Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Teaching Clowns to Clown

I find teaching clowning incredibly scary.  Performing is my safety area, it's where I'm comfortable.

When I teach, I have to be very present, pay lots of attention and gently coach or push people to find character or to find comedy within themselves.

It's easy to say the wrong thing, to shut someone down, to hurt them. I never want that I want them to find character, movement and find comedy.

I am going to be teaching clowning at SOTA. That's School of the Arts.  It's a performing arts high school in San Francisco, like the high school Fame in New York.  I've subbed there a number of times for my old clown partner Brady.  Brady is moving into another teaching position at the school and got me the job as the next heir apparent.

The students spend about 3 or 4 hours every day working on performing.  They do Shakespeare and scene study and movement and dance and monologues and African Haitian dance and improvisation and clowning.

There are some downsides to teaching in a place like this.  You get interrupted a lot.  It is a high school, so someone always has to go to the bathroom or a note is coming in because someone left their backpack somewhere and it's in the office.  Or there's a dentist appointment.

The classes are too short.  I think they are 50 minutes.  They come in really worked up, so it takes a while to start class.  The classes are a bit large for what I do as well.  Ideally, I'd have 12.  6 groups of 2, 4 groups of 3.  I have no control over such things.

On the other hand, to be able to work on clowning is so cool.  To use your body as communication, to make people laugh with a look.  To teach someone a proper slap and fall and watch the execute it.  Just nifty.

Internally, I don't think very highly of my own skills.  In fact, I'm in constant fear of being found out as the fraud I know myself to be.  When I demonstrate in classes, I get ooos and aaahs of "you're so good".  It's weird because I mostly feel like anyone at all can do what I do.

Administration sucks with a capital SUCKS at this school.  I'm not good with authority, I will sabotage every time if left to my own devices.   I can tell they just posture.  So, I'll turn in my lesson plans and do what the students need most, that will likely take us off my lesson plan.  They pay little attention to our class so we'll be fine.

By happenstance, I've been invited to teach at a local clown club tomorow.  That's fun as well.  They will be a lot harder to teach.  Adults, especially in a clown club have preconceived notions of clowns.  Lots of cute stuff that has very little to do with clowning.

But I'm nervous and excited about this as well.  The times I've worked with clown clubs, I'm surprised at how little they know of the greats of the history.  I bring up my hero Bill Irwin, I get blank stares.  We'll have fun.  I like to create clowns inside out, so it will be neat to see how they do.

Now, if only this stuff paid a little better....

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