When was the last time you laughed from your heart? Or the last time you were able to shed tears about something that still pains you? Do you feel like your shoulders are always up above your ears and your mind in a constant treadmill of obligation and worry? Do you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do you feel like you are “too” serious? These workshops are for you if you are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, or lonely. If you struggle with shyness, depression, or anxiety, they will both challenge and expand your comfort zone and give perspective on stuck energy or difficulties. I live with these issues as well, and these practices in my workshops have helped me develop tools to build my own resilience and respond to challenge in life-enhancing ways . The workshops are based on my experiences in theatrical and dance improvisation, music, theatrical clowning, and holistic healing. They are trauma-informed / healing-centered with elements of acceptance and commitment therapy, positive psychology, and somatic psychology. You are always in control of how much you engage and the level of challenge you choose to accept. You are your best teacher and best guide! In my workshops we tend to laugh a lot, which is great medicine in itself!
Laughing and Singing Our Way Through Emotions (indoor or outdoor)
After I explain the rundown of the workshop and the three basic guidelines (no put downs, challenge by choice, and every answer is the right answer), we have a brief opening circle and short meditation. This is to set a heart-centered tone, to build, and to help people drop “into the room.” We follow with theatrical or dance-based ice breakers and a collaborative singing game accompanied by my banjo. These again help to drop our energy from head to body and heart. Then comes the bag of costumes and props and a round or two of collaborative theatre games. Costumes help build the feeling or a “real but not real” space, or dramatic reality, where we are engaging with each other (real) in play scenarios and games (not real). They also provide a slightly more removed perspective, a kind of persona in which to engage in the games and activities. And… they encourage us to get silly!
Some kind of art integration activity can help to articulate the experience thus far through image or movement. Sometimes what we experience is not yet able to be articulated in words, so images and movement provide another means of expression and integration. We end with a discussion on the gifts of a challenging emotion – for example, fear which can connect us to intuition and the invitation to action. Clowns are emotional acrobats. I believe that the more we understand the gifts in challenging emotions, the more we can surrender and allow them into our consciousness – to inform us, to move through us, to return us to peace, relaxation, and calm. This workshop series can be over the course of 6-8 sessions or over a weekend.
Clowns in the Woods (outdoor)
The opening of this workshop is the same as above: an overview of the events to come and the three basic guidelines. We start with a sensory meditation, consciously connecting with all five senses while sitting in one place in nature. Connecting with our senses in nature is a powerful way to calm and ground the mind and bring us into awareness with our surroundings. We then move to theatrical ice breakers and collaborative theatre games. I then bring out the costumes. Again, this is drop our consciousness into our emotions and bodies and create a dramatic reality and personas to play with. We tend to get increasingly ridiculous as the games progress!
We move to Acting Back, or playing out different aspects of an emotional story told by someone in the group via movement, simple words or sounds, and sometimes humour. This is a powerful way to animate and feel parts of self or parts of a challenging story and can offer a kind of emotional catharsis. I then hand out clown noses. Clown noses, they say, are the smallest mask. Rather than hide, they reveal our true self. An outdoor landscape allows an abundance of natural props as we engage with land via physicality and emotional and sensory play. This workshop ends with a discussion on the gifts of grief and even of climate change. I want to suggest that climate change brings destruction but also the possibility of creation. My intention is to open a place for feeling the the pain, fear, and anger that many feel around climate change and land relationship and to offer practices of creativity, humour, and play as tools of resilience. This workshop can be over the course of three – four sessions or over a weekend.
*Photo credits Carol Layton, Owen Bridge, Brayand Rodriguez, and Juele Hortie