“I’m taking this class because I’m someone who is not very confident onstage and finding my clown is helping me feel more comfortable and have fun with it,” said sophomore theatre minor Christina Barry after last Friday’s performance class. Clowning, coupled with stage combat, makes up half of the curriculum for the TF Performance Workshop. Guest instructor Jeff Stanley teaches the various aspects of being a clown from proper physicality to effective audience interaction.
Each class starts with a complicated game of concentration and hand-eye co-ordination. The students stand in a circle and pass, toss, and throw a variety of different balls to their classmates according to the rule which accompanies each ball. The game is designed to trip up its players, and the goal is to not “spaz out.” Students often find themselves cracking under the pressure of the complex rules of the game thus hilarity always ensues.
This past week, Stanley then led a group discussion geared toward answering the question “Who is your clown?” (Followed by “Whose is you clown?” and “Who is your clown called to be?”) First, the class brainstormed to come up with certain adjectives which could be a clown’s central characteristic, such as stupid, naïve, and combative.
Following the discussion, each student stood alone in front of the class and attempted to elicit laughter from them by telling one joke. The performing “clown” was not allowed to leave the stage until he or she had gotten the laughter, so each of the students discovered what about them makes them funny and who their clown is.
In the last exercise, students separated into groups of three and performed in front of the class, but without using any words. The group members onstage had to learn how to use only their physicality to be funny, with the added complication that only two of them could be onstage at a time. It quickly became evident that sometimes the most comical situations involve no verbal communication.
And best of all, the class gets a moment every now and then to just act silly.