Thursday, June 25, 2020

THE UNIVERSAL MIND AND NON-CLOWN CLOWNS

“Non-Clown Clowns” is a concept that there are numerous people in all sorts of fields who are natural clowns but express their humour and creativity outside of the field of clown or theatre. In this case there is not a lot of funny-ness from the two Jazz musicians. However, the host is the brilliant ‘clown’ comedian Steve Allen who was an accomplished jazz pianist and composed thousands of tunes and songs. He also was an expert on clown and comedy. His parents were a Vaudeville comedy duet. 

The Evans brother’s conversation is one of the closest concepts to my method and philosophy of creativity that I have ever heard of. The other closest concepts are from Hassidus and Kabbalah, both of which, along with jazz are practical inspirations to me and to my work. I also relate the same inspiration particularly from the work of the painters: Kandinsky, Klee, Miro, Chagall, Arthur Boyd, and a few others. 

The Evans brothers discuss the ‘Jazz brain’ or ways of thinking jazz. This is completely in harmony with what I call “The Quantum Point”. I am currently editing my 2nd book about my work. It’s title is the same as my method “Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare”. It will be released in 2020.

The Evans’ are both also teachers of music and jazz. I am highly critical of what has been perpetuated as ‘clown teaching’ and ‘physical theatre training’ both of which I consider hoaxes stemming primarily from Paris schools and their cloned businesses. I explain about that in the beginning of Clown Secret and there I relate and connect the hoax to two myths/stories: The emperor’s new clothes; and, the worship of the golden calf. Evans’ have seen similar problems in the teaching of music and jazz and explain the problems and solutions which to me are essentially the same issues and solutions in the teaching of clown and physical theatre and improvisation.

What the Evans’ articulate can be applied directly to clowning. My introductory template “The Four Articulations for Performance” provide a “framework” and techniques as Evans’ explain. In fact, I would say my method is the same as what they articulate about the learning, teaching, creating, performing about Jazz, only my ‘jazz’ is clown.

In fact, I would say the relation between what they and Allen tell has an uncanny relation to how I actually think about clown. But it is no coincidence because as they articulate and as I tell in the book Clown Secret my method is actually to establish and reveal “Universal Principles”. As they are universal they can be found in science and in mysticism such as Kabbalah and Hassidic philosophy. 

“The Universal Mind of Bill Evans”:

Steve Allen:

Bill Evans:



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Is Nonsense Necessary to Make Sense of Society?

Is Nonsense Necessary to Make Sense of Society?

I think that nonsense is a necessary part of the human mind. It is not something likely to be provable. Provable generally tends to mean - scientifically provable.
But the social science are soft sciences and that involve ones perception.
Hard science claims that perception and the personal are not part of the science.
Quantum Physics seems to have a different acceptance that ones perspective dictates ones conclusions.
Here is a video about traditional Chinese medicine that is notably as much an art as it is a science. 
TCM today is not actually the original indigenous form of traditional Chinese medicine as Dr Duffy in the video explains.

I paused the video after 22 -23 minutes when Duffy showed two Chinese symbols: one for music and the other for medicine. He explains and we can see visually the two symbols are very similar but that medicine has two extra elements which look like three-pronged spears or tridents like that of the mythical archetype - Neptune is said to have had such a trident.

However, as soon as I saw the symbol for medicine I noted that the two ‘tridents’ look exactly like the 21st Hebrew letter ‘shin’. Interestingly, When the Hebrew alphabet 22 letters are written there are actually 23. The reason is that ‘shin’ is actually presented as a double letter with one version pronounced ‘shin’ and the other pronounced ‘sin’. Some other letters in Hebrew also have a doubling. Some of the letters have a vowel point added so the pronunciation differs like the letter ‘pe’ has a hard sound like ‘pee’ or a soft sound like ‘fe’. A few letters also have one appearance when placed in the beginning or middle of a word but when placed as the last letter they have a changed form.

Back to Duffy, he points out that the double trident at the top of the symbol for medicine represent ‘shaman’ as a double image of a male shaman and a female shaman. The Hebrew letter shin/sin appears like a trident and represents the sound ‘sh’ or ‘s’ depending on where the ‘vowel’ point is placed. When the point or dot is placed on the right side of the trident it is sh/shin. When placed on the left side of the trident is is s/sin.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Collaboration - “The Quantum Point”

“The Quantum Point” is what I call the magic space in time where creativity can move in any direction or manner. Physically, the pineal gland is like the embodied metaphor of The Quantum Point. In the book Clown Secret (2018, 2020) there is a chapter Co-Creating. The Quantum Point can be the fulcrum between and balancing collaborators. Another book is soon to be self-published “Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare”. I liked this article and the way the writer/mother/artist reflected on a challenging environment. https://busymockingbird.com/2013/08/27/collaborating-with-a-4-year-old/

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Truth Is Not Black or White... it is much more grey and more fluid like Yin/Yang

This book link below was posted on fb today. This is great to see such a book. I will order it. Certainly in the USA the Entertainment Industry was an ‘activist’ in making the wedge into the public’s psyche to change it’s programmed and historic racism. That activism started already in the early films, but, as the public generally was living in a fully racist society, activism had to be cunning and incrementally introduced into films. Even Sammy Davis, Jr in his autobiography explains for example how he had to enter venues by the kitchen and was not permitted to use the front entrance even though he was one of the most talented and highly revered entertainers. Then is was Las Vegas and the “Rat Pack” which he was a part of that forged an open path for him. His friends in the pack included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, who along with Jerry Lewis ensured and forced greater exposure of Davis. But there is a set of ‘politically correct’ myths including how ‘black face’ functioned. Black face though controversial was consciously turned into an important wedge. Also the so-called ‘demeaning’ roles in films as servants (historically accurate) in almost all cases (not each, not all, but most) the film makers ‘placed’ the Black Americans so that people could visually see yes they are an equal part of the society. Additionally, almost always the Black servants and characters were recognisably with a nobility. Some were the opposite, but most were positive roles even if the character’s job was as a servant. Hal Roach already in the 1920s insisted to have a Black American child in The Little Rascals/Our Gang. Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Milton Berle were just a few of the most famous entertainers who fought the system and used their stardom to do so. Two books which deal with some of these themes are: “Blackface, White Noise” by Michael Rogin; and, the even politically oriented “The Eddie Cantor Story” by David Weinstein.
https://www.amazon.com.au/African-American-Entertainers-Australia-Zealand/dp/1476677956/ref=sr_1_2?_encoding=UTF8&dchild=1&qid=1591312337&refinements=p_27%3ABill+Egan&s=books&sr=1-2

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Post-Pandemic Comedy of 1922 about Doctors/Medicine

Comedy made shortly after the Spanish Flu Pandemic. Doctors in the same field may often hold very different opinions. Thus the old adage “get a second opinion”. If you need a doctor go to one. BUT it is known that one tries to find a ‘good’ one as some doctors are better than others. For the record for change of seasons, and sometimes before or after long overseas trips, for those occasions when I feel maybe I should see a doctor ..... I almost always go to A CHINESE DOCTOR or a Doctor of Chinese Medicine who is either FROM China or Korea or Japan. The first time I went to one, it was because a friend was going and knew this particular one who was from Japan. That was in 1976. So I happened to see this the other day and had absolutely no idea about the subject nor story. “ Dr. Jack, has plenty of practice but scant fees. He believes in using sunshine methods and avoids medicine as far as possible. This is quite contrary to the methods employed by the renowned Dr. Ludwig von Saulsbourg (Mayne), who for four years has reaped a golden harvest out of the father (Prince) of the Sick-Little-Well-Girl (Davis), keeping the latter in dark rooms and feeding her drugs without end.” Western Medicine is brilliant with emergency care!! And microsurgery!!! And one form of diagnosis (Chinese Medicine has a different perspective). And several other areas. Chinese Medicine has its own virtues including 1000s of years of practice. A few years ago while on ‘tour’ with Cirque du Soleil I was near the teacher of my friend (a juggler who became a Doctor of Chinese Medicine). So I went for a general checkup. That Doctor was 15th generation of a Chinese family of doctors of Chinese Medicine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBsu6luYThI&app=desktop

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Ponydance- Clown? Dance? Or beyond? This essay got lost, but now it’s found.

.Clown Phenomenon – Pony Dance

To my understanding ‘clown’ is like the archetypal ‘fool’ as per the tarot card – an independent wanderer about to step from a precipice into an abyss called home. When you see Pony Dance whether in a theatre, street or club it is, as if, you’ve been welcomed home after a long journey lost in a cynical world.  They are a joy to see while they challenge our preconceptions about dance, clown, acting, theatre and being ‘modern’. 

Again Pony Dance has proved here in Edinburgh that they are pioneering a hybrid form that transcends clown, dance, and theatre. The key ingredient is the director/choreographer/dancer Leonie McDonagh from near Carrick-on-Shannon cum Belfast. The current show is the third that I have seen from Pony Dance and if you ever wondered who took facial expression away from dancers – Pony Dance has put it back. If you ever wondered who are the culprit clown ‘teachers’ that insist clowns just stand still – do nothing – stop their bodies from actual play….. Pony Dance has returned clowning to a full total embodiment. Their embodied way is not just physical it is also intellectual. Many professional clowns are deeply skilled in clown craft, just as many are not actually funny even though as craftsmen they know how to ‘get laughs’. The Pony Dance performers are all funny, genuinely, authentically. The audience roars, cheers and falls earnestly in love with them. Yet the Ponies are pushing the envelope on many levels. They are profoundly Beckettian in that they explore waiting and longing like Vladimir and Estragon with ADHD. They use anything and any way they feel like it. 

They work very hard in the studio and so far all of their shows demand 100% attention and driven vitality from each performer. The audience loves seeing them work hard and loves seeing them play hard.
Their shows all have a direct audience communication as in clown, commedia, and stand-up comedy. Many of their shows have a spanner-in-the-works or wild card in that some of the shows either have the actors amongst the audience or some of the audience amongst the actors. Very hands on stuff. 

Their show “Where Did It All Go Right” (Winner of Best of Fringe – Dance Award 2012 – Adelaide) definitely was a hands-on each night by at least one lucky audience member. That show and their current “Anybody Waitin’?” in Edinburgh’s Silk nightclub (Edinburgh 2012) are site-specific i.e. made to be performed in either a bar, pub, or nightclub. Other shows of theirs are stage/theatre shows. But they also have rocked it on the street and in Womade (Adelaide) they were a hit also on the street. They’ve won various awards, grants, commissions since we first started working together – me as their mentor (officially since 2009 unofficially since 2008).

There have been eight dancers since I have known them and all have outstanding qualities personally and professionally and intellectually. On stage they have all mastered dumber than dumb yet the overall act is extremely stimulating intellectually. Somehow through all their shenanagins  and kitsch veneer they challenge the way the audience thinks about what they are seeing so that the audience clearly becomes involved mind-to-mind with the quick wit and antics of Pony Dance.

Leonie is 100% the driving force yet she is a young master of collaboration on fire. Each of the dancers is a true equal participant in her company. Paula O’Reilly is 100% the muse. She is a queen of funny for sure. She has the stage presence of a divine wicked clownesse. Paula and Leonie bounce ideas and forces both in the office, studio, onstage and as required in schmoozing and having a ball at the festivals. Paula is also very much an Auntie to Leonie’s young son.

Yet, at the same time, each of the dancers (Duane and Ryan in Edinburgh, as well as Deirdre of the recent and next Australian tours, and earlier dancers Neil, Carl, Oona) are given space to be a creative partner with Leonie and is driven by Leonie to go further. To go all the way your own way - may be the catch phrase of this company.  

Leonie McDonagh has something to say and has chosen her own iconoclast path that is a humorous poignant, touching, and kinetic deconstruction of post-modernism. Her soul is both deeply ancient Celt, Irish, and drastically modern. Something in her is aligned with the Irish theatre action towards independence as were Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett. Their movement is our movement, that is, actively learning to cast off ones intellectual shackles and fighting to offer something better. 

Pony Dance release an essence of a pure, spiritual creative fire and Leonie’s work allows that energy to emerge uniquely from each performer in her company.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A GLIMPSE INTO THE AUSTRALIAN CIRCUS FESTIVAL

A GLIMPSE INTO THE AUSTRALIAN CIRCUS FESTIVAL

The Australian Circus Festival has just completed it’s 4th attempt. This was more than twice the dimension of the 3rd attempt in 2017. The brainchild of Jasmine Straga an internationally respected teacher, choreographer, and mentor of solo contortionists and aerialists. She is from an artistic gymnastics background and shifted into circus and performed for ten years in some of Mexico’s largest circuses before returning to Australia and starting JS Creations and founding this festival.

Jasmine has the moral support of numerous circus schools of which there are an abundance throughout Australia. These schools have a hidden precedence. For many decades Australia had more ballet schools per capita than anywhere else in the world. The homebred Aussie dancers were members in leading ballet and dance companies in the Western World. That included the Rockhampton trained Benjamin sisters of the Royal Ballet. Circus schools appear to be superseding or at least matching that history of ballet and dance schools’ popularity here. 

The Australian Circus Festival has appeared along with this zeitgeist as a sign of the times. The World Federation of Circus Festivals includes this new member, particularly as the result of the success of Jasmine’s advanced students who come to her from a variety of nations. The festival follows her breadth of inclusivity with participation welcomed and provided for circus artists from community, social, special needs as well as pre-professional and professional divisions. 

So the festival has a great humanitarian feeling and palpable energy which transcends the performing arts. It has the wow and warmth factors that were the backbone of circus’ ancient and continuing popularity. The festival is as much international as it is interstate. International includes the cousins across the Tasman - Flip n Fly Circus of Auckland, as well as the closer yet islander siblings in Tasmania inclusive of Circ’s Cool Circus school of tiny Launceston. Flip n Fly and Circ’s Cool Circus are both led by highly experienced tent circus touring professionals. 

This brings us to another interesting factor of this contemporary circus festival. This festival is strongly, actively, and practically supported by generations established circus families. Last festival and this festival the Lennon Family provided the tents and all variety of necessary equipment including rigging, winches, seating, lights, as well as employed backstage expert crew who were fully assisted by a plethora of capable volunteers some of whom are experienced in circus and some of whom just had a total immersion working 14 hour days eight days in a row. The festival has the pleasant ‘can-do’ spirit, as well as, ‘I think we might just be able to squeeze it in, so let’s give it a go’ esprit de corps. 

Not to single out individuals as there is no doubt it was a team effort of around 50 or 60 people working long hours including the sleep deprived ensemble as well as Jasmine. She was ably assisted by Claire Reincastle of Circus Akimbo. However, without a number of team leaders and their essential assistants such a homegrown personally financed festival could not eventuate. The Operations Manager was 5th generation circus artist Shane Lennon. He and Nancy Lennon of Hudson’s Circus are total hands on leaders who were often seen lifting, carrying, pulling. Not only pulling up the flying trapeze net but also pulling expresso coffees in the festival canteen. 

Other leaders included 5th generation circus artist Carlo Urban who was born into the Hungarian Urban family. Carlo ran his state-of-art winch for eight different artistic programs which included multiple dozens of aerial acts.  Importantly, also, artistically this festival had one of the most wonderful circus festival directors, from Switzerland, Patrick Rosseel. Patrick worked for Schweizer National Circus Knie for 24 years, as well as a number of the largest European circus festivals including Cirque de Monte Carlo. Jasmine and Shane explained that Patrick also worked tirelessly long hours as full program rehearsals started early in the morning and the working days included two performances per day. The two ‘in-between’ days were dawn through evening rehearsal and technical processes. Further, they noted that Patrick was a highly disciplined ‘captain’ and taskmaster who had a vision that ensured the integrity of the each showcase and the festival as a whole as the Stage and Artistic Director. 

The eight programs included approximately 150 acts from numerous schools including Avion Aerials and Circus Arts, circus families including Ludwig Schukin and his children, and individuals. So please forgive that I can only mention a few within this short narrative, a glimpse. Although the majority of acts were solos and duets, there were also numerous team and large group acts. There were over 300 performers. This included youths who are 7th generation of circus families as well as numerous artistes performing for their first time in a big top tent. 

The Juries were from a pool of about 20 people. That included overseas guests; Valentina Savina of the Moscow Circus School; Zsuzsanna Mata Executive Director of Federation Mondiale du Cirque; Betty Butler - Co-Founder of Circus Juventas; Stacy Clark - Casting Director, Sourcing and Recruitment for Cirque du Soleil; Rongquan Xie Wuqiao International Circus Festival; Bayarsaikhan Odonchimeg of Flip n Fly. There were a variety of Australian Jury members. Several were from long established circus families and those included; Bekki Ashton, Dante Ashton-Harrison; Schantel Kathriner; Craig Bullen, There was also a Jury team comprised of youths including 7th generation Rikki Ashton-Harrison. 

Naturally, there was a huge variety of acts including outstanding artistes of the Fujian Troupe of China, and, one artiste originally from Cirkus Smirkus in the USA. 

More than those who happened to win the variety of prizes it appeared every day that this festival is a winning formula in international and interstate collaboration through participation. Jasmine and Shane explained that their main assistants had to wear multiple hats and jump in when needed, so in a practical way they both said they really each needed three more assistants. In other words, a substantial grant or grants or sponsorship is now required for the next stages of their vision. Also assisting in a variety of ways were Ashton Family members such as Tanya, Bekki, and Jessie who besides being one of the world’s greatest cascadeurs - a clown specialising in acrobatic falls - he was essential to help with the complex lighting that Patrick established.

There were several Lifetime Achievement Awards given to Lorraine Ashton Grant and Gary Grant, Robert and Bernice Perry, Frank Gasser. Another day such an award was given to legendary clown and former tumbler of The Seven Ashtons, Dougie, and Sally Ashton. It happened that in addition to Dougie the other of Australia’s senior most clowns Gary Grant also visited this day. I could not believe that finally after decades of living in Australia I could go and chat with both Dougie and Gary at the same time. Accompanying me was the clown, aerialist, dancer, whip-cracker Amanda-Lyn Pearson of The Crackup Sisters. 

When we got to Dougie, Gary, Sally, over walked Pixi Robinson who was a former risley, trapeze flyer, and musician, who also had been the first Artistic Director of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Pixi has also long been a key admin and publicity person for circuses and this festival. Then as we we all began to chat, Carlo Urban came over, quite shyly to greet Dougie and Sally who he had not seen since he was 9 years old when they were all in Frank Gasser’s Circus Royale. 

In addition to Carlo operating the winch mentioned earlier and running the performances technically on the ground and backstage, he also appeared, as a technician to assist the exceptional clown Walison Muh. Carlo had about 8 quick entrances into Walison’s balloon version of the William Tell Gag. The gag Chaplin does with his lifetime colleague Henry Bergman in a film The Circus of 1928. The timing between Walison and Carlo was utterly impeccable and funny and included perfected ‘real’, authentic comic pratfalls. After congratulating Walison, I then sought Carlo to congratulate him and to find out more about his background. Ever so humbly he answered my curiosity and yes as a child with his family he learned and performed their classic clown routines and as he matured he also was in their Knockabout acrobatic acts. The five generations, that is over 100 years of circus means that he like others of such families, are filled with a deep knowledge, embodied in their bones and spirit. 

Jasmine has mentored a number of her students through related festivals into their first full circus contracts, knows very well, performance awards can help. As she explained professional footage from each showcase is a most excellent tool which the agents and circus owners appreciate i.e. a live performance with audience reactions, in a tent, with professional stage lighting. Yet, everyone at the festival seems to support the altruistic side of circus i.e. ‘let’s put on the best possible show’ under present circumstances. The word ‘circumstances’ my teacher Carlo from Italy pronounced as ‘circus-stanzas’. 

The ‘circus-stanzas’ of the final program titled the Pre-Professional Program had several highlights, here are a few. There happened to be one of the most beautiful, elegant, artistic straps solos I have ever seen. That was by Christopher Frances Bate, a multi-skilled acrobat from Flip N Fly. Also in this final showcase was a superb static trapeze duet by Moira Campbell and Rosilani Mordaunt of Spaghetti Circus. Like Bates’ act this duet was fully ready for an international circus. Another static trapeze duet had a bit of ‘static’ with the timing of their winch. Suddenly in the circus it was a real drama, very real theatre. There was a technical miscue early in the performance. The ‘boss’ artist signalled for the trapeze and duet to be lowered. She walked over calmly, with clarity, and purpose. Truly beyond what we see when aerialists try to ‘act’ or ‘stylise’ clarity and purpose. This was notably different, totally real. She very briefly called the shots to the crew and MC and let them know ‘We’ll start again’. The duet exited. Behind the curtain. The MC announced the act. The curtains opened. The act was flawless and elegant. That duet was Isobel Moore and Jeanli Pelletier.

One more event, also under extenuating ‘circus-stanzas’, also wowed the audience and Jury, but, no viewer knew the back story. It happened to be that I presented their Gold Award. In the duet was a powerful small performer we had seen in previous days in two other outstanding aerial acts, a quartet, then a solo. This static trapeze duet was very advanced technically and artistically and in performance. It was only one of two mixed doubles aerial acts of the festival. The other, a theatrical duo straps act, was one of Juventas outstanding acts they brought to Australia. 

Now with this static trapeze act I asked ‘take me to your leader’ i.e. could I meet your coach. It was Schantel Kathriner of Circ’s Cool. Schantel then informed me of the drama behind this act. The afore mentioned ‘powerful small performer’, Jemaliye Aykiran, had another young male partner for a different aerial duet, but he got injured. So, Jemaliye asked Schantel to help her make another duet. This new duet was created with a wonderful young man, Leuka Robson, who we had seen in another act. However, he and Little Miss Powerful had never worked together although they are both students of Schantel. In just over a week, the three of them put together this outstanding act. Extraordinary. The Jury never knew the story, but was impressed simply with what they saw and awarded this act the Gold Award.  Schantel then introduced me to her 11 year old daughter, Mia Carroll, who in the first showcase of the week performed her own creation. That was an homage to her grandfather, the great circus-man Rene Kathriner who Passed Away one year ago. Mia’s acrobatic act had a background slide show throughout of her Grandfather’s photos from his enormous array of circus acts..

To conclude, in circus the adage is true that ‘everything old is new again’. There is no doubt that the circus evolution is not new even though it is clearly evolving in a variety of directions. There was a vast network of community circus, acrobatic and slapstick classes nationwide in the USA well established by the 1920s. Those circus classes were run at the YMCA’s. That was at the tail end of Vaudeville and during a time when the USA had about 200 touring tent circuses.  

The more broad circus programs going all the way up to flying trapeze and high wire included from 1950 the Wenatchee Youth Circus on the West Coast. On the East Coast there was from 1947 FSU-Flying High Circus; from 1949 the Sarasota Sailor’s Circus. Cirkus Smirkus from 1987. Co-Director of Juventas, Betty, began in the Sailor’s Circus. But the most revolutionary school was the Moscow Circus School established in 1927 and extended to create exemplary schools throughout the Soviet and former Soviet empire. That led to there being 100 circus buildings in the USSR. France’s Annie Fratellini and Pierre Etaix established École Nationale du Cirque in 1975. 

Shane Lennon, and others of the long established circus families are seeing a clear development and growing interest from young adults coming from the various  youth circuses who would like to ‘run away and join the circus’ olde school style in a tent. Part of the dream, fantasy, hope, vision of The Australian Circus Festival according to Jasmine and Shane, is that there can be a meeting ground, a ‘corroboree’ if you will, where the different factions of the hugely varied worlds of circus can come together as a ‘broad church’ community of diversity and share in the common cause of joy and betterment of societies.   

Written by Ira Seidenstein

Official Industry Awards:
Lifetime Achievement Awards:
•Frank Gasser
•Doug & Sally Ashton
Robert Perry and Bernice Perry
•Gary Grant & Lorraine Ashton Grant
Federation Mondale du Cirque (Awarded by Zsuzsanna Mata):
•John LeMare for his contribution to the global circus industry
Australian Circus Federation (Awarded by Pepe Ashton):
•John LeMare for his long-standing contribution to the Australian Circus Industry.
Young Indigenous Circus Artist of 2019:
•Abigale Tinker
Indigenous Circus Artist of 2019
Sabu Award for Advocating Classical Circus with animals:
•Mrs Zelie Bullen
Animal Welfare Award 2019
Kelly Maynard of Circus Eronis.
•Best Contemporary Circus Director 2019: •Natano Fa'anana                                                   Photo is Walison MuhDirector                               
PPH

WRIT