This will be the first of its kind. I started running these classes way back in 2006 when we opened the Barcelona clown school. It felt like an innovation then. No one was really teaching clown history or theory or analysis. To me it seemed self-evident that thinking and knowing about clowning could benefit your performing. Or that it could be a worthwhile study in itself.
Ten years later, and still no one is offering clown studies in this way, anywhere, as far as I am aware: neither in private clown schools nor in universities, despite all their talk of embracing ‘popular performance’.
I flirted with the academy for a number of years (aside from my experience setting up clown workshops myself), teaching and researching at high-level drama schools which had become part of the university system: the Institut del Teatre in Spain and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Britain. I learned much from my students in Barcelona and had great opportunities to research in London. But I realise that the academy is destined to remain a dead end as far clowning goes, insofar as no one is likely to take the subject seriously enough at an institutional level.
So after years of trying to forge a niche for clowning, either through systematising its teaching or by trying to set up an MA in clowning, I now prefer to put my energies into my independent teaching. Over the last year, the London Clown School Monday workshop has become well-established. We haven't missed a week, not even for Xmas. People come regularly or occasionally, and there is always a mix of old and new faces. Each participant gets to explore as they wish, whether it's discovering the joy of being stupid in front of others, or preparing performance material to try out in public. One of the many advantages of this format is that it avoids the crushingly standardised control of education today with its targets, aims and objectives. So there’s not a hint of "by the end of this course you will have learned x". As a teacher, it’s not my business to bet on what you may learn, nor when you may learn it.
So, now it’s time to offer, in a similar sustained way, an opportunity to explore the other side: the history, theory and analysis of clowning. Every week I receive requests from students needing advice, guidance and tuition for their projects, dissertations and theses investigating clowning. It's hardly surprising, given universities' long-term failure to invest in clowning.
This new initiative will offer a programme of studies in 2 formats:
- a weekly drop-in class held in London
- an online class, also following a weekly pattern
I’ll also continue to offer one-to-one tutoring, guidance or supervision either in person or online.
Clown Studies Syllabus
This falls into four broad areas: theory, history, analysis and personal research project.
General questions - What is clown? What is funny? How can we talk about clown? What is clown’s relationship to comedy? to humour? How do we know what clowns are? What are they for?
What is clown’s history? How are clowns specific to their time and place? Why do different meanings become attached to clowns according to their time and place? What is a Shakespearean clown? A circus clown? An auguste clown? A personal clown?
Using practical observation of the work of clown performers, live or on video/film, contemporary or historical, how can we talk about them? What is the vocabulary of the clown critic? How can we answer the question ‘why is this (not) funny?’
Compiling a short project on a theme of your choice, in any presentation format (except clown performance itself) that can be stored or recorded for future clown students to consult.
Provisional expressions of interest:
Please get in touch if you are interested in any of these options and I will keep you posted on developments.
London Clown School