Clowning 101

(Justine MacDonald)

Current Offerings

~Clowning 101 for families and youth – Online!

Families: First three Saturdays in April (3rd, 10th, 17th) from 11-12 am

Youth aged 10-12: April 19th, 21st, and 22nd (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday) from 330-5 pm

No experience necessary, and clown noses provided! Offered in partnership with Kaslo and Up the Lake Youth Network (KULYN). Write Shannon at KULYN to register:

~Clowns in the Woods. By request.

Clowning 101: My Take

Clowning is an art form, with many, many interpretations and schools of thought, and a form of radical creativity.

Sacred clowning has been practiced across cultures and across time in rituals, ceremonies, stories, philosophies…

You can read more about clowning traditions in my dissertation here:

I focus on European and North American settler clown history to narrow my commentary and to ground myself in my own heritage. It’s my understanding that clowning has been practiced throughout time and throughout many cultures worldwide, to help a culture dialogue with itself and see its own folly, to bring healing, to challenge power, etc.

Some current approaches and schools of thought within the clowning genre:

  • theatre
    • Clown and Mask / Pochinko / Clown Through Mask / Canadian Clowning
    • Nose to Nose
    • Bataclown
    • Lecoq
  • circus
  • bouffon / satire / social commentary
  • hospital clowning for patients as well as their families and hospital staff
  • clowning for addiction recovery
  • clowning in schools
  • rodeo clowning
  • clown and dance
  • clown and singing
  • sacred clowning in earth-based, ceremonial cultures
  • political activist clowning
  • clown therapy (prison systems, addiction recovery)
  • nature clowning
  • clown coaching

One of my teachers once said that clowning is everything:

  • all authentic / honest emotions allowed
  • all authentic impulses allowed (as long as you keep yourself and audience safe)
  • anything that happens in the room is a gift from the gods that can be played with
  • can be the contrarian of societal norms, but doesn’t have to be
  • ultimate permission to Be
  • clowns can do anything and break all of the above rules
(Ann Sorenson)

I first experienced clowning with Shannan Calcutt, Vivian Gladwell, Blondine Maurice, and Sue Proctor. I took a two week intensive in Clown and Mask with John Turner and later his course that deepens that work as well as Joey and Auguste with John and Mike Kennard. Recently, I have mentored with Nayana Fielkov through a Canada Council early career grant. Her creative approach accesses physiology for emotional availability and offers a psychological-artistic framework for personal development.

Some clown-tools and concepts in which I find delight:

  • authentic (physical) impulse
  • humour from radical honesty
  • an orientation towards play and exploration
  • innocence after experience
  • being interested, not interesting, on stage
  • physicalizing emotions
  • extending and developing impulses
  • a two-way conversation with the audience that transforms
  • an invitation into fresh response in a given moment (radical presence)
  • a circular path: nothing never happens
  • now, now, more of now

Would you like to know more about how to connect with clowning in your life? Let’s set up a time to talk.

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