Tuesday, January 8th

Today I assisted Rudi in a clown workshop he’s teaching at El Centro Porfirio E. Hernàndez La Albarrada, a local institute that teaches literacy, conflict resolution, peace culture, organic farming, and other worthy processes. The students are literacy specialists who are working on using Clown to promote literacy. Rudi is teaching them basic scenographic structure and principles for working with props and other characters. This was his second day working with this group.

He started with some basic warmups: follow-the-leader, Sun Salutations, joint articulation and isolation. Then he led an action-mirroring game in which the group forms a circle, one person steps to the center and each person around her, in turn, does an action that she must mirror. After everyone has had a turn in the center, the focus changes: the central person must do an action which is somehow the opposite of what the other is doing. This introduces the idea of partnership–the person initiating the action must, through their action, help and direct the central person. So actions must be simple and articulate.

Next we stood, five in a line, all facing the same direction. This is an improv where there must always be two people squatting and three standing, but people must change position frequently, and do it decisively. The person in front has the most freedom, and the people in back have the most responsibility to maintain the rules. AFter this is played for a few minutes, of course, we change direction and the roles are reversed.

We then improvised, in groups of four, a series of tableaux. One person would take a position, and the other three would then add to the image. Strength of image comes from physical connection to one another, direction of energy and clarity of focus. Rudi then would give us three seconds to change the tableau.

The students were then given five minutes to rehearse their homework from the previous class, which was to do a scene with an object, two minutes maximum, in which the object is somehow transformed. The exercise brings home the difficulty of trying to effect illusions in pantomime — it’s easy to appear psychotic! One’s perception of time onstage is also explored, as each scene was timed with a stopwatch.

Rudi then led the whole group in a scene that he’s used on stage before: he has a recording of a buzzing fly that we must all see together as it flies around us. We have to react as a group, being sensitive to the dynamics of the recording, to the fly’s actions — landing, taking off, dive-bombing the group, etc. How does the group listen together? How do we follow each others’ visual focus and change leaders according to the dynamics of the scene? A difficult exercise, one that requires deep ensemble, I think, to be really successful.

We then split into pairs and worked on another of Rudi’s comic routines, where a #1 is trying to read a newspaper and a #2 pesters him, eventually gaining his seat, his paper, and inducing the 1 to destroy his own hat.


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