Julie Goell was a wonderful clown performer and teacher. She passed away in December 2016, her memory is a great blessing. In 2007, I had the opportunity for this conversation right after her show in the theater in the round of the Cococabana SESC in Rio in Brazil.
Julie and I started by discussing clown and traditions.
Julie: The badkhin, come back to your own tradition (Jewish).
Moshe: tell me about that
Julie : The badkhinis (plural)…, the badkhin is the wedding jester. I don’t know the tradition in depth, but I know that traditionally they would balance a bottle on their head and do all kind of antics, limbo in the circle…
M: was this during the ceremony or afterwards during the celebration?
J: during the celebration. Reception Juggling was done by the badkhanim, and a tribute to the bride, if you can get some very old recordings…the musicians are playing and the “…
Oy the bride the bride the bride…she’s crying she’s crying
Oh she’s looking so sad
Because she is leaving her mama and papa….
Oy she’s going to make a good wife …
But everybody cry, cry with me
It’s kind of a litany, fake crying
M: Is this supposed to be sad or funny?
J: funny, extemporizing rhyming verses for the family that make fun of everybody, people in the town….
M: what is clown
it’s a way of looking at serious things with a humorous slant, it’s a way of looking at life, tragedy…(laughter)…seeing irony in it, seeing humor in it, seeing what would topple other people, always keeping the eye for humor on the bad things while they are happening to you even, and that generates material, potential material, a sense of failure, other things…that winds up in your work la mort.
M what do you think about the nose?
J: I think it’s great. I’ve been using it always with the students, and I almost used it today (in the show) .because I like what it does. When I have too many things happening around my face, be able to ….I have absolutely nothing against it. It’s a great tool and it works well in performance.
Do you use one?
M I don’t use it, but I carry one around with me. I use it at the airport, I use it when I go through security and they want to frisk me.; or In other public situations where I want the instantaneous clown mask.
A friend of mine says that language of clown is feelings. I like to talk about clown as a language of heart and spirit as opposed to an intellectual discussion. What would be your response, or reflection?
J: It seems like a clown creates their own world and defines everything about it. Hopefully can make the audience see the world that they are in and from that point they have their own special kind of logic. It’s out of the box, but it’s in a circle of logic. Keith Johnstone has a circle of logic he applies that to improvisation, clowns it is really good if they stay within a circle of logic, they can be very off the wall on the way but feeds into their own line of thinking. So in a way, it is oddly consequential. You take the audience along your line of thinking if you can get them to follow it. Then you are really communicating.
M: What I mean when I say heart and spirit, is where the energy is coming from in the performer
J: I felt it tonight. A great deal of spirit connection happening. And as a musician I really feel that. To me making music is when those things you are talking about happens to me, more than sitting in a congregation doing responsive reading.