Oct 16 – Commitment issues

Sunday’s clown class went better than the first one. There was still the Circus Ring of Shame and Failure (which I believe was one of the rings of Hell cut for space in Dante’s Inferno), but more on that later. I had picked up some more costume bits. I bought a long sleeve bright pink shirt to go under my bee vest, and I bought a bright orange chapeau with a yellow daisy sticking out of the top. Very clown. With more clothing I felt more comfortable.

We did more warm up exercises, and then for the last hour we did the Circus Ring of Hell. Throw the clowns in to stoke the flames. I didn’t go first this time. I think I ended up going second. The deal was the same. Walk in, discover the audience, make them laugh. The first guy got a pretty good roasting, so I thought I better go and get it over with.

Luckily for me, he left some props for me to work with. Part of his costume is a feather boa, which shed a few feathers onto the the floor. I came out discovered the audience. No comments from George. So far, so good. I waved at the audience a little nervously, looked panicky that I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I spotted the feathers. I knew they were there from when I was watching, and I had thought I might do something with them, but hadn’t formed a definitive plan.

I walked over to one of the feathers, “discovered” it, and picked it up. I looked around the audience, and then stared at its former owner. Then I picked up the other feathers, and made a show of stuffing them into the fist of one hand, like a magician going to do a disappearing trick. Then I put my hands behind my back, put the feathers in my other hand, and made a show of how the first hand was empty. This got a few chuckles.

Then I stuffed the feathers into the back of my pants. A few more chuckles. Then came George’s voice. “Clown, what is in the back of your pants?” Now I could turn around and try and look at my butt, then give a clown “I don’t know” shrug.

George asked the question again. I then pulled out the elastic of my underwear for all to see. Luckily I wasn’t wearing any of the holey ones. A few chuckles. I was feeling pretty good, now that I had sort of a bit going. It helps to have something to do out there. Just going out like I had the time before and flailing the arms and legs with no plan, I have learned, is a bad idea. Oh yeah, and not funny either.

I have forgotten how the thing ended exactly, but I got the “Thank you Clown” dismissal, but this time, I felt good about it. I felt like I had not crashed and burned out there, but managed to keep my head afloat a little above the water line. Score one for the clowns.

Different people had varying degrees of success and failure. What I began to see as a common thread in what worked is commitment. Now, we are always being told in acting school about commitment. We hear, “Make a choice, and commit to it 100%, even if it’s the wrong choice it will be interesting.” I can’t tell you how many times I had heard some variation of this. Intellectually I get it, but I was skeptical of putting it into practice myself. I have commitment issues. Don’t we all? We don’t want to do the wrong thing.

Yet, the clown moments I was seeing that were funny and interesting were when the clowns were fully committed to whatever they were doing. Even if it wasn’t laugh out loud funny, it was interesting to watch, and I felt hooked into what I was seeing. When someone was indecisive, it was completely obvious and took the energy right out of the performance.

So I learned something. “Make a choice, and commit to it 100%, even if it’s the wrong choice it will be interesting.” I guess those teachers know what they are talking about. What do you know?

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