Monday, April 23, 2012

Larval Mask-Making

We have entered the final week of second year.  Amazing.  And to wrap up the year we have spent some time reflecting on the work we have done in these 6 months.  Even more amazing.  But the most inspiring part of this journey of reflection was when we were tasked to make our own larval mask interpretation of our clowns.  In other words... a simple mask that captures the movement dynamic of your clowns body and possibly sentiment... some clowns are fast, some slow, some chaotic, some ordered etc...  The thing that is so exciting is larval masks were the first masks we used to begin the epic journey of mask theatre.  This is because they are so essentialised - a form emerging from a volume - so in terms of mask-play they are where we start... I wrote about it in a previous post.  But in terms of mask-making it is much harder to capture an essential dynamic movement in a simple form.  It is much easier - conceptually - to make a figurative face.  So this is why the mask that looks the simplest is saved for the end of the programme because in some ways it may be the hardest.  And somehow that's often true.  Simplicity is complex but not complicated...  Deep.  I didn't say that.  But I think it's true.  

A line-up of Laval Mask

and here we have the movement dynamic of Freya, Vika and myself...
We also happen to live together in Florence.  Romantic!

Quietly in the background I have continued to make my full mask... very exciting.  I have completed the mould and all that is left now is to paper mache, paint and hope it works on the stage.  

Our amazing teacher Matteo teaching me a new method in a negative mould
 which helps better preserve the features and details of the clay sculpted version...

When mask-making turns to baking!  Freya and Matteo placing the plaster for the negative mould :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A garden in serious conversation

In a week filled with rain... on one very unlikely day I was walking home from a studio we don't normally use, on a route I don't often take...  the sun unexpectedly peered out from behind the clouds, just as I walked past the entrance to the Boboli Gardens... which to my surprise - for this week only - had no entrance fee.  So in I went.  Just like that.  An unexpected visit.  To a very pretty place.  Where statues hide in every alcove and line every pathway in silent but serious conversation.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hello Elephant

Clowns in Life... What a brilliant and wonderful thing.  Looking at the world through open naive eyes... like children.  What do you know when you know nothing... it seams that you know a lot more actually.  Clowns have the ability to open doors on very large issues... ask impossible questions... say things that only children can say... things that you wouldn't dare say without the little red nose allowing the space to play... with things that matter.  Things which in the real world make you cry.  It is quite something.  But here you laugh not because it's funny but because the perspective is naive, and therefore true, and therefore funny.  You could cry and laugh at the same time.  And we were all once naive.  One of Ella's little friends at about age 4 walked up to a man who only had one leg...

Little Girl: Where is your other leg?
Man: I lost it.
Little Girl: I'll go look for it.
And the man burst out laughing.

Clowns can deal with things like poverty, death, loneliness, fear... with a simplicity and honesty that is arresting.

This week we have had poetic windows opened with clowns posting personal ads in the newspaper, looking for love to escape their loneliness... clowns going to see their psychologist to deal with their personal problems.  All very very funny and often with staggering depth.  Poetry in simplicity.  Children know much more than we think.  But somewhere along the line we get lost.  We grow up.  We forget how to stay in the present moment.  What a pity.

'Fiona' and 'Andromeda' looking out the window of their small aeroplane looking for the Elephant

Andromeda opens the ear of the elephant while Fiona asks important questions...

One of the interesting things about clown, we have learnt, is that whilst simultaneously being right there on stage addressing the audience directly they are at the same time completely in the imagined world... Like talking to an Elephant in the Kalahari Desert...  Hello Elephant.

Meanwhile... I am also making another mask... on the other side of the life spectrum... an old lady.  In our very first project this year we did a piece about old people and old age.  It was an unmasked piece and I thought a nice tie up to this year would be to end with a mask inspired by that work... which changed how I see theatre.  Deep.  But it's true.

My work-in-progress mask mould... Slowly something arrives as Matteo our ever brilliant mask teacher says.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quietly at war

A quiet war is waging on the streets Florence as the rain has set in.  The roads are crowed with crashing umbrellas.  Wet footsteps.  Damp socks.  It is very cold.  Next time I shall remember to wear my wellingtons.  Duh.  There are only two weeks left to the end of this school year and there are presents to be brought!  Yay.  I splashed my way through Piazza della Signoria... where I haven't been for a very long time.  Neptune is still there giving the fake David a side on glare... 'Poser' he thinks to himself... But David doesn't seam to care.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fly me to the Moon

How stupid can you be really?  Spectacularly stupid.  Infinitely stupid. Welcome to Clown.  These past two weeks have been dedicated to finding the place where stupidity becomes sublime... Where what you do is so ridiculous that it's brilliant.  Where you, and only you standing there on stage in your far-out costume sporting a red nose, believes in what you are doing... so much so that the audience goes there with you.  Like believing that you really are a hypnotist...  Or you really are a magician and no-one can see the mechanism behind your tricks...  Or that that you really can make that feather duster disappear and no-one but you knows it is actually behind your back.  Like kids games.  It is a very special space - because whilst being wildly stupid and completely ridiculous it also has to be true.  And totally naive. So in some way it is personal...  Dealing with recurring or hidden themes in your life...  Spectacularly stupidly.  Insecurity.  Neediness.  Loneliness...  Hello audience - Here are my issues. Now laugh! And sometimes - well often actually - it really is very funny.

One of my favourite exercises was in voice we had to bring a song that means something to you - like you loved it in your childhood. And whether or not you can sing is not the point... It's the honesty and the emotional crescendo of the delivery that matters... And staying in tune a far as possible also helps.  Singing is vulnerable... but in a crazy costume with an impossible clown voice and a red nose... it's also fantastic.  Watching a military clown sing 'Tall. And tanned. And young. And lovely. The girl from Ipanema goes walking...' in the least sexy way imaginable... or a quiet reserved whistful clown suddenly belting out 'the hills are alive with the sound of music' through a flood of tears... Is tremendously funny and deeply moving.

And the possibility for poetry.   Delightful poetry.  Where a chaotic clown quietly walks on stage pulls out fake flower from her handbag and out of nowhere starts... 'fly me to the moon and let me land amongst the stars...' A second clown immediately appears wearing a helmet to fly her to the moon... And off they go.  And suddenly the whole audience is on the moon.  Remembering what it is like to dream. To believe. In magic.

Helena's clown... 'Regina D Ding Dong' prepares for her heavy metal solo before the Cello's funeral!

An orchestra of clowns! ...who are really excellent musicians as well!

Freya's Clown 'Margaret' tapping away at the piano...  She was the one flown to the moon x

The baby clowns who are also wonderful jugglers!