Photo by Emma Mead
My interest in the pursuit of clown began when I was studying theatre at American University. I remember discovering a Chaplin box set in some flea market in Georgetown. I fell in love with the silent comedians since cartoons, let’s face it! These highly-physical, totally endearing, rascally, riotous, and really sweet comedians shared their feelings so grandly, without the use of words, which up until that time I thought were the near ultimate example of human emotional expression. Music weighing in equally as heavy as. My interest in teaching clown is now entrenched within my psyche, and after three summers of working with Chris Bayes I know I’m on the right road.
Photo by Emma Mead
Chris Bayes and Oskar Eustis at The Public book launch -->
Discovering The Clown: or, the funny book of good acting
I actually had the opportunity as a Dance for PD and PD Movement Lab teacher to introduce some games and exercises for our Parkinson’s community, and my students loved what I had to offer. I found myself wanting to shepherd them towards something that I had felt in my discoveries too, but for a population facing chronic ailments, one with whom I’ve worked for 5 years, proved a challenge. We were game though, and we found a lot of fun delving deep within our own imaginations, while ultimately surprising our pedestrian selves. To this day, I like to think the participants of that summer class and other class ventures of mine still have a twinkle in their eye.
a few intrepid students of games, improvisation, and creative writing
I knew that clown had changed my life when I began to observe and interact with other people with more kindness – it is super hard at times and a constant practice(!) – but I knew it was the right thing, and in line with what I was taught as a child. Clown became an empowering and equally humbling, life-affirming choice; to take off the suit of complacent armor, to go forth boldly in the direction of (as Chris puts it) the little voice that wants to drive but doesn’t know how, and to allow yourself to crash and fail for all to see, because you were brave enough to fight that hard. For, I believe, to give body and space and time to the discovery of feelings unique to you, but also akin to those around you – the fiercest, finest, freest parts of one’s self – is to live more fully, whether it be onstage or off, and I don’t think we should ever lose sight of that fire within.
From my performances on stage, and my work as a teacher, I have gone back to the lessons of clown again and again, in hopes to uncover the kinesthetic truth of interaction and communication; connecting, listening, and responding to an audience or a classroom as my guide for funny and my compass to truth. I have felt something that no one can take away, that Loving Being always in the pursuit of silly and sometimes stupid. The being that calls out to you in the voice of a young child wanting to play with no toys on hand, the feeling of playing with an exuberant puppy upon returning home from a long day at work. I seek to learn the tools to help others find that beauty within. To play the game just for fun, and to win(!), but while having fun! To sing a song because there’s always a song to sing. And to fight like hell with the littlest means possible.
“Weird Next Door Jeff” Photo by Adam Rodriguez