Angels can Fly - A Modern Clown User Guide

Clown is not an easy topic to learn from a book, because it requires hands on experience, and Alan Clay has overcome this in his book, Angels Can Fly, through a mix of a fictional tale, following the adventures of ten clown characters, some anecdotes from personal experience, and some theory on the art form. Like any good user guide, it also includes 50 practical clown exercises.

Often a story of personal experience will convey information better than theory, and so Alan is  including an anecdotal section in each chapter and twenty clowns from around the world have submitted anecdotes for inclusion.Alan Clay's - Angels can Fly - Blog

Check out the Angels Can Fly Blog where you can read many of the anecdotes and exercises.

And while you are here, why not check out Alan Clay's new clown film, Moontan, which was shot in October 2006 in Wanganui, New Zealand, staring Annette Devick from Canada and Mark Hudson from Australia.


Example Anecdotes

3. Bliss - Trunk Fools

"Merriment and madness have infected the mid-north of New Zealand over the past few days through the first ever Kaikohe Festival of Fools organised by the itinerant Imperial Trunk Fools Company Unlimited.

"Living gipsy style, this group of young people are traveling the world, giving performances of clowning, juggling, nuclear physics, mime, fire-eating, story-telling and magic.

"The Trunk Fools are a happy-go-lucky and unpretentious group of people who have chosen theatre as their way of life and they do not perform to make money but merely to enjoy themselves and share their pleasure with others.

"At schools the fools were cheered on by hundreds of children from kindergarten to college.

"There is a fool in everybody," they say, "and we want to help people find their fool, and see the funny side of life."

"And see the funny side people did!

"Wednesday's programe, for instance, promised an evening of mime and madness, and the very talented musicians, mime artists, dancers, fire-eaters and altogether crazy entertainers gave their audience just that.

"The people who make up this company are an interesting mixture of talents, and an array of nationalities, who explain that their unique life-style enables them to turn their ideals into reality.

"We have chosen theatre as our way of life," they say. "We learn, create, and give through theatre, and we hope to share this experience with others."

"As in regular theatre, the Trunk Fools have a producer - known as captain - Captain Krook, a wildly enthusiastic character, devoted to the cause.

"The other company members are referred to as the family, and as well as magic-makers, puppeteers and fire-eaters, they include a resident philosopher, an astrologer and a masseur.

"The Trunk Fools will be heading off sometime this week, but they have left their mark of madness on the town and they won't be forgotten for the merriment they spread." NZ Northern Advocate, 1978

Alan Clay, holding daughter Manuka, and Bogdan Szyber with the Trunk Fools road-train in Northland, New Zealand, 1978.

8. Interact - Needing an Audience

When I performed for the first of three times at the Linz Street Theatre Spectacular in Austria, it was with a duo called 'The Untouchables' in 1996. My partner, Amanda, and I had worked festivals and events for a couple of years, but as a duo we had not busked and earned our income from the hat.

The Pflasterspektakel is a well organised three day busking
festival, with over a hundred acts doing three shows a day. The festival provides a hotel, living and travel costs to the selected acts, and you take the hat.

We arrived broke in Linz, a stern elegant Austrian stone city, a week before the festival, thinking that would give us time to practice our show, and earn a bit of money to live on.

With a festival like that, we figured, Linz was obviously a city that was into street theatre, but we spent the first day sitting in the grand main square which had no people in it what so ever.

We didn't know it then, but the festival is like a magnet, and hundreds of thousands of people pour into town for the event, but otherwise the square is dead.

So we asked the organisers to reimburse our travel costs early, so we could live until the festival started. But their system was that you had to do all three days to be eligible for the full amount, so they didn't want to pay travel till the last day of the event.

The director, thinking no doubt that a little pre-festival entertainment might warm up the square, suggested that since we were professional street performers we could just go out and do a show.

29. Teaching - Clown Classes

Alan Clay, centre, teaching a street clown workshop at the Fools 3 Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1982.

People often wonder what you do in a clown class. "Do you put on make up or costumes?" the new one's ask as they enquire about classes.

It tends to be that you do a lot of physical, and emotional and vocal warm up, and play lots of games, and I often sit in a clown class feeling blessed with my occupation as teacher, because it is so much fun.

Over many years I taught a Street Clown workshop, and later I
have continued the street exercises within my clown teaching practice, because the street gives us the other half of the equation, the audience, and they are fun to play with.

Street exercise in getting attention. Only the guy in the nose is part of the class, but this walking street in Copenhagen gives an
ideal opportunity to test reactions to this basic statue
exercise. Copenhagen, 1982.


1. Go Your Own Path

2. When to Start

3. Bliss

4. Breath

5. Play

6. Explore

7. Observe

8. Interact

9. Learning

10. Trust

11. Growth

12. Laughter

13. Emotions

14. Body

15. Mind

16. Mistakes

17. Games

18. Fool

19. Self

20. Others

21. Expression

22. Communication

23. Audience

24. Rapport

25. Vulnerability

26. Spontaneity

27. Process

28. Practice

29. Teaching

30. Theatre

31. Story

32. Character

33. Structure

34. Tension

35. Patterns

36. Expectations

37. Risk

38. Release

39. Failure

40. Perception

41. Normal

42. Taboos

43. Freedom

44. Acceptance

45. Change

46. Creativity

47. Art

48. Love

49. Spirit

50. Faith


Check out the Angels can Fly - Blog, which tells the inside story of the publication of Alan's new book, and includes a range or revently posted anecdotes from the book. You can also subscribe to an xml feed, and get it syndicated to your news reader, or to your 'My Yahoo' account.

Alan Clay's - Angels can Fly - Blog

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Last updated 05 December 2008