The clown in me
by Iris Lapid
I recently finished Clown 2, a workshop taught by Francine Cote in which we developed our own unique clown through emotional state and physical gesture. The goal of Clown 1 was to open up and let what already exists within us come out, and in Clown 2 we worked at accepting it and developing it. Clown is all about discovering what you personally have a lot of, and then finding a way to let people laugh at that. I, for one, had a lot of difficulty understanding this concept in the first workshop because I had all sorts of ideas about what I wanted to play or how I wanted to be seen, without being able to simply let out what was already inside myself.
The aim of theatre is to touch an audience by holding up a mirror to society, so it follows that we are affected by the fragility and honesty of actors/characters/clowns.
I found myself getting bogged down by cyclical thoughts: if success in clown is to simply open up and let an audience see my fragility, then why can't I follow my perfectly instinctual impulse to construct or decide what they get to see? It was only recently that I was able to accept that my successes are born out of a very real emotional seed, and that attempting to fabricate them betrays myself and results in one-liners that have limited potential for development. I happen to be a stressed person who has tendencies towards anxiety, so it makes perfect sense that my clown would be a high-strung secretary who can't go a second without fixing her hair or her glasses. Of course, that isn't me...exactly. Within clown there is an incredibly delicate balance between allowing your gut reactions to become emotional inspiration while also following very precise technical and physical structures (that are certainly not natural impulses). This complexity is similarly explored within The MAP Project.
Our scripts are written partially by transcribing footage of ourselves in social situations and I often have similar battles with myself while working on MAP shows: if I am playing myself, how can I justify the audience? How can I be honest when I am only able to say words I already said, without the freedom of existing in the moment? And the ultimate battle is always: how can I play myself--is this not a paradox in itself? In MAP shows I am speaking my own words, but there is a leap between myself in life and myself on stage. Just as in clown, I am using myself as source material, but there is a difference between the two (perhaps a more palpable difference than in MAP shows, but a difference nonetheless).
Ultimately, I am discovering that using oneself as creative inspiration can be a very challenging and rewarding experience. The aim of theatre is to touch an audience by holding up a mirror to society, so it follows that we are affected by the fragility and honesty of actors/characters/clowns. If I can learn to stop fighting myself to find better and better ideas, I might be able to accept that my very first idea was perfectly okay. And who knows, it might even be the one that touches the audience more genuinely.