Freeing Your Inner Clown
“I’m sure you can just watch,” Colin says as we head off to an event called “Liberating the Marvelous.” I’m interested in the part that features poetry and music but it’s supposed to open with a Clowning Workshop. That worries me.
“Workshop usually means participation,” I say.
I don’t have to go. Colin is okay going alone, but it’s a chance for me to see the Camas Collective Bookstore he treks off to every Tuesday evening for the
Ten people show up. When Paula starts tossing potential costume items at us from a used clothing bin, I know I will not get away with just watching. Colin adorns his head with a veil of bright yellow net and I stretch a pink bra over my t-shirt. Paula says clowning is not about hiding behind a painted face; it’s about unmasking the real person inside. Our first exercise will be to communicate how we’re feeling in words and actions. Oh, oh, I think. Encounter group. I say I’m feeling stoo-pid and everyone laughs. Look, Ma, I’m a clown.
Next we’re to find a private place in the bookstore so we can get in touch with our bodies and our voices. No interaction with others for five minutes. We should move any way we want and practice laughing. I stand in front of a shelf with my arms folded across my chest, reading book titles. Paula writhes on the floor, her maniacal laughter filling the room. She obviously didn’t grow up being admonished not to make a spectacle of herself. It occurs to me I don’t make a sound even when I’m all alone in the house: no humming, no muttering, certainly not maniacal laughter. It occurs to me I’m the strange one.
We go through two rounds of saying our first names in a way that expresses how we perceive ourselves. We laugh a lot, and I remember everyone’s name by the end. We silently pass props (a tin box, a glove), miming mini-scenes. We pair off and make faces at each other. We play follow the leader where the one who's "It" makes noises we have to repeat and, later, motions we have to imitate. Except for Colin and me, the others are in their twenties, maybe early thirties. When we begin hopping like frogs, I say, “I’m too old for this!”
We end the workshop with a Public Stunt. Coats on, we shuffle outside, form small groups, and occupy the four corners of an intersection. When the light is red, we stand motionless. When it turns green, we leap and skip and run across the street, whooping and high-fiving the others we meet mid-way. We do this until it gets boring. A man crossing towards us during one green light never looks up from his cell phone. Back in the bookstore, Paula says the stunt was to show how you don’t have to break the law to put on a public display of joy. We end the workshop by making eye contact — every person with every other.
More people come later for the poetry and to hear two guitarists and singers from
“You like me sometimes,” Colin says. “I get you out there.”
I do. He does, and it’s fun.
Photo: Workshop leader Paula Belina, centre, wearing assorted items from the used bin as we get ready to commit a public display of joy. I’m the red coated one to the right. Colin took a bunch more shots but the batteries failed. This was the only one that made it.