I put this TED talk on the Peta Lily Theater Workshops Facebook page a while back - an interesting talk by Chris Bliss. https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_bliss_comedy_is_translation?language=en#t-941226
I was inspired to see Lisa Wolpe's solo show at the Rose Theatre, Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender.
She had just led a workshop co-produced by the Kings College London and the Young Vic. In this article she speaks about wanting to be 'a cartographer of the soul'.
In her show she certainly not only mapped but inhabited shifting realms of thought and myriad niches of human emotion. Such a joy and nourishment to see and hear Shakespeare played so truthfully and fully.
Good theatre offers us touch points for our humanity. Wolpe speaks about a finely made violin, when played can awaken the sound on the same strings of violin across the room. If we live only in a narrow band of expression, it's as if the psyche limps. They cross-train in sports. A good theatre experience awakens us in dormant places. Where chi stagnates some form of malaise will follow. get that flow going - let us travel freely in the inner landscape we all share as humans. Let us not be foreigners to ourselves and to others. Let us not be limited by polarity, but possessing of an inner fluidity. Anyone who has done the 'unbreakable arm' exercise in Chi Gung learns that the strongest strength is flexible.
Theatre well done exercises empathy. Wolpe, in this article says: 'If we can build empathy, we can invigorate the purpose of art, which is to create alliances that save lives and offer hope.'
It's the Clown's job and privilege to say yes to failure.
In Clown practice it can be helpful to check your inner metaphor for failure - what does it look like? A trap? A pit with slippery walls? A death sentence?
Play with the idea that you can change this metaphor to one that’s more helpful
(after all, all language is a lie ‘the pointing finger and not the moon’ - so pick yourself a useful fiction).
Think of failure as a trampoline - a place you temporarily land on which will soon provide your next exhilarating up.
Failure provides an opportunity for the Clown student to 1/ reconnect with the audience (always be ready to ‘press refresh’ with your audiences) 2/ share its humanity with the audience and 3/ have a creative response.
An adverse reaction to failure can seem like an existential crisis – when really it’s a simple energetic problem.
The default human reaction to shame is to clench. To go in and pull down. So in your warm ups it’s valuable to practice the ability to transform your energy from tight to expanded, from down-and-in to flowering out. (Whatever performance mode I am teaching, performing or directing, I always remind people to jettison the belief that you end at the limits of your skin).
Physically practice movements that take you from a clench to an expanded attitude. Then do the same thing without moving. ‘Believe’ that you can expand the spaces between your molecules. Take the body feeling from tight and monochrome to something billowing and pink. Or a nice soft orange colour, if you are averse to pinkness.
Side note – have an instantaneous way to access clown state. Check that the shame of failure hasn’t pulled you out of clown state – step out of the cave of shame or the coffin of normalcy or wherever you have gone and choose to step into the fresh illogical realm of the clown state.
Oh, did I freak anyone out with the mention of ‘a creative response’ earlier? Once you are in Clown state (and if you are not a slave to your own energy) then you can do something ‘surefire’ from earlier. Or and also and something which brings you joy in the moment – could it be the joy of expressing your angst, perhaps? At the simplest, just burst into a flexible expansive energy and make a sound and see where that takes you.
It’s the ‘sad normals’ who have to hide from indignity. Getting things wrong, being in the wrong is where the funny lies. That’s the stuff of clown scenarios - being unprotected and at the mercy of misfires. Or being blatantly venal if you are a clown in smart-ass mode. Not hiding. Have you ever heard this expression? ‘Vulnerability is the perfect protection’.
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Peta Lily is a performer, theatre maker, director, playwright, script doctor, teacher and Creative Mentor. She pioneers a unique body of practical research in Dark Clown. Her paper The Comedy of Terrors - Dark Clown & Enforced Performance was delivered at Bath Spa University. The work is cited in Clown - a reader in theatre practice by Jon Davison, Palgrave MacMillan.