Okay! Time to dust off this site and start anew!
— My update/confession —
The past year and a half have been both enlightening as well as frustrating in some respects. My graduation from the Clown Conservatory in June 2010 was followed by a very melancholy summer in which I pondered continuing onward for the second year program. There were advantages as well as drawbacks to such a scheme , though more of the latter were on my mind. As recommendation for this plan, I would be able to continue my physical training as well as develop my solo show into something to really market. The downsides: I was the only one of my classmates who was interested in the program, meaning I wouldn’t really have a buddy for motivation; there was little in the way of financial aid and I had not been able to secure employment in the Bay Area; my gracious host for housing had moved an hour south of the school and while still very much my friend, was eager to be without roommates. In addition to these, mostly financial, concerns, the director of the school, with whom I very much wanted to continue study, stepped down from his position and would unavailable for me to do as such.
I also missed all of my friends in socal terribly and so when a tax return appeared that would cover expenses to move into a house in north OC with some good friends, I eagerly made the transition back. Shortly thereafter, I was hired on as the Public Relations Assistant for the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Day to day office work, while for a company I cared for, left me too drained at the end of the day for training. Not to say that the work wasn’t fulfilling, but I couldn’t help feeling that exerting such mental energy in helping the staff run this event left me unable to pursue my physical training as I would have liked to. This, of course, is my own fault. No one stopped me — if I really wanted to train, I would certainly have done so, despite the fatigue.
Also, during 2011, I found that there was something amiss with my body, other than lack of rigorous exercise. I found myself feeling nauseous at random times, with no real idea of what food had been the culprit. I retained weight in places on my body where I never have before. This both baffled and depressed me. I felt no control over it. I didn’t feel at home in my skin. I didn’t feel like me.
I also felt a loss of control in my performing career. Through ORPF, I landed a commercial, which was great. But my duties in the office and on faire site as a liaison for media prevented me from continuing to develop my solo mime show that I had performed at faire in 2010. Still performing with the Merry Wives, I had a creative and performing outlet, but I was not moving forward in the way of supporting myself as a performer. I didn’t have the confidence to market myself as an act.
July 2011, I accepted a gig as a clown for a friend’s church picnic. I worked on revamping my solo mime show, making it appropriate for small children. It felt good to put on my clown face and costume – even if the costume fit a little tighter than previously. I had a wonderful time interacting with the picnic-goers as a clown and having fun with them one on one.
The Northern California Renaissance Faire, San Luis Obispo Renaissance Faire, and the Charles Dickens Christmas Faire have come and gone and I have performed or worked these with great spirit singing with the Merry Wives of Windsor or by being a true barmaid behind an alestand counter. I feel that musically, I’m growing as far as my voice and my fiddle playing are concerned. But I would like to train for acrobatics, dance, and body awareness once again, to really up my game.
In answer to the yearnings of my mind and body, I have begun training again at my house. Stretches, shoulder rolls, handstands, cartwheels, even some aerial tissue as my roommate permits. Funny, the exercise helps not only quicken my body, but my mind. My memory improves with physical activity.
My current search is for a training partner to help keep me motivated and a space with crash mats where I can work on doing front handsprings in a safe environment. Any and all suggestions are welcome.
Last Wednesday was the first audition I’ve done in a long time that required me to have a monologue. I auditioned for the Kaiser Permanente Educational School Tour. I was rather hoping to get this opportunity because it tours locally for ten months and would give me a touring experience I’ve not yet had. Not to mention it pays well and provides benefits! They were looking for people who could play characters between the ages of 8 and 18. The school shows cover a variety of topics from healthy eating to dealing with puberty and conflict resolution. I remember these sorts of shows coming to my school growing up and even though they are a little campy, I absolutely loved them and would be thrilled to perform them. Another interesting thing about this opportunity is that we would be put in a role of peer counselor for the students in the audience. Talk about a learning experience!
I liked the audition process – KP was very strict on the auditionees keeping their monologues to one minute or less. While in some ways this felt like we were being rushed along like cattle, it also meant that no one’s time got wasted. Yes, not even our time got wasted, which I very much appreciated. We were in and out of there in about an hour and could still get lots of other tasks accomplished in the daylight.
I’m pleased with the monologue I chose. I had, in fact, looked at some adolescent monologues I found online. Since I did not have as much time to prepare as I would have liked, I decided, rather than to learn a new monologue, to adapt my story for the upcoming clown show into a monologue.I think it went over well. Although once I finished my monologue, the panel was so nice and polite that it was really hard to tell if they liked me or not. I suppose that’s not too bad of a problem to have.
Needless to say, I didn’t get a callback. Neither did my two classmates who also auditioned. Listening to the names listed on the callback recording, it seemed to us that they were seeking a more culturally diverse cast for the current shows. That’s fine – I recognize that there are plenty of 20-something Caucasian females to go around at any audition – although I think we would have preferred the type being advertised in the casting call. Perhaps they felt because they were under the umbrella of a corporate entity, that they could not put such a thing in the casting call, as it would be perceived as discriminatory. The audition definitely have the feel of something more corporate so those organizing the school tours must need to tread a fine line between the industry norms of corporate office and theater.
Friday evening was our Clown Conservatory show – Fools Come Early or as it is on the fantastic flier my classmate created: Fools! Fools! Fools! I performed my story piece from the first show and I’m rather happy with how it turned out. I wish we were able to do this show over and over for an audience so I could really get the rhythm of it. The audience also liked the coat switch routine with my classmate. Oddly enough, they didn’t seem to care as much about the payoff (after the tussle, I end up with the coat while my partner celebrates her wrestling victory. Then once I scuttle offstage, she claims my tiny hat, which fell off my head, unbeknownst to me.) but applauded for the wrestling itself. While I’m thrilled they appreciated the technique, I hope they were entertained!
I feel that our duck mime piece – Fowl Revenge – went over quite well and that we hit our marks. There were a few last-minute things we’d added that very day that were forgotten in the adrenaline-frenzy of the show, but we received a positive response. Can’t ask for more than that!
Today, I watched part of the video from our show and once again, I need to remember to slow down and really allow moments to happen. It’s never until I see videos of myself that I realize I’m moving too fast through a piece. When I’m onstage, it always feels like I am moving more slowly than I am.
A note on performing for an audience of strangers vs an audience of fellow performers. I don’t like testing a piece out on my fellow performers. It’s not that I dislike them or don’t trust their judgment or anything like that. The problem is that we, as performers, look at artistic pieces with a critical eye. It’s not out of malice – on the contrary, we are often looking for ways to help our classmates improve. However, we are judging because of that. And knowing that your audience is judging you changes the energy of your piece, just as being nervous when singing tightens up the throat and changes the performance. When I am in front of an audience that’s there to be entertained, they are hoping I do well. They want me to succeed (because nothing is more embarrassing to an audience member than watching a performer obviously flounder on stage) and are channeling positive energy to that end. But they also have no expectations of me. I can feel myself and ready to go in front of that audience.
Southern Faire is coming around again. I look forward to having lots of audience again. And to singing with the Merry Wives. Hope to see you there!
Well the past few weeks have been a series of ups and downs in my head. For some time, I was feeling like I have not been able to create new material and am right back where I started before coming to this school. However, last week, I pulled out the story I wrote for our very first show at the Clown Conservatory in early October. What I discovered was that while I wanted to make minor tweaks to the piece, I left it largely the same. But when I performed it in front of my class, I received the comment that it didn’t seem like the same piece at all. And I thought to myself “Wow, the piece didn’t really change. But I did.”
That made me feel better. It seems that my performance has developed in a way that I’m not really conscious of. That performing the same story could look so different from October until now is pretty astonishing. I am also pleased with the further development of the coat-switch piece that I performed with a partner back at that same first show. We tried it out last week and added some extra conflict in the last section – not merely just fighting with one another for the coat, but using all the contact improvisation from Body Awareness class to create a fun, comedic, yet smooth confrontation.
So I still feel like I have a hard time creating new material, but it no longer feels so impossible. That’s something I guess.
So this past weekend was full of performing, which makes me very very happy.
Saturday – Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt! Very fun event organized by sftreasurehunts.com This event has a lot of devoted return attendees who go the extra mile to come up with a really creative name for their treasure hunt team (there is a contest for the best team name) as well as a theme for their team (for which there is also a contest – Scooby Who totally took the prize on this one!).
At first, we Clown Conservatory folks helped set up tables, cones, and signs to direct the participants to the box office, will-call, and information tents. Then we got dressed in our makeup and costumes and headed out to entertain the finely clad treasure hunters. We also collected the door prize tickets. Arleth was highly visible on her stilts, making her the most obvious candidate for collecting these. Two of my other classmates were highly amusing doing a close walk – one person walking very closely behind another, mimicking their gait exactly. I kept myself busy being pedantic with the people in line for the box office, instructing them to keep the line perfectly straight as it was more geometrically pleasing to me. After a nice break wherein the organizers provided us tasty sandwiches, we broke down the signs and tables for the box office and will-call, and prepared to greet the teams as they excitedly returned with their completed treasure hunt sheet. There was less room for character work at this junction as we had to hurriedly shout instructions to the returning teams so they wouldn’t simply mob the return table.
All in all, a fun day. Very tiring since I walked on concrete all day but I
must admit I really enjoyed keeping my makeup and costume on while traveling home on the BART. Clowns in unusual places, especially those wearing teeny tiny hat, make strangers smile.
A teeny tiny hat is very important.
Monday, I once again performed at the Clown Cabaret at the Climate Theater at 9th and Folsom in San Francisco. This was the All Women Clown Cabaret. Several of my classmates and I performed some of our entrees we’d prepared for our school show a few weeks back. I really liked having a new audience to perform in front of – clowns really need to be in front of an audience as much as possible and I miss the renaissance faire for this reason, among others. One classmate also performed a brilliant monologue that she’d written, and was lauded for her words as well as the performance – she constantly impresses me. We were also very fortunate to have in the lineup the beautiful ladies of Pi – the physical comedy troupe, Pino the Clown – former Cirque du Soleil and Pickle Family Circus clown, and Michelle Matlock – a clown currently in the Cirque du Soleil touring show, Ovo. Pi performed a clown version of a quick-change act, Pino did an act with her dogs, and Michelle performed a hilarious monologue.
Best of all, we sold out both shows!
Thanks to those very talented ladies whom I’m proud to call my peers.
February Acrobatics Evaluation:
Right leg forward front split: 1 1/2 inches off the floor
Left leg forward front split: 1 1/2 inches off the floor
Straddle split: 2 1/2 inches off the floor
Pike stretch: 11 inches past my feet
Time held in a handstand against the wall: 1 minute 45 seconds
Distance walking on hands w/light support from spotter: 33 feet
Long jump: 6 feet 3 inches
High jump: 8 feet 2 inches
# V-snaps in 30 seconds: 27 (down two from last month as we started with cardio today)
# Pushups in 30 seconds: 23 with knee
# Lateral pull-ups: 17
After the evaluation, there was heavy conditioning, which would not be so worth mentioning had we not done some fun new exercise that I’m certain will have my butt hurting a whole bunch tomorrow. booyah!
Yesterday, we tested out the clown therapy workshops we’d devised on one another. My group chose to do physical therapy while others chose to do psychological therapy. This particular subject made me nervous because I don’t feel qualified to do such therapy. However, our attempts were a valuable learning experience. While clown therapy is not something I’d like to tackle in the immediate future, I’m really glad I tried it and may come back to it later in life when I have more experience as a clown. I like the idea of creating not a workshop for the physically challenged, but rather, an experience. I think I will bring that mindset to all workshop type performances I take on.
Off to prepare for the SF Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt!
Well today is all about getting things done and I should really start with a VERY long overdue blog post.
I make a vow right now to post something at least every week, even if it’s short and sweet. Now to catch you up…
The first term at the Clown Conservatory was fun and trying. There’s the physical challenge, of course, (although I wake up much less sore these days – oh noes, I need more training!) but the emotional impact is pretty significant as well. It is not as easy as you might think to open up, say YES to everything, and to be vulnerable. Vulnerable in the character you present as a clown, but also full of knowledge that what you experiment in your performing work may FAIL utterly in front of an audience. Or that it may only slightly not work and you only have one show in front of an audience so you don’t quite know what didn’t work or how to fix it and isn’t that frustrating?!
While I’ve seen a bit of Commedia Del’Arte and have a basic understanding of the archetypes, we explored it in more depth and I would like more time to study it still. Commedia was rather challenging for me. Mask work in general was very challenging for me. While I feel connected to my body (now, more than ever, that’s for sure!) I still never felt while working with the masks that I was fully able to communicate all I could without use of my face. I played Arlecchino and while I am fairly certain I mastered the walk and overall movement of Arlecchino, I never felt like I quite achieved the full character in order to verbally inhabit Arlecchino completely.
Since the beginning of the year, we have had one show, featuring clown entrees. These are scenes between two or more clowns, although sometimes they are solo with the clown partnering with the audience, that use a general framework for story and outcome, but allow the individual clowns to decide the dialogue, blocking, etc. Entrees challenged me quite a bit and I was concerned that I would not be able to make the two I participated in work for me. I wanted it to be engaging and funny – but most of all, something that connected with the audience. Finally, it clicked for me, leading me to the following revelation:
I don’t have to throw out my former career to be a clown.
I was so happy to escape a life in an office, turning people into numbers that I forgot that that sort of position or status is *exactly* the type of person my clown character could be! The day before our clown entree performance, I worked with my partner to re-envision our entree, Little Bee, with me as a *Career Placement Advisor* !! (yes, you folks from my CDS past, I DID use the word ‘placement’! I thumb my red nose at your industry taboo word!) This new look at my clown character also helped me put together some fun walk-around business for pre-show, interviewing audience members for ridiculous jobs, mostly animals.
“ah, I see you are here for the wasp position. exactly what is the measurement of your stinger?”
Clown Projects on the Horizon:
Now for the official plug:
ALL WOMEN CLOWN CABARET!
Come to the Climate Theater at 285 9th Street at Folsom in San Francisco – Monday March 1st at 7 or at 9!
Get your ticket in advance for only $10 or $15 at the door if they aren’t sold out already!
So my posts are way behind. But this is a good thing as I’ve been kept extremely busy with Circus Center.
I shall quickly recap. School began about 5 weeks ago on September 8th. As it turns out, clowns need to have a lot of skills for their craft. It’s not just all about big shoes, red noses, and cramming ourselves into tiny cars.
Here is my class schedule:
9:00-10:30 Dance (Ballet this term)
1:00-4:00 Core Clowning
4:00-6:00 Individual skills practice
9:00-11:00 Circus Skills
11:00-12:00 Body Awareness
1:00-4:00 Core Clowning
4:00-6:00 Individual skills practice
1:00-4:00 Core Clowning Modular Class (guest instructor)
4:00-6:00 Individual skills practice / Informal Friday performance
So that’s 18 hours of class a week. We also have to read at *least* a chapter each week, meet with our reading groups to discuss the readings, and every few weeks create a performance piece based on the readings. We also have routines to rehearse outside of class.
I have thoroughly enjoyed all the classes, although they can be very trying. Acrobatics leaves me feeling like I was hit by a truck the following morning but at the same time, feeling very strong. Although gaining muscle has made me lose flexibility, I feel like a more powerful being. Plus, I can stand on my head now and am working on walking on my hands. Circus Skills is an exciting class because I feel like I can do anything there – Judy Finelli, my instructor, has a way about her and suddenly I am successful in all that I put my mind to there. It’s amazing. Body Awareness and Mime have really helped me be specific in the ways that I use my body, adding new dimensions to each piece I perform. Core Clowning teaches us classic routines and challenges us to make them our own. I am constantly exhilarated and terrified there.
But… as I’ve been told, and learned myself, clowning is all about being vulnerable. And I am finding myself vulnerable doing some of the exercises and routines asked of me. Sometimes they just hit an emotional chord and other times it’s just a matter of doing something totally new and being ready to fail utterly. Failing is safe to do here at school and is actually encouraged because the trying is what’s important. But even so, it takes a certain level of vulnerability. This, of course, leads me to be vulnerable in other areas of my life. But having Arleth here has really helped keep me in balance and I am grateful for her presence.
Northern Faire has also been going on since school started, helping me with my homesickness for my friends/faire family. It also provided a great way for me to practice at least 5 hours a weekend juggling by working at the juggling school!! The past two weekends and this upcoming weekend was/is performing with the Merry Wives and it’s been so wonderful seeing the girls. I missed them so much!! What’s also really great is that I have been able to use what I’ve learned in school to improve my performance in the Wives’ show. For example, my teacher, Jeff Raz, was explaining how to invite an audience member on stage to participate and this proved quite effective for me this past weekend. I didn’t feel like I was dragging anyone on stage but rather that I was inviting them to something very special. I guess I should have always felt this way but it’s nice to have the reminder of purpose.
Our next big project at school is a research assignment. While this may be difficult to do the work on, I will actually be providing new secondary resources for the clown world in general. There is not much written about our field so each of our reports will be adding to the circus library as a whole. which frankly — is really freakin’ cool. I’m nervous about doing the legwork for the research but excited all the same. eeeeeee!!
Up next: CLOWN CONSERVATORY CLASS OF 2010’s FIRST PERFORMANCE!!
This Thursday, October 15 – yes, tomorrow! - at 2:30 pm at Circus Center
If you are in the Bay Area and have a Thursday afternoon free, please come on out and support us first year clowns. The theme of our performance is “Who Am I?”
Again, many thanks for your support, my friends. More updates on my adventures soon!
I’M HERE!! Kudos to Don for the packing and driving with me. What a saint!
Happy to be settling in. I cannot thank enough my welcome wagon for making sure that I felt all loved upon arrival. Not only is my gracious host allowing me occupation of his spare bedroom and use of the whole house, but he’s totally fun and has the house stocked with delicious boozy goodness. Many thanks to John & Kristen for helping me unload the heavy stuff from the truck and get it into my room. And I must say that my room is looking pretty spiffy and has become a cozy Darien den! Now to get the other stuff I won’t use so much out of everyone’s way.
In a few days I will be off to Reno to spend time with dear friends before Burning Man. This year it’s really a wonderful gateway to the new dimension of my life. I think it will spark some creativity before attending the Conservatory. It is also where I will be meeting up with Arleth before we *BOTH* start school! We shall shenanigan like no shenanigan has ever there shenaniganed!!
And let the zany adventures begin! My awesome friend Quinn took me out with her last night to some pubs and aside from some jackassery, a good time was had by all. We saw a cool band, danced, and had some philosophical conversation with a slurry drunk Irishman named Seamus (Shamis?). The evening finished off with In-N-Out Burger. Om nom nom!! Hooray for a fun girls night out!
I have been receiving lots of mail from the Clown Conservatory with different interesting things to read and contact info for my fellow classmates. And class starts in
2/12 weeks!! OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG! I can’t wait!! eeeeeeeeeee!!!!