, Spongy Possum, Margaret, Zero

The Clown is you.

It's so simple.

That's why it's so hard. And fun!

Clown

 

Clown 1: Discovery

GENEROSITY • PHYSICAL CONNECTION • GAME • VULNERABILITY • STAKES

Clown 1 starts with the body and we find an elastic connection between physical expression, and emotions, ideas, and games. We investigate game: what a game is (hint: it has 4 essential elements!), how to discover a game and how to play it for the audience. Which brings us to complicité! It's sounds fancy! It's French! It just means complicity but it's more fun to say it the French way. It's a connection so that your time on stage is truly a conversation: with the audience, with your compatriots, and with yourself (your physical expression, your emotions, your proposal, your game). We will pull off the essential balancing act of all comedy: applying genuine and high stakes to something ridiculous. We work mostly improvisationally to discover organically without following formulas.

All this on the way to and as a means for discovering your clown. Your clown is you. At your most playful. At your most ferocious. At your most vulnerable. At your most honest. And with a colossal hunger to show - even though as a clown you got nothin' - no script, no good ideas, no fancy lighting, no flying Cadillac cars. All you got is your hope and desire to be hilarious and beautiful. That's enough. In fact, it's everything. But what if what you got to work with (you) is not "funny" and not "right"? Excellent. You are wrong already! You are advanced! 

What you'll walk away with: you might use what you learn in this class as a basis for whenever you perform, but certainly when and if you perform clown, commedia or bouffon! You will have begun the discovery of your clown, found a name, and detected something about the fundamental physical and emotional articulation of your clown (your self).

Clown 2: The Game

Sundae in my Pants

RIDICULOUSNESS • CARE • SPEED • FUN • STRUCTURE

Prerequisite: Clown 1. Dig deeper into the world of the clown and make a little 

something to show the peoples! Culminates with you performing in a variety show with your class. This class can be taken multiple times and at any time.

Let's make some funny stuff to show the audience! Bring us what you care about, what you love – you do not have to be cheerful, most likely you are not - but you have to care! We'll find the play that exists in the connection between the clown and the audience – in the generous gesture the clown makes, the response of the audience, the listening, and responding back and forth. Let your pursuit of fun lead you. Speak the truth – cop to what is really going on. Resist the flop! Invest in the covenant between the performer and the audience to do whatever you can dream of to bring us something amazing. When we make material we will remember that the schtick must serve the clown, not visy versy. The clowns develop material unique to them and it’s only funny when they do it because it’s not the schtick that’s so funny but the clowns. Let's make the audacious proposal that the actor is more interesting than the schtick. 

 

What you'll walk away with: 5 minutes of individual material! Performance experience and experimentation with the tension between having something planned and keeping it open enough to let your performance continue to have life!

Clown 3: Ensemble

RELATIONSHIP  • THE UNPLANNED EVENT • BEYOND THE NOSE

Prerequisite: Clown 2. Culminates in a full length ensemble performance. This class can be taken multiple times and at any time.

 

Now we approach playing in an ensemble which allows for more exploration of relationships both inside the games and between the clowns as they attempt to play those games. Games are found by the actors in improvisation and predicated on the unique characteristics of each clown and the enthusiasm of the clowns for their stupidest ideas, favorite dreams, and greatest love. Unplanned events may happen in real time that interrupt the show and become their own game – one clown forgot something, another brings up what happened in Prague in 1988 (again!), one gets distracted by someone in the audience, one can’t remember how to do it, etc. As always the clowns play through the audience in real time. 

As we take on this level of work, having achieved the degree of physical and vocal expression required to support the mask (nose), some may find it more satisfying/useful to pursue performing without the mask - making more of a physical comedy show driven by the spirit of the clown. 

 

What you'll walk away with: Participation in a full length show. Performance experience and experimentation with the tension between having something planned and keeping it open enough to let your performance continue to have life! Skills to build material tethered to your clown. Skills to play improvisationally both inside and outside of games in conversation with the audience. Preparation to join a company.

Commedia

Put your fun in your body. 

 

Move it around.

 

Unstoppable.

back row: Otis Otis, Wally Otis, Lil' Francis Creampuff, front row: Virginia, Spongy Possum, Margaret, Zero

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Commedia 1: GIMP-P

GAME • IMPROVISATION • META • PHYSCIAL & VOCAL ARTICULATION • PING-PONG

This class is good for all types of performers, like actors, comedians, political comedians, improvisers, dancers and carnies (I insist on using carnie as a term of endearment for variety/circus artists. I know it technically means the people who put up the rides. Anyway, this class would be good for them too, why not!); anyone who is interested in creating specific, physically-connected characters and/or finding game in any type of performance. This class can be taken multiple times and at any time.

Commedia starts with (guess what?) the body! And the voice! We call it Commedia instead of commedia dell'arte to signal that we use the archetypes from commedia dell'arte as a jumping off place and we investigate how to bring the masks to life in a contemporary context (like right now!) rather than try to pursue some idea of how they did it in the Renaissance which we don't really know anyway and which might be of little use to you unless you happen to get cast in the yet another production of The Servant of Two Masters (it's a sweet play but seriously, again?!) We use the masks as a training tool to connect you to your body and voice in a vital way and to enhance the way you create character. The masks are also crazy magic and they allow you to discover game in exciting and unique ways like full pantomime hypotheticals, simple rhythmic and gesture games, verbal gymnastics and "The Cascade"where one thing makes you think of another and you get way off topic as you pursue your fun from one game to another.

 

We'll investigate status and status relationships to develop comedy as well as give voice to political material. What do you care about? THE MOST? Bring that! And then play with it! A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down so put your politics into something funny! We'll also pursue a vital connection with the audience and how to move the audience's focus and play with others on the stage through Ping-Pong.

What you'll walk away with: A foundation in mask training (GIMP-P) to use in commedia performance as well as any performance. An augmented relationship to creating character, character relationships, and connection to the audience. An introduction to commedia games and how to employ them in all types of comedy.

Commedia 2: Generation

MORE GAME! • POETRY • SPEED • SONG • YOU IN THE MASK

Prerequisite: Commedia 1. More time under the mask and then you make a little something to show the peoples! This class culminates with you performing in a variety show. This class can be taken multiple times and at any time.

As you build more reps under the masks you will start to find more and more your own unique way to support each one and unlock their possibilities for both comedy and poetry. We'll work improvisationally as the teacher provokes, supports, and leads you into your flow. We will continue to play with the different levels inherent in performance, actor level and character (mask) level. We will discover and build games and find a way to play that is alternately at speed and suspended. Extra time will be allotted to some of the technical elements of pantomime and act-outs and when we touch upon particularly emotional, human, and poetic moments we will invite song. We'll continue to insist on talking to the audience, complicité, and start to learn how to work the room.

 

Dottore: Sunshine on my eyebrows makes me happy!

What you'll walk away with: 5 minutes of individual material! Performance experience and experimentation with the tension between having something planned and keeping it open enough to let your performance continue to have life!

Commedia 3: Ensemble

ANARCHY • 1, 2, 3 •  THE FULL HYPOTHETICAL

Prerequisite: Commedia 2. Culminates in a full length ensemble performance. This class can be taken multiple times and at any time.

 

Now we approach playing in an ensemble which allows for more exploration of both the relationships between the masks and the relationships between the actors, and the traveling from one to another. (This is where that meta training in 1 & 2 really starts to pay off!) We'll identify your status as an actor in the ensemble (1, 2, 3) and how to assert that in play. We'll construct some epic hypothetical games for multiple masks to play inside. We'll use the approach of the Commedia Company to discover and set slick lazzi (games) while keeping those lazzi open for the anarchy of the moment as generated by the audience, the other actors or the other masks. By continuing to encourage character and game to be generated from you body, you'll be able to play quickly and discover a new nimbleness in your comedy.

 

What you'll walk away with: Participation in a full length show. Several minutes of individual and group material. Skills to play more than one mask and build material intrinsically tethered to that mask. Commedia performance experience in a show that balances set material and improvisation. Preparation to join a company.

Physical Comedy

 

Do you have a favorite physical comedian? Maybe Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Groucho, Carey Grant, Lou Costello, Shemp, Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, John Ritter, Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd... and I haven't even gotten out of the 70's! 

This special class introduces you to the skills both physical and logical needed to build physical comedy routines and sprinkle physical comedy riffs into any performance. Physical comedy is hard for a few reasons but the most basic is that it generally requires the actor to take action on two levels at once. The first level is the actor who moves something, or himself, or some part of himself into position in preparation for the comedic event. At the same time, the actor has to play on a level with the audience (let's call this the clown level) so that we stay with the emotional life of the performance and don't notice the set up. In a full blown physical comedy routine you repeat this patting your head and rubbing your stomach operation countless times in a row. 

So it takes some skill, practice and figurin' to set it all up right to go on this particular kind of hilarious joy ride. At the same time we must not neglect the clown level. We've all seen routines that are technically super proficient but we don't laugh. Maybe we're interested or even amazed but it's not so much, funny. Without your clown, your skills are just a little bit desperate and boring. Take jugglers for instance. It’s not the juggling; it's the juggler. What’s the most important thing a juggler needs to know before he goes onstage? How to deal with it when he drops a ball, ‘cause he’s gonna drop a ball. And that can be the best part. But if he just snatches it back up mumbling an apology and keeps going, we are disappointed. Then we see that he is hanging all his hopes on us loving his virtuosity and not loving him. Virtuosity is ok but without a human in the mix... a little boring. All your skills will serve you but what the audience hungers for the most is you. Giving them that while you put the chair in the right place so that when you go to sit, you fall down is no small feat! 

In this class we'll watch some routines and analyze 'em. We'll build some of your own. And we'll encourage the clown into the room every chance we get! You'll leave with a shiny new routine to take home for your very own.