Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More Clown Exercises

Here are a couple of new clown exercises from Angels can Fly, which have been recently revised following feedback after their presentation at MotionFest. The major change has been the inclusion of the Coaching Tips section in each exercise.

On this blog, you can also check out the Play with Objects exercise, which was posted a couple of months ago, and in that post you will also find an explanation of the Individual/Pair/Workshop coding of the exercises.

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Chapter 8: Interact


This is a street exercise, and is best set at an outdoor cafe exposed to a good flow of pedestrians. Participants sit at a table with a good view of the street.

It is good to start this exercise with a period of observation of the people walking past, observing their body postures and emotional states.

To help us around our fears, we need to place our interactions as much as possible within the comfort zone of participants.

So, working individually, participants hop up, one, two, or three at a time, engage with people walking past, and ask them a perfectly normal question, such as 'what is the time?',

This places the interaction firmly in known territory. The rest of the group observe the reactions, and can discuss these as the exercise progresses.

The exercise should be explored with a range of people, one after the other, and if the contact feels a little strained after the normal question (which is often indicated by people walking away), participants just say thank you, and move on to the next person.

Non-normal Question

If the contact feels good however, after the normal question, participants can develop this exercise by asking a non-normal question, to take the interaction into a more playful release.

It is good to ask something personal, or bizare, at this point, and this is now okay for many people, because there is a rapport between the participants, an agreement to interact.

Coaching Tips

As clowns, we often have fears about interactions with people, and even more often, the audience has fears about their interactions with us.

So we need a 'safe' mechanism to introduce participants to these interactions, one which places the interaction within the comfort zone of the audience, and one such mechanism is the normal question.

One of the big challenges of this exercise is engaging with people, for we do not, as a rule, engage with strangers on the street.

Body posture is a good start here, because we unconsciously mirror those we relate to, so by assuming a similar posture to someone, we are saying, 'I am like you, we can relate'.

Even then, many people will not stop to be asked a question, and for many it is okay then to walk with them, again easing the contact by being like them.

We should also mention that some people on the street are agressive, and these people should not be played with. See the exercise on non-violence in chapter 34.

As performers, we can also sometimes get trapped in some interactions, and so as clowns we must be aware of who is in control of the game.

If we are in crazy territory, and the other person is in control of the interaction, it is very likely that they are crazy, and so we should say 'thank you', and just move on.

At any stage, in any interaction, participants can always say, 'thank you' and move on.

Chapter 40: Perception


This exercise requires us to undertake three days of silence, during which we go about our normal daily lives, but without any talking. This gives us an opportunity to observe others, and our surroundings, from a new perspective.

It is quite good to put others more at ease by indicating the challenge we are undertaking by wearing a badge, or carrying a written note, stating that: 'I am observing silence'.

The exercise demands the development of non-verbal communication skills, to deal with the demands of negotiating our everyday world without words.

We can also write notes in response to questions or specific communication needs if we need to, but as much as possible we want to try and converse physically with gestures and physical expression.

Coaching Tips

This is one of the strongest exercises that I recall from the Fools School, that I attended in Stockholm in 1977, taught by Michael Linch.

As much as possible we should maintain our normal daily routine, and pretty soon we start to see things from a different perspective.

The best part is that after the initial interest in our exercise, others often allow our participation in any situation without expecting a response from us.

This means that we get to be there, like a fly on the wall, without the demands of normal interaction, which gives a wonderful opportunity to observe our lives from a new perspective.


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