Granted, the program is low budget, but dang! I never knew how very many different animal species even live in our Fair City. And I never imagined how much getting to interview a bonafide ornithologist would spark my interest and delight in observing and identifying so many different species of BIRDS that have been all around me this whole time!
Today’s rounds were performed courtesy of Dr. Mal in plain clothes serving as “Tour Guide” carrying the iPad with two of us clowns on it, geared up and ready to play. As of yet we’re still mostly remote due to Covid in spite of all being vaccinated and rearing to get back in person. Dr. Mal follows all the hygiene and medical protocol and gets us into the room, then it’s up to us to engage the child.
Today was notable for two different young ones of similar age, each of whom were extremely shy and demure when we entered. Fortunately a little music did the trick and opened them right up. With the first one, after three songs, I finally test the water and overtly invite the patient to engage. “OK, I’ll play this next one, and maybe you can tell me if it’s right.”
It’s the only song I know from “Frozen,” and the patient -who up ’til now hasn’t said anything to us- says, “That was right. That was really right.” And just like that they engage, play with us, and even help Dr. Gon Golphin with a magic trick.
The other similar patient I mentioned who also wasn’t talking to us until the song was over, raised both hands over their head and clapped with one arm in a bright little neon cast. So damn cute.
Another patient we saw was a teenager with a pretty disaffected demeanor, but thanks to the power of fart jokes we got plenty of smiles there and maybe even a couple guffaws.
Finally there’s a patient who is there for their own protection both from Covid-induced “behavioral” issues (aka: depression and worse), and also to protect them from an abusive family member. We are finding lots more kids with this profile than before Covid-19, and sometimes they end up sharing information about their precarious circumstances. We delicately navigate the situation and keep the focus on the child and the play. Then after the visit we collaborate with the Child Life Specialists to make sure they are aware of anything we may have unexpectedly discovered. I never dreamed a life of performing would bring me so close to certain heart breaking circumstances. But these kids deserve validation and laughter more than anyone and I could not be more grateful to try to help deliver it.
Anyway, FWIW here is the only song I know from Frozen.
Today begins a six week course over Zoom with Avner. To those of us in variety arts, Avner is a legend. A juggler, variety performer, movie actor, broadway star, magician, mentor, friend, and world renowned plain-clothes clown. More recently he’s mastered the roles of hypnotist, sourdough bread baker, dog owner and grandfather.
My classmates in this workshop hail from Colorado, California, Montreal, Liepzig and Berlin Germany, Australia, and three hospital clowns from Malaysia! Avner conjures us all from his home on Peak’s Island off the coast of Maine.
Some of what we covered today:
Clowning is an approach to performing.
The body tells the story. Words are just filler.
Don’t go outside your comfort zone; EXPAND your Comfort Zone!
Performing should be joyous and fun.
Every movement is associated with a breath; movement and breath are linked.
When you stop breathing, the Audience becomes anxious.
We must *allow* the Audience to fall into rapportwith us (with breath).
The *work* happens on the Stage; the Story happens in the mind of the Audience.
We are the brush; the Audience are the canvas and the paint.
Our job as performers is to Create and Maintain Rapport.
Never try to be interesting. Be INTERESTED!
aka: Have the emotional response yourself and then invite Audience to share that with you.
The focus of a performance in any setting is to Solve Problems.
(Preferably in an interesting way!)
And this leads to our first assignment;
Find an interesting way to solve an ordinary problem (and submit it by videotape).
Also to practice the LeCoq movement (incl. backwards?). Also;
Choose one of his little origami projects to learn as well, and perform it for one person.
Okay I’ve got my work cut out for me. Here’s a little taste of Avner for you:
Today I get to take a sweet little clown workshop online with performers from around the world. If you look in the Zoom boxes you can see Boston, Atlanta, New York & California in the US alone. Then there is London, Mexico City, The Netherlands, Greece, Stockholm Sweden, Beijing China and Niger West Africa. This all courtesy of The Global Play Brigade; Amazing!
The workshop is designed to help us access our different “motors”:
HEAD: Intellectual; stickish movement, seeks to control.
And moreover; to practice non-attachment, to let go, and to laugh at ourselves. That is;
P.L.A.Y. = Practice Laughing At Yourself!
First we practice Non-Attachment.
Aka: “Letting Go,” “Allowing,” or “Noticing.“
Then, because my breakout room partner did not show up, I get paired with the two workshop teachers for the personalized mocking exercise. I choose the frown-line on my forehead. First they respond just plain empathetically. Secondly they respond by mocking it. With a spirit of love and respect, but actual mocking. Finally they respond by mocking it with ridiculous over the top ridiculousness.
Although I didn’t get to mock them back, I do grab some compromising screen shots of Jeff, who is also a beloved clown partner and friend.
We then do basically the opposite exercise, “Reverse Trash Talk,” where you passionately and aggressively compliment your partner. “Oh YEAH!?! Well *I* think your SMILE is TERRIFIC!! I LOVE IT!!!”
Great exercise! I highly recommend it.
Here we are practicing some face isolation exercises:
And speaking of faces, I get to see one of my very favorite ones of all time in the workshop today. I’m sure a random screen shot cannot convey how wondrously beautiful, intelligent and talented is this person, but all the same I present the other healthcare clown in today’s workshop; from Humorology Atlanta, the incomparable Denise Arrabas!
Another exquisite human being I am going to hug the crap out of once I get the chance again.
Anyway, two thumbs up for the Global Play Brigade!