I recently became a clown, which admittedly sounds very odd and maybe a bit triggering for some people who have a clown phobia. Most people, unsurprisingly I suppose, haven't even the slightest clue what in fact that means.
Do you juggle?
Do you put on that white makeup?
Would you ever do birthday parties?
Short answer: NO. Literally, I partake, nor would partake in none of these things. Furthermore, clowns are not...
So by now I’m sure you’re wondering, if you don’t juggle, and you’re not always aiming to be funny, what exactly do you do?
I have failed many a conversation trying to explain what exactly it is that I actually do as a clown. I kind of do everything. As my clown, I have been a presumptuous Queen, a Kung Fu wizard, an abandoned alien, a Mother of twins, and a muscle head, just to name a few.
If that’s even more confusing let me try this one…
Imagine yourself at 5 years old. If you can, think about how easily you fell in and out of happiness/sadness/frustration/content. Remember how your toys, stuffies, and imaginary friends all felt so real and alive to you. Maybe you can even remember their names, or the stories you would always play out with them.
That is the heart of the clown. Harnessing full, heightened emotion and story-telling from a visceral, genuine place. Our job is to be honest, be present, and be fully alive in our imaginative worlds. This will look different from clown to clown. I have seen clowns that talk fluently in English, whereas others mutter, or speak gibberish, and some that can't even utter any sound. I have seen clowns with make-up and clowns with none at all; sometimes with noses, sometimes without.
And yes; there are clowns that juggle and do tricks and stunts - and that is amazing! But that's not the extent of who we are.
The clown can be anything, and will ultimately never be something you expect. Usually, clowns are intimate and personal; and while you may experience things that may be difficult or unnerving, a good clown should not set out to make you intentionally uncomfortable or feel unsafe if they are actually listening to you.
Clowning is the most thrilling thing I have ever done as an artist. Being in front of an audience, often alone, doing what is called a “turn,” is the equivalent of walking onstage without your pants. You have 2 minutes to show the audience something amazing, while winning them over and responding truthfully to their reactions and responses.
I would love to move away from the stigma of assuming clown is inherently terrifying. It is a style like ballet, or Brecht. Popular culture has made everyone's impression of clowns into Stephen King’s “It,” but in reality artists studying clown are actually exploring vulnerability, and unrestrained joy. Clowns are more afraid of you, then you are of them. I can promise you that.
Now here's where you can see these ideas in action. Come see clowns that are NOT scary on October 30 and 31 at 7pm at the Cobbs Creek Recreation Center in West Philly. The show will be interactive, and aesthetically impressive, featuring some amazing original music. This show is brought to you by Donna Oblongata and the West Philly Clowns! (That’s where most of us live.)
I hope you come out, as well as participate in the Spooky Dance Fundrager or Pancake Breakfast & Bingo happening this weekend to keep this creative endeavor free for the community. It is truly an artistic feat with props, design, and content developed entirely by Donna and the ensemble! If you love to dance, or eat mountains of pancakes, then please bring friends and come out.
Thanks for reading, and supporting original work.