workshop teaching method

 
 

Workshops Teaching Method for Personal and Professional Development

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Engaging and developing the ability to open one’s flow of humor, and the ability to express it and share it is at the heart of all workshops. While we often think of humor in terms of funny, one should also include lightness, and light-heartedness as part of the equation. Indeed, humorous energies that transform a situation into an uplifting moment are often simply feel good/bring a smile to one’s face moments and do not necessarily make us laugh out loud.

As humor is mostly a right-brain centered activity, tapping into one’s ‘funny’ requires an active intuitive mind, and to rest the thinking mind, which is in today’s lingo often referred to as mindfulness. Indeed, being present and aware in the moment are required qualities for the funny, and surprising to some, words aren’t really necessary as the means to express it is most often non-verbal communication.

The word clown often pops up, which may be disconcerting to those whom associate negative thoughts/emotions with the word clown. Those folks often fail to understand that clowning is an art-form with thousands of years of history, and have been mislead into believing that clowning is about make-up, costume, red noses and loud obnoxious and intrusive behaviors. However it is important to realize that clowning has a much deeper history, one that embraces a more refined ‘sharing’ of humor between performers and audience.

Pedagogic Methods for Personal and Professional Development

  • Sessions begin by engaging breath, body and being through Taoist Health Exercises (Qi Gong), Feldenkreis Movement, and a variety of warm-ups from the world of physical theater.
  • Vocal Expression is engaged via Tenshingoso (Shintaido) and Roy Hart Theater Based Exercises

The teaching method involves:

  • opening one’s personal flow of humor, to be connected within
  • developing one’s capacity in humorous expression
  • developing one’s ability to share humor, to connect both with performing partners, and the with ‘the audience*’

Humor exercises begin with improvisations around placing humor in various situations: blowing a bubble, throwing a plastic bag in the air, ringing a small bell. The main parameter is placing your sense of humor in any number of the actions (such as those just mentioned above) and observing/acting on the impulses your sense of humor generates. Participants are encouraged to improvise, to play the situation at hand. Quite quickly, one discovers one’s ability to pursue the pathways one’s impulses open. Fun and playfulness emerge. These activities are individual at first, eventually, improvisations are shared in duos and trios. Absurdity is invited in. Ridiculousness is invited in. Enjoyment is emphasized, if it isn’t fun for you, it won’t be funny to others. As humorous expression emerges, participants are guided to explore various aspects of exaggeration, and subtlety.

The ‘audience’ is brought into the picture-those on the receiving end. Participants investigate and develop their awareness of the audience, of how their humor is received. At first the audience is imagined, eventually improvisations are performed for ‘the audience’ (the workshop participants). Theater and clowning principles and timing (Jo_Ha_Kyu, Stop_Look_React_Act) are introduced to guide the sense of audience, and one’s ability to share humor.

As time unfolds, your discovery becomes a familiarity, your humor world starts to take form and you engage in the craft of shaping your expression. Self awareness of expression, of enjoyment, of the space around you become important parameters. As you begin to imagine, and experience ‘the audience’ whether that be in a passing moment during an exercise, or in a set improvisation, your awareness and listening extends outwards, to partners as well as public. The workshop extends one’s capacity to ‘grock,’ to open up the humor in human relationships, to be present in the moment with your humor alive, and available.

About Workshops for Performers

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The world of clown and humor can be approached from many directions, from the storyline, the structure and gags and/or from the performer(s) sharing of his/her/their world (s). Ideally it comes from some combination of these. One thing is certain, the more one is connected within, the more one can connect with ones’ audience.

Workshops for performers are meant for all performers (clown, actors, dancers, musicians, puppeteers ) who wish to dig deeper into the expression of humor in the performance venue.

These workshops are opportunities to both:

  • create and explore new facets of what one may call one’s clown world, as well as
  • to revisit areas that are familiar in an environment that allows you to reinvent, invigorate, connect with and enjoy.

I have found that audiences, both mature, and young audiences are far more interested in a performer ‘being’ in their clown world, than playing at clown. What is most alive in us are our feelings. To play them with humor, to fill an imaginary world with absurdity, levity, actions gestures and logic based on those feelings is indeed the challenge of clown. To share this world with an audience, to offer a sense of complicity and emotional connection, is what touches audiences, and, perhaps, for performers, puts us closer on our pathways of purpose.

Pedagogic Methods for Performers

  1. Creating/Developing Personal Clown Character based on personal energies & humoristic impulses
    * Performers use walks, body shapes, and impulses to music to shape emotional expressions that compose the vocabulary of the   Performers Clown world.
    * Developing the Dynamic Range of these expressions from most subtle to most dynamic.
    * Developing physical and vocal gesture and movement vocabulary stemming from expressions.
  1. Develop Listening Skills in Audience and Performance Partner Relationships. Working within the framework of the clown’s relationship to audience, performers use improvisation to develop ability to build humorous expression in relation to audience response.
    * There is focus is on developing rigor: responding to the impulse yet limiting one’s generosity.
    * Developing Connectivity . Working in duos and trios to find unity in movement/walks/actions
  1. From the Butoh dance world, work with connection with space, allowing for exploration of humor at a slower velocity without losing any of the intensity or spontaneity. This largely enriches the tableau of expressive opportunities.
  1. Developing performance material & clown turns for solo, duo/trio and groups through improvisation, workshop performance, developing elements of story, work with objects.

Richard Pochinko, my clown teacher ( Montreal,1984) placed great emphasis on listening; asking us to listen to the circle between the audience and the stage, to hear the impulse to respond, and to let it grow inside us before sharing it, to exercise rigor in the exchange. True magic lies in the complicity one develops with partners, with the audience. The stronger that engagement, the more opportunities for laughter unfold.

“Listen to the garden” Zeami Motokiyo, noh playwrite (1364-1443)