Archive for November, 2007

Nov 26 – I can’t drive 55.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2007 by actingchick


Back from the Turkey Day holiday and my visit to Gluttonville and Slothtown. I didn’t have any acting classes this weekend due to the holiday, which was actually kind of nice. A chance to relax on the weekend for once.

Still, I am looking forward to going back to clown class on Wednesday. It is the last clown class. And then I should have Stage Combat for another two weeks or so, and then I am on break. What am I going to do with myself?

Last clown class we did some more warm up exercises, which I can remember exactly due to senses dulled by overeating. Then we went on to more of Three Clowns on a Bench Doing Nothing. We all were low energy. I was still getting over my cold. We went up, we fizzled out, we sat down.

My next time up I vowed to be more energetic. The hard thing I found was getting a response from my partners. Not that they weren’t trying their little clown hearts out as well, but it felt like we were not on the same wavelength to me.

The idea is we sit there waiting for something to happen, and then when we get a proposal of some sort, we try and follow the thread. I felt like I proposed things and no one picked up on them. I felt like I was tossing dead pigeons in the air. Fly. Be Free…

Thunk.

My partners probably felt similarly. Especially the first time up. Oy, that was a painful go. The second time I tried to make myself and my proposals clearer so that someone would notice. Hey, hey, look at me.

We finally got something going. Something really stupid, but that’s clowns for you. Then I got too big. I dumped one of my partners on the floor (don’t worry she let me). In clown reality that was a serious assault that came out of nowhere. It’s not that I couldn’t dump her on the ground, but it was that I did it without enough build up.

Sort of like going from zero to sixty without the speed build up in between. I went from about 15 mph to 60 instantaneously. Bam! Even if 16 to 59 mph had taken a few seconds, the build up would have been visible and then the 60 mph dumping off the bench would have made more sense. Not a horrible mistake, but an interesting one.

Nov 21 – Just say No.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2007 by actingchick


It’s the penultimate clown class tonight. We have this weekend off and then next Wednesday is the last one. What am I going to do? What am I going to complain/write about?

Last class was really quite fun, even considering I was in the middle of a cold, and my nose was full of snot, and my energy level was running about 40% of its already low level. I guess this is the one time I didn’t mind wearing the clown nose. Normally it is hard to breathe through, but since I couldn’t breathe any way, it really wasn’t an impediment. Plus it helped keep the snot from running down my face.

We did our last element of our Element Embodying Exercises. Air. We gusted, breezed, and whirlwinded ourselves around the room for a while, slowly adding more human elements in. Then George asked us what element we thought was most dominant in our clown. I think its Air for ol’ Smarly. There is quite a bit of Earth in there too I think. Heaven and Earth.

We did a fun exercise after that where we were just three clowns sitting on a bench doing nothing. We self-selected our groups of three, went up, put on the nose, came out and sat down on a bench just big enough for three clowns to sit side by side.

George made us sit there waiting until we actually were doing nothing, and then let us go. It was funny how all the quirky mayhem that ended up developing started from nothing. There was no preconceived plan, there was no trick to do, nothing to think about. Just three clowns sitting on a bench doing nothing.

But it is hard to sit still, especially for a clown. Soon enough someone would start twitching and fidgeting. Then another clown would react to that, and that would cause some other reaction, until things spiraled out of control, or they died energetically and then George would tell us to go, and the next group would come up.

The first time I was up I was sitting on the end of the bench in Clown Position 1. We sat for a bit, and then the middle clown (Position 2), turned to me and said “Soup” in his Ukrainian Clown accent. I looked at him like he was a freak and scooted a little further away from him. Clown 2 kept saying “Soup” and eventually roped Clown 3 into saying soup. Then they were both saying soup at me. I thought they were weird and scooted further away.

The kept saying soup as if they wanted me to say soup, but I didn’t want to say soup. It was like a 70’s after school special. There I was on the school playground and the bad kids come up and offer me drugs. No, no, I don’t want your drugs. Yes, yes. Try it. Just try it. Soup. Soup. Soup.

NO!

I was barely on the bench at this point, really only being held on by Clown 2 as he tried to pull me back and make me say soup.

No.

I was weakening. Maybe I should just say soup and get it over with. Then they would leave me alone. I tried, but no sound would come out. Ssss….sssooooo…No.

Soup!

Ssss…soooouu….No.

SOUP!

sssss….ssooo…..sooooo….No.

Finally George told us to stop. I had survived without saying soup. The teacher watching the recess came over and shooed the bad kids away.

Whew!

The second up was funny but different. I was in the middle this time. At some point Clown 3 ended up on the floor, and then I was squished between Clown 1 and 3 as they fought, and then I ended up on the floor. I have no idea.

All I can say is it was fun.

Nov 15 – How many clowns can you fit in the eye of a needle?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2007 by actingchick


Another clown class down. It’s hard to believe but there are only three classes left. I feel like I need at least another year doing this, if not more. I could not say I achieved any sort of competency yet, unless consistent failure is a kind of competency.

More clown games. The other night in class we played clown keep away. Similar to the clown relay race in its purpose of letting our clowns out to play. We had two teams of two clowns each. One team would throw a ball back and forth between them, trying to keep it away from the other team. If the other team got the ball the roles were reversed.

I can only imagine what it looked like to someone watching from the outside. At some point I was at the bottom of a clown pile-up as we were all struggling to get the ball. I have some skid marks on my kneecaps from diving to get the ball.

Clowning is dangerous.

I also whacked my head good last night being a monster under the table. In that game one clown gets to be under the table (the monster), while the other clown has to get on the table from one side, and jump off the other side without getting touched. In trying to reach up and get the other clown I kept forgetting I was under a table and whacked my head repeatedly. I did finally succeed in dragging my victim under the table and chewing on his leg a little, so I guess it was worth it.

Last night we had to do a trick. I have written about doing a trick before, but this time we had to do it with another person. We didn’t get to practice before hand because our schedules conflicted, but it didn’t really matter. The trick isn’t really the important part, it’s what we do in the process that is important.

Our trick was that one of us would hold a stick that had a ring, about 8 inches in diameter, tied to the sitck by a string. Then the other clown was to bounce a tennis ball once on the floor and have the rebounding ball go through the hoop. Simple really. Of course we didn’t get it right.

But then as we keep getting reminded, success isn’t the most important thing. It is the interaction that is important. The focus of these exercises is to be able to spot “threads”. What’s a thread? It is sort of hard to define, just as it is hard to notice while we are up there in the ring and doing our tricks.

Threads are a moment, an event, that can potentially lead to another state of interactions. Maybe someone sticking out their hand for a handshake. It’s a proposition, that can then be followed. You take the hand, or you don’t. You take the hand and you don’t let go of it, even when the person wants you to. You don’t take the hand and then the person is hurt and starts to cry, and then what follows?

The hard part is learning to recognize the potential in all these moments (some are better than others), and have the imagination, and commitment really, to follow the thread to the end.

Too often we drop the threads before we get to the juicy part, mostly out of indecision and fear of doing the wrong thing. It’s that commitment thing I keep hearing over and over again in my classes. I guess it must be important.

Nov 13 – Release the clowns!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2007 by actingchick

Wow. It has been almost a week since I posted. There goes my plan to write something everyday, or at least every other day. I wills ay in my defense that I have had a pretty busy week.

Stage combat class is chugging along. It’s fun, but doing it only once a week for three hours is hard. I would rather twice a week at 1 ½ hours. I pick thing up pretty quickly, but I think doing them more than once a week would help get them in the brain better. It’s hard to practice at home without a partner, not to mention a rapier.

Clown is going along. Last Wednesday’s class was a bit of a turning point. We finished off the clown naming ceremonies for those who hadn’t done it yet. The collective clown names are Vergie Marathon, Samsonite, Nyquil, Looster, Stinks, Skoofus, Smarly, Special Roe-mo, Frank and Johnson.

Then we moved onto clown introductions. Two clowns would come out and be surprised by each other, then they would introduce themselves with their new names, and then somehow that would play into some sort of quirky exchange that would trundle along until it ran its course and the clowns left the stage.

We also did a clown relay race. We had two teams of five, and clown had to do 5 activities and then run back and tag the next clown in their line. The first team to finish won (or so we thought).

The trick was that we had to be in character. You couldn’t just run the relay to win; you had to react as your clown would. So if you were a ditzy clown, you might just have to forget what it was you were supposed to do. If you were an emotional clown, you might have to spend time crying when you messed something up.

The five activities were spin on your butt on the ground seven times, without using your hands. Jump up and down on one foot while patting your head and rubbing your tummy. Jump like a frog 10 times and yell “Gribbit.” Do 15 jumping jacks while reciting a line from a Shakespeare play over and over, and sing a bit of opera. The last two by the way couldn’t have been done by anyone else, and George hung out listening to make sure we didn’t repeat.

Anyway, to make a long story short, my team won. The losers were to bow before us and say something like, “Oh, magnificent winners, we bow before you and your greatness.” My team made fun of the losers, laughing at them etc. They of course didn’t want to bow down and in their best clown manner foot dragged the whole way.

But then a clown from my team touched a clown from the other team. George declared that a violation and then my team became the losers, and had to bow down, which of course we didn’t want to do. Now we were being mocked and we were doing the foot dragging. Think kindergarteners not wanting to lay down for their nap.

At some point in the clown mayhem, we started to laugh at one clown on the other team. I am not even sure why, someone else started it, but we all joined in. Then clowns from that clowns team started laughing. Finally George stopped us and ended the exercise.

The point of this? The first part of the relay was to explore being our clowns in different situations, and the ending part, was to learn to “follow the thread” and play off the situation as it develops. We thought we were the winners, then we became the losers, then we just went off to crazy land.

Nov 6 – Reality check.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2007 by actingchick


This weekend went by relatively uneventfully. Stage Combat was more of the same. We reviewed the sword work and punches we had learned, and then added a few techniques.

For the unarmed part we actually started hitting each other with body contact blows. We learned that it is important to aim for the meaty parts of the body. Also we did a trick where as you hit someone, and your hand makes contact; you open your hand to make a flat surface, thereby spreading out the force, and as you pull away return the hand to its previous shape (generally a fist). This way you don’t hurt the person. Much. It stings a bit, but nothing you can’t handle, although I wouldn’t want them to do it 20 times in a row in the same spot.

For the swords we worked on thrusting now as well as cutting, and we learned the blocks, parries, and binds for the different targets. It’s fun, but my arm was sure tired by the end of class.

For clown we got a bit of a break. George was sick, so Brenna (his assistant) got to take over. She was not nearly as mean to us. The other clowns didn’t get to have their naming ceremony yet, as that is George’s bag. What we did work on was embodying the elements. You know the ones: Earth, Air, Fire, Water.

We did Water first. Laying on the floor we imagined that our bodies were full of water sloshing around very gently, just on the inside of the body. Then we increased the sloshing of the water in our bodies until it caused our bodies to move. We kept going until the force of our sloshing water got us up on our feet. Standing and sloshing in place for a bit we added the vocal sound of our particular water. Then we allowed the water to slosh us around the room. Here we were in our elemental form moving around the room as Water. Then slowly we added Human back in bit by bit until we were 90% human and 10% water.

What can I say? It’s acting class.

We did Fire after that. Apparently we are going to save Earth and Air for the next class. Then it was on to Clown Emotional Competition, which I beleive I described before here. I won my bout. As part of the exercise I had to make the losing clown do something. I demanded she give me her pet frog she kept in her pocket. She started crying and then I felt bad. I mean my clown felt bad. Well, we both felt bad, which is an interesting phenomena.

Here I am having an emotional response to a clown who is crying because I want her frog. There is such a schizophrenic set of realities superimposed here. A: two actors, B: Two clowns. C: the fuzzy middle ground where A and B meet.

My actor reality is that I have to go up and emote more than the other clown, so I can keep the audience’s attention so I can win, which I did. Job done. Actor would go sit back down, be moderately humble (at least on the outside). No humiliating the other actor. We save that for George.

Clown reality is that my clown won. Wahoo! Now I demand a prize from the loser. I see the frog. I can tell it is important to the clown. It must be valuable. Mine! I stretch out my hand to claim my prize. Gloating all the way. Mine!!

But then the clown starts crying. It’s her best friend, she can’t part with it. She is so sad. She doesn’t know what to do. She looks around for help, but I hold out my hand again. More sadness, she sinks down to her knees, cradling her beloved frog. I feel bad.

But who feels bad? Is it my clown that feels bad, or me that feels bad? Both? And how bad does the other clown feel? Her sadness seems genuine; she doesn’t want to part with her frog, and the reality is that I am going to the frog back to her in 30 seconds when we get backstage. So she has to make the loss of the frog real for her, which means both of us have to make this absurd situation real.

One of the definitions we keep hearing for acting is, “reacting truthfully in imaginary circumstances.” I can see where this is true, where you have to act as if whatever happening is “real”, but when you stop to think about it…it’s weird.

Nov 1 – A clown is born

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1, 2007 by actingchick

Yesterday I mentioned that I had two assignments for my Clown class. One was to write about what I had learned so far, the other was to come up with my clown’s name. The writing part was relatively easy considering I have been doing this blog, so I have been in the habit of writing about my learning experiences. Coming up with a clown name, however, was a different matter.

I had three days to figure it out. At first I would try and think of something and get frustrated and stop thinking about it. Then I would have a panic attack when I suddenly remembered I had to come up with a name, and I hadn’t been thinking about it. Then I would think about it, and then get frustrated, etc., etc.

Finally on the last day I had managed to come up with a name. I had been soliciting people for suggestions, and my friend Bucky submitted a long list. None of them rang quite true, but I chopped a few of his suggestions up, cobbled them together, and came up with the name Quilby or Quilbee (spelling wasn’t decided yet.)

I was now ready to go to class.

We started class off by almost immediately getting into clown clothes. We warmed up in clown and did a lot of vocal warm ups to get ready for the evenings exercises. The main exercise we did was a clown emotional competition.

The clown emotional competition consists of two clowns dividing the performance space in half, left side and right side. Each clown tries to get the audience to pay attention to them and not the other clown by using emotions. The audience votes during the performance by pointing at whatever clown they think is more interesting, giving the clowns immediate visual feedback on whether they are succeeding or not. At the end of the competition a vote is taken to see which clown won. There are points taken off for rule violations, like crossing into the other clowns side of the stage, or using something other than an emotion to lure the audience into looking at you.

So that’s the rule breakdown, but what does it look like? Imagine two clowns on stage side by side wailing with sorrow, laughing hysterically, stomping angrily, cowering in fear. Writhing, begging, flailing, jumping, moaning, waving to get attention. It is pretty exhausting after a minute or two. My score was one win and one loss.

The next big event of the night was the Clown Naming Ceremony. This is where we were going to get to use our names. Or so we thought. Really, it shouldn’t have surprised me what happened.

Here were the exercise guidelines as given. Come out on stage excited and ready to announce your name, then when it is time to say your name you forget it, you try and try to remember it, and then you do finally remember it, and then say it to the audience. Seems simple enough. Too simple (cue the creepy movie music).

Update:  I used to have a description of the clown naming ceremony, but then realized that people actually read my blog on occasion who might take this class.  And that takes all the fun out of it.  So I’ve removed the gory details.  If you want to know, take the class. My clown name is Smarly.

Ta da! A clown is born.