Sunday, September 1, 2013

Carlo's Revenge - a project honoring my teacher Carlo Mazzone-Clementi

I am in Italy, the country of Carlo's birth. This project "Commedia Toto" owes much to Carlo and is a transference of his energy. Carlo was complex and I understood early that he was like a fire and if you got too close you might get burned. There are others who could tell drastically more about Carlo than me but that is up to them to write or not to.

Carlo was the person who first told me about Toto the great Italian clown. In Australia around Christmas SBS would show a Toto movie annually. A few years ago for the new generation SBS began to show Roberto Begnini's Pinocchio instead. Carlo was also my initial teacher in Commedia dell'arte.

"Commedia Toto" reflects my own interest in a holistic integration of clown and commedia dell'arte. This is counter to the teaching in theatre about 'styles' in which there are claims that 'clown' is a 'style' and that clown is separate or distinct from 'commedia'. Such distinctions are only one way of understanding theatre.

I have found that teaching categorical separation of 'styles' in theatre is Cartesian (Rene Decartes) in that it separates rather than integrates.

In many ways I use Shakespeare as the ultimate theatre fulcrum. Shakespeare integrated clown, commedia, tragedy and comedy. I disagree with the clear distinctions of Shakespeare's works as tradition maintains it as: tragedy, comedy, history plays. For example Henry V is considered a 'history' play yet it is filled with clowning (comedy). Antony & Cleopatra is sometimes referred to by scholars and directors as a tragedy or a history. Which is it? Or can't it be both? Yet if it is either a tragedy or a history why is it filled with comedy? Then is it a comedy? Again that reflects a Cartesian approach and I feel there are better ways to consider such works.

Commedia dell'arte itself is filled with clowning. Antony & Cleopatra in fact or in my view is also a great commedia dell'arte play. There is a real possibility and maybe even a probability that Shakespeare spent three formative years in Italy. A large percentage of his plays take place in Italy (Venice, Padua, Verona). Some of Shakespeare's plays are partially in or related to Italy - Antony & Cleopatra, The Tempest, and Cymbeline.   

I consider Toto one of the most direct links to commedia dell'arte. He is like a pure cultural lineage. He even explains that his first experience in theatre was with a commedia dell'arte show. Of course the purest romantic form of commedia ended in the 1600s. It had remnants into the 1700s and one of those extended farther as the Price family of pantomime players from England joined forces (and families through marriage) with an Italian commedia family when the two met in Copenhagen around 1810. This tradition continues with the 10th generation Price still involved in Copenhagen's style of commedia in its Tivoli Pantomime. There a Price is the composer and musical director.

Toto, just as Harlequin could, took on a variety of guises. Two of those I am fascinated by. Those two are Toto as Pinocchio and as Otello (both as marionettes). In at least one movie Toto also plays a clown.

Long ago I worked on two plays of Pirandello and was very interested in his use of meta-theatre - the acknowledgement of both the actors and the audience that what we are experiencing is theatre and life and that the life we experience in the theatre is also the only reality. Carlo once said in class while he was giving an inspirational talk "You think I am talking about theatre, but, I am not! I am talking about life!". In this respect Carlo was Pirandellian. So Brecht, Commedia, Clown and above all Shakespeare used meta-theatre at least in each of his prologues, epilogues, asides and perhaps too in his soliloquies as performed by such people as Mark Rylance. Rylance is the embodiment of clown, commedia, capo comico, and tragedian. So too is Toto.

A few years ago I was nearly able to start my "Commedia Toto" project with two actors. That didn't eventuate. But now I am here in Italy and with a wonderful group of actors and colleagues we are creating the play "Commedia Toto" that will be performed at the end of this week. I have asked for two assistants on this project each of whom will also act in the play. My friend and colleague Caspar Schjelbred (Denmark/Sweden) has assisted with the organization and communication and Elena Michielin (of Veneto) has done the textual research I've assigned into Toto texts and Pirandello texts. In our play Elena will play a character named "The Actress" and Caspar's is "Soren Kierkagaard". Kevin Gorczynski is "Toto as Pinocchio". ... to be continued...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reviewing the Reviewers

Prior to becoming a resident then citizen of Australia I worked in an avant-garde world of theatre where, at the time, reviews were largely irrelevant. That was then and now is now. On the few occasions that my shows were reviewed in Helsinki once and Auckland a few times and once I think in San Francisco - in those I survived in good reports.

I was encouraged by four particular people to 'set up shop' in Sydney. They encouraged me to move from New Zealand and to set up my teaching, directing, and performing in Sydney. One of the four was the long time stage manager, assistant, director of Barry Humphries. That was Ian Tasker (R.I.P). The other practical encourager was an 'original' of Circus Oz - Stephen Champion - who had decided (like most of the originals) to leave a somewhat dysfunctional 'family'. In the end only one of the originals who remained, and remained, and remained. The other two who encouraged me to stay in Sydney were Indigenous 'elders' - one was Ted "Gaboo" Thomas who mentored me in certain ways, and the other 'elder' was Norm (?) who had been a tap dancer vaudeville style and was the counsellor at NAISDA.

Reviewers in Sydney became interesting for me as I read two papers each day - The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. So on the days that there were theatre or dance reviews I read all of them.

The first show I was in, in Sydney that was reviewed was An Imaginary Life at Belvoir St Theatre. Now to get to my point(s). Perhaps I read various reviewers 50 or 100 times? I read other reviews too from other papers such as The Daily Telegraph, or The Bulletin magazine, or sometimes in other cities. So one could start to see patterns in their thinking. Back in the day - mid to late 1980s there was a big transition away from the 'olde man' Harry Kippax who had a lot of reviewing clout. Bob Evans came in and cleared the air. James Waites. Pamela Payne. and several others ALL did a good job!!! All were truly theatre lovers. Bob and James became more outspoken and were genuinely trying to usher in a new movement in local and national theatre. They were very important. There were some vociferous conflicts between them and some theatres or some theatre practitioners. But the theatre really needed a shakeup even though many aspects of the theatre culture were shifting. David Malouf I think reviewed for The Australian for about one-year. I believe my solo show received his last review.

However, for my show "The Battler" that went thru a few short phases with several colleagues/friends sitting in for one session each... the show developed a bit organically. It had its first full incarnation sponsored by Belvoir St - specifically be Chris who was manager circa 1986+ who was there when I was in "An Imaginary Life" and who was a 'fan' of many of us back in the day. So she invited folks to a one-off Monday night performance of "The Battler" in Upstairs Belvoir with a full house of about 300 or 350 whatever it held. My friend Fred helped with my set change between act 1 and act 2. There were 3 acts. Our friend Theo ran the lights. And both Fred and Theo helped me with talking through my plan of action. We were doing that in my room at the share house in Clovelly on Walker Avenue - seafront. Suddenly a set of dialogue/text in various languages came through me and suddenly act 2 had text!!! That was in the show that night. Some day I will write a description of "The Battler".

I didn't tell anyone, but, although I had a creative impulse to do a trilogy I really held to that form as a test. I had been in Australia long enough to have some insight, a bit, as immigrants need to simply as an act of survival. At any rate, although I had an ever growing (and still is growing) list of Australian theatre practitioners who I admired... I also noted that frequently there could be these extreme opinions one in opposition to the other but each voiced as if the speaker was really the only person in the room who really understood totally. Maybe that is just human nature. But nature had landed me here and here was my concern.

So I knew or suspected with reasonable odds that various theatre practitioners were going to tell me which of the three acts was 'the best' and why, while others would say a different act and would have just as valid a rationalization.

In fact, all three acts were totally unique in clown theatre. Each had a specific quality and aesthetic. So I had a tee-hee-hee experience of seeing exactly how much hubris was dominating the frontal lobes of our theatre practitioners. I argued with no one (those were the days) and just listened to each persons opinion. My teacher Carlo Mazzone-Clementi warned his students not to be sucked in to professionals opinions voiced as expertise.

There is more I will write about reviewers, but, this is a prelude to writing about my most recent collaborative project Antony & Cleopatra.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Beyond the Norm in Clown Training by Ira Seidenstein, PhD
This is a brief article on the subject of Clown Training. The point of the article is to open discussion about topics that seem to lack discourse in the field of Clown Training. There are a lot of assumptions. Here I am simply providing a counter-point of view to some of those key assumptions.

The general tendency in clown training seems to be to play games. It is already a paradox that one is teaching others to play or teaching how to play games. One can teach the rules but how does one teach the leeway and the way to overstep the rules? How does one teach another person to stretch the boundaries of a game by restricting those people? How does one teach the most open, expansive, artform that is nearly beyond definition by restricting the discoveries of the actor/student to the pre-packaged definition? 
The world of clown teaching is expansive yet it is not so varied. There is an idea in clowning for the actor/student to be an authentic, unique character. Yet when this uniqueness begins to reveal itself often the clown is pulled back, restricted, and not necessarily given permission and not necessarily allowed to take permission of their own definition. It is interesting too how many clown teachers were hardly ever clowns.
One phenomena in clown teaching is the Russian school, another is the French school, then there is the teaching of circus clown, and increasingly there is teaching specialization in clown. The specializing is defined by terms such as clown doctors, theatre clown, improvisation, or clown mask, as some examples. There is a tendency in clown teaching of denial of those who came before i.e. the elders, the masters, the veteran clowns. There is a tendency to deny all that a person brings with them before they attempt to clown. Paradoxically when someone completes a clown training they seem to feel morally obligated to only mention the most recent training. This shows that some clown teachers have somehow been dogmatic or have convinced the participants to deny their own past developments either in terms of physical training, artistic training or in intellectual development. This tends to cause a cult-like behavior where by the actor/student is constantly trying to please papa or mama i.e. the clown teacher.  To put it more simply, it seems, that quite a few clown teachers are subtly taking seniority over the naive paying customer - the actor/clown. The actor/clown gives up their seniority in the first place by believing publicity and not asking in-depth questions about the publicized proposed authority of the the clown teacher. It is a market place and each clown teacher is peddling their wares. The field is so out of kilter that one can see visually in the showings of the most famous clown teachers that the actor/clowns body is restricted to be a vertical bean pole standing still. Invariably in most clown workshops short or long - the program starts either with children's games, theatre games or getting the actor/clown to enter the space and stand still and do nothing. So a mixed neurological signaling starts most workshops a) this is all about play and b) you play the way the teacher likes i.e. where they have total psychological control over the actor/clowns body. Additionally clown teaching for various reasons is prone to dogma and convincing the actor/student that the teacher is all knowing or even wise. Even in courses where there is supposed to be 'training of the body' what really takes place is that the body learns to not take risks as the teacher will not approve.
I would question what was the teacher like as a 10th grader in high school. I would ask what was the teacher like as a child or adolescent when it came to play, to games, to sports, to study, to social interaction. It seems that there is indeed something rotten in the state of clown teaching and it is particularly prone to the 'emperor's new clothes'.
In the clown world and to some degree, in some circles it has been taboo to criticize the methods or style of teaching found in the French school(s) of clown training. These are actually the only  most known schools namely those of Lecoq and Gaulier and their derivatives or cloned schools. Gaulier was a student of Lecoq's, and there is some continuum in attitude and fallacies between the two schools. It was another student of Lecoq who showed up one day with a red nose to do one presentation, Pierre Byland. After that as Lecoq reports the tale, "the clown arrived" at his school. There were other student inputs into the development of the Lecoq training and that is a complement to Lecoq that at times he accepted input, change, influence. Although Lecoq manages to deny or not mention his great muse Carlo Mazzone-Clementi who was side by side with Lecoq for three years when they were attempting to rediscover 'commedia dell'arte. He also neglects to mention his great muse, colleague and friend who journeyed the influence of art in Lecoq's method. That artist was the sculptor Gerard Koch. Note that Ringling Brothers Clown College began unofficially in 1967, begun by my teacher Danny Chapman. Bill Irwin graduated from the Ringling Clown College after he studied acting and theatre with Herbert Blau. Officially it began 1968 with a full staff and masterminded by Bill Ballantine. The International Juggling Association was started by a clown "Happy Daze" - Art Jennings, Sr about 1947 and had an influence on clowning in the USA. About that time Lotte Goslar began touring her Pantomime Circus extensively in the USA and that was distinctly a clown theatre show. Clowns International started about this time as well.
Another student who had been a trained dancer explained to Lecoq that his school needed the technique of Moshe Feldenkrais. The Feldenkrais method actually is one of the key elements of the Lecoq program. However, the most significant key secret of those who actually managed to have a career after Lecoq's programming is that generally those who succeeded almost invariably were trained elsewhere, often with a B.A. in classical acting and movement for theatre - before attending the Lecoq school. This is still true with many of the derivative schools as well, that the students success is actually dependent on their previous training usually in a formal B.A. program. The social theorist Pierre Bourdieu lays out illusion in his general theory of education. He explains that art and education are continually subject to illusio, misrecognition, symbolic violence and that yesterday's new method becomes an unbendable orthodoxy that creates illusion to maintain power and control. Intended or not this is the result that Lecoq and Gaulier have become the dominant players in clown training and their dominance is based on illusion. They are also far from the best methods. It is the emperor's new clothes of clown training. Both Lecoq and Gaulier and most of their derivative schools and teachers deny the existence and wisdom and value of the great clowns not only of international renown such as Chaplin, Keaton, Lucille Ball, Jacques Tati, Woody Allen etc but also when they set up shop in another country it is as if no clowns existed before Lecoq and Gaulier. For example in the UK, in the Lecoq/Gaulier based schools when it comes to clowning where in the curriculum does the teacher acknowledge: Max Miller, Max Wall, The Goons, Spike Milligan, The Two Ronnies, Morecombe and Wise, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, The Carry On films, Dad's Army, Norman Wisdom, Rowan Atkinson, The Young Ones, Absolutely Fabulous, or Peter Sellers? Naturally with Peter Sellers the Lecoq clan will say the usual "what about Geoffrey Rush"  who portrayed Peter Sellers in the biographic film. Rush was a student of Lecoq, formidable training with the Englishman Alan Edwards.  Yes but Rush wasn't Peter Sellers. There is a rather large difference. And when it comes to clown it is authenticity that is often important. Peter Sellers was completely 100% authentic. Geoffrey Rush is a very fine actor who was taught acting  and mime  by Alan Edwards an important Englishman who was an influential force in  the actor training in Australia. Rush being the famous person he is acknowledged both Edwards and Lecoq at their eulogies. It is the Lecoq clan as a general example that continues to add illusio and misrecognition, for example, Rush's case they will only say 'he trained at Lecoq's' rather than 'he trained at Lecoq's and with Alan Edwards'.

In Australia the clown teachers generally have little knowledge about the actual great Australian clowns - from "Mo' Harry van der Sluice/Roy Rene, George Wallace, George Wallace, Jr, Garry Grant, Doug Ashton, Barrie Humphries, Max Gillies, Sue Ingleton, Nancye Hayes, Reg Livermore, John Saffron, Graham Kennedy, The Auntie Jack Show, Mary Coustas, Nick Gianapoulous, or the incredible Chris Lilley and Pauly Fenech. Or the brilliant team of the STC Review including Mandy Bishop. For some examples. And now we see New Zealanders; Flight of the Concorde, and the great Taika Waitiki.
It is not that Lecoq/Gaulier are not contributing forces in what I call The Clown Movement - TCM, but,  it is rather that there are much greater and much better possibilities for clown training, education, and emergence of authenticity than are provided by the Lecoq/Gaulier syndrome. Speaking of ‘syndrome’ sometimes on this topic I’m reminded of the Stockholm Syndrome that occurs when someone is held hostage physically but also psychologically. 
In reality the so-called training or even liberating of the body at Lecoq's is derived from the method of Moshe Feldenkrais. For many years this method was taught by Monika Pagneaux. She and the Feldenkrais Technique then became a key inside the Gaulier school. However, in both schools it was a good cop/bad cop situation. So while Pagneaux was nurturing all students Lecoq/Gaulier were psychologically manipulating students and of course Gaulier has been psychologically abusive. This is well known but 'no one' in the clown community will admit or discuss that he has psychologically abused - as is continually reported - the majority of his students.

So some of the key points regarding the norm in clown teaching so far:
a) many teachers (even famous ones) were never clowns and are often not good teachers
b) actors/customers do not actually investigate the background of the teachers
c) those who succeed usually have had a formal B.A. in theatre studies
d) there has been an appropriation of the legacy of actual clowns
e) a denial of local (national) clowns of note and accomplishment by teachers of clown

Another thing that students brought to Lecoq was during the 1968 Paris student uprising when the Lecoq students demanded time to also teach themselves. This became Auto-Cours or self-study. Each week the students would present a short performance and Lecoq and his staff would critique the pieces. Ironically this fine tool - self-study - was also how the students gave up their seniority and this has become one of the ways that the Lecoq based schools and teachers continue to maintain psychological control over the students will. Specifically it is the liminal space of a) way of feedback and b) the ambiguity in the initial directions. Since the initial directions, theme, and restrictions are ambiguous the students are subject to the whims and rhythm of the teachers. In many cases going through the curriculum of the Lecoq method what actually occurs is that the actor/students have learned a series of exercises. So rather than having been clowns or mimes or mask performers or commedia performers for example, the majority of teachers in the Lecoq (and Gaulier) have often limited experience as performers in the various genres not to mention limited experience onstage as an actor. 

In most cases they know 'exercises' that like most theatre games do not actually work even though the experience of doing an exercise or game may be challenging or fun. Exercises are fun, energising, but, exercises are not training. What does work, or has worked, in reality has been the standard 3 or 4 year general university acting programs based on the work long established by Michel Saint-Denis. Saint-Denis had been a student of his uncle Jacques Copeau and an actor in his company. Saint-Denis created a university acting/theatre program combining the work of Stanislavsky and Copeau. 

To read about how an authentic journey of clown takes place I recommend the autobiographies of Steve Martin, Billy Crystal (700 Sundays), Lotte Goslar, and the 2012 documentary Woody Allen - the long  original version. The clown teaching world has yet to evolve to understand the teaching of the Russian school. Even those teachers who have participated in Slava's Snow Show are not of the stature intellectually nor inclination of Slava Polunin himself who was trained as an engineer and is a fervent intellectual with a wide range of interests in art, theatre, social/politics and philosophical/spiritual matters. His main show, Snow Show, reflects all of his positive attributes whereas so much other clown in the world lacks depth. There are a number of women clowns - distinctly not of the French schools who have also a wide range of virtues not only in subject matter and genuine informed clown knowledge but also a highly developed individual aesthetics. Most of the ones I am thinking of rarely teach. Viveka Olofssen is one exception who does teach and is part of a long history of Scandinavian clowns. She trained at Marcel Marceau's school in mime, as did the wonderful Nola Rae. 

Lotte Goslar taught a number of dancers the arts of clown and mime when they were hired into her long touring show Lotte Goslar's Pantomime Circus of course she understood that once the body was trained as in proper dance training for example, then, one could begin to rapidly learn clown and mime. In truth, the greater clowns have all been athletically inclined, most since the cultural revolution of the 1960s were graduates of classical acting/theatre training. As Bill Irwin said to me recently "I'm so glad I trained as an actor." His teacher was Herbert Blau. Since the 1986 I have recognized that the biggest gap in the training of clowns is that they increasingly lacked genuine training in classical acting and lack authentic physical training in any key discipline such as proper dance, acrobatics, martial arts or even elite sports training. The International School for Acting And Clown - I.S.A.A.C. is a fluid conceptual school of thought provides the key elements to close the gap for any person. It is not a building nor a set curriculum. I.S.A.A.C. rather teaches practical use of  universal principles of acting and clown in a most succinct way. This method allows any learner to use whatever they have in their background and this method also brings all of the work back to the innate wisdom of one's body. .... to be continued.
This article is to be continued. You are welcome to write to me directly at
Also it is of note that many performers of various schools and trainings attend my workshops and mentorship - anyone is welcomed. Additionally as explained further in my book Clown Secret I did have some  training in the Lecoq methods at the Dell'arte School. Although I did all of the exercises and presentations with 100% commitment - I was a free spirit and did them my own way no matter what the feedback was. Prior I had trained in the Stanislavsky method and also significantly I had an apprenticeship with a clown who had been in the circus 55 years. He had also been the highest level aerial acrobat and had been Boss Clown in Ringling Brothers circus for a number of years. After Dell'arte I went on to train as a teacher of Iyengar Yoga, later completed my graduate degrees - an M.A. in Visual & Performing Arts (thesis "The Body of the Actor in the Space of the Theatre" a study in cell-to-cell communication), and a PhD in Education to establish a new paradigm for the education of theatre practitioners including directors, teachers, clowns, dancers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5 of 40. Seems I have drifted away. Went to Sydney for the play reading of Antony & Cleopatra. Fine team all the way around!!! I had set the reading to be in a circle and with the seating set in relation to the characters' relationships - to some degree. As each character has multiple relationships and several actors play more than one character - I made some choices. The actors were then asked to rise upon each 'entrance' and to be seated for each 'exit'. Additionally I asked the actors to move as they felt to. I too moved as I felt and on a number of occasions called out directions, or encouragement, or to shift gears in various ways. Occasionally I rose from my seat and moved close to the actors for a moment to clarify my intention or direction.
Many great things happened in that evening.
This is indeed an exciting project. One in which we will make a journey together and make authentic discoveries in this text.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

4 of 40. Missed a week. Travel from Northern to Southern Hemisphere. Then camping. Here's a hot topic. Maybe scalding. Maybe too much. I have coined two new terms today "Denialism" and "Appropriatingism". These are just two of the new, pseudo-liberal minded forms of 'fundamentalism'.
Although I work in various genres and my work crosses over fields such as: theatre, clown, creativity, healing through the arts, social-political activism through the arts; here I will focus a bit on clown and theatre.
It is a very common theme for some years (decades) to refer to 'fundamentalism' only with reference to religions. Relig-osity is part of human nature. Basically if one rejects 'all religions' one will create one's own religion. Your religion could be yoga, or meditation, or acting, or clown, or tattoos, or taboos i.e. anything that you become attached to and defend fervently or even surreptitiously.
So, Denialism is the 'religion' of denying that anything really influenced you. For example, in clowning, a growing array of clown 'teachers' (that is, people who want to earn money from you by selling you their book, or method, or workshop, or school, or beliefs, or cult) - are in denial that there were greater clowns than themselves who set the pace for those of us who follow. Today, Toby Ballantine (son of a clown) posted a photograph of what may be the first clown that I ever saw - on TV. That was Claribel the Clown from the USA TV program The Howdy Doody Show. I am certainly not the only professional clown born in the USA who saw that show and who had to have been influenced in some way by Claribel. The interesting point is that the USA TV in the 1950s was 'filled' with clowns of all different types including the 'traditional' ones such as Claribel. He may have been the first on TV, or not, but there were a number of other classic/traditional clowns on local TV channels. There were also a huge array of the 'greats' such as Milton Berle, Sid Caesar & Imogen Coca, Lucille Ball and company, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason and company, Amos & Andy, Molly Picon, Ernie Kovacs, Ed Wynn, Victor Borge, Phil Silvers (Sgt Bilko), etc. The 1960s brought a whole other genre of sitcoms with an array of clowns - Gilligan's Island, F-Troop, Hogan's Heroes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Carol Burnett and company. Additionally there were the western/cowboy shows many of which had "the sidekick" characters who were clowns including, for example, Zorro. There were plenty of films shown regularly such as The Little Rascals, The Bowery Boys, Ma & Pa Kettle, as well as films from Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Keystone Kops, Harold Lloyd, etc.
In England/UK/Commonwealth countries there were the films of Norman Wisdom, The Carry On films, and the important radio comedians who inspired several generations - The Crazy Gang, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers. Eventually the Cambridge mob yielded Monty Python, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, there were the Two Ronnies, Morecombe & Wise, and an array of ever touring comedians performing live throughout the UK.
Other countries had their great clowns of film, but the USA and England had a prolific vanguard energy of comedy/clowning on TV.
The English language via the Commonwealth and its cousin the USA had a collective power via economics. Thus the clowns of film and TV from other countries were 'limited' in their global appeal due to languages less popular than English.
So, by denying such an inheritance as most or at least many clown 'teachers' do.... the next step is "Appropriatingism" - the art and religion of making the uninformed (and even many of the informed) believe that clowning started ex-nihlo (out of nothing, out of thin air). ..... just some ideas that you may find thought provoking.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

3 of 40 Sunday April 21 - 2013. Dublin. Had great day meeting with olde acquaintance and friend Dave Spathaky. Just recieved fakebook msg from long lost childhood friend. I am sure he could have a long list of my (and his) youthful clown antics. For sure, by the time I was five, I was known as a clown.
I was asked today if there is any relation between my "Core Mechanics" and "Biomechanics" of Meyerhold. Certainly with certainty. When I was at Dell'arte - a startup school - at that time - I discovered the joy of used bookstores. I began to pour through a large variety of books on theatre, yoga, metaphysics, health, philosophy, psychology, and occasional novels such as those of Herman Hesse.
I read the ... hold on.... fakebook msg from Dave...
So I read Meyerhold On Theatre by Edward Braun. I whisked through it. But I was inspired by that (and many influences in my life and private study) and thought I can't study Biomechanics as I was studying at Dell'arte and also at that time the Soviet empire was still at its prime and Biomechanics had not left the Soviet realms. So, I had already started to analysise the mechanics of movement my own way each morning before school. I was in the studio on my own from 7am to 9am. I was piecing together the basic mechanics of human movement techniques. The most simple analysis such as: should the knee/leg be straight or bent for a particular action such as a dive roll; should the elbow be straight or bent for a front handspring. I went to the HSU library and found three obscure books on 'acrobatics'. They had not been borrowed in at least a decade. One was likely from the 1920s on handstands, one was a book on tumbling and had hundreds of stick-figure drawings, and the third was newer and was on gymnastics. So with those books I begin a moderate yet earnest study and training on my own. After six months Carlo asked me to be the physical trainer for the professional summer repetory theatre of two groups of actors with each group rehearsing 2 plays. I also looked at one of the photos in the Braun book of one actor standing on the thigh of another. I had a different view of that and also analysised their posture by using The Alexander Technique information that our teacher Joan Schirle taught. So I found a way of doing the same trick less as a performance aesthetic and more mechanically neutral. As per Alexander's principles, 'better use', 'no effort' and less muscular engagement. Eventually I made the complete ten most basic core movements into a clear logical progressive series choreographed using hundreds of counts and dozens of details.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2 of 40. Saturday April 20 2013. Belfast to Dublin. Last day this trip training Ponydance. I love working with them. This week we missed Duane and Carl. With us were the Director/Choreographer Leonie McDonagh and her team of Paula, Jenny, Oona, Sara, Neil, Ryan. All great folks!! Here is Oona's own site Leonie and I met at my first workshop in Belfast arranged by Maryke del Castillo of The Tutti Fruiti. I had mentored Maryke for several years and when she relocated to Belfast she felt it would be good for the folks there to experience my methods. We did a 9-day workshop for a number of the main circus performers then in Belfast. Leonie and Ken have a young son and then he was only a tiny tot. So Leonie could only come in the very last part of the last session. Will of BCC met with me and invited me to come back for a month. I taught daily with a breakdown of a few subjects over the four weeks Irabatics, Clown, Choreography. That was 2008. Again most of the circus community attended. Some sporadically as they had teaching and gigs. Amongst those who attended were Hugh, Anita, Kelsey, Flora, Hillas, The Migilligans (a then trio now duet - amongst my favorite clowns in the world - albeit highly skilled and well choreographed juggling clowns), Ken and Tiny of Tumble Circus, Leonie and several others. One the final day Leonie asked me if I would come back and work just with her dancers. I returned to work 3-weeks with Ponydance. In that week I created a new exercise for them that is now a part of my regular The Four Articulations. That is the "Ponydance Circle". The Belfast mob incl the circus folks are wonderfully talented, skilled, disciplined and CERTAINLY have a genuine sense of humor!!!! FINE clowns!!!!

Reflection on possibly case of Clown Myopia - how astray is much clown 'teaching'? Astray in the sense of denial, in the way of Machiavellian 'divide and conquor'. By seperating 'clown' from other performing arts there seems to be an obvious schism in how a clown could benefit EMMENSELY from actual professional practices such as daily training in movement, dance, acrobatics, mime, voice, singing, acting. For example, musicals, many many many have so many of the greatest clown roles and certainly in most cases the most talented 'clowns' are in those musicals and playing such comic roles. Yet how many clowns, clowns students, clown teachers EVER go to see a musical? 2 days ago I was given a ticket to see Spelling Bee (i.e. The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee). It IS a GREAT clown show!!!!!!!!!! Full stop. This particular production is generally a (nearly) completely Irish team. Brilliant on every level. The show itself originates from Broadway, NYC. ... gotta run. Write to me if you like bye for the mo' Ira

Friday, April 19, 2013

This morning I saw a cloud that was to me like a clown's face. I will attempt over the next 40 days to write a daily blog. Short or long. This celebrates the omen I saw in the cloud or the cloud that I chose to read as if it was an omen. Yesterday my colleague Caspar Schjelbred encouraged me (again) to write my book of clown. I saw a fabulous 'clown' show last night. So I am celebrating clown, the 'omen', the push by a colleague, the show.
At the moment, I am on the last week of my annual teaching/directing/performing tour in Europa. Since 2006 I have come about twice a year to Europa (including UK).
I am presently, this week, teaching one of the companies that I mentor. This one is in Ireland, Ponydance. They are their own form of 'clown troupe'. They will perform soon in The American Dance Festival.
I am also preparing for several projects. One is directing Antony & Cleopatra in Sydney with a performing season June 4-15. During that season I will be performing in Slava's Snow Show for its Sydney season June 11-16.
more anon