SHAKESPEARE'S CLOWN characters are the worst. The jokes are dead, their wit’s obscure, and no one puts them in pumpkin pants anymore. Case in point. . . just try to get laughs in the Clown’s grocery list speech in Winter’s Tale. You know, the hilarious one where he's going over what he needs for the big sheep shearing feast? Seriously, you don't remember this? That's crazy. That speech kills every time.* Every. Damn. Time. Anyway, good luck with that, friend. Good luck.
So, obviously none of the above is true. The truth is that Shakespeare’s clowns have always been and will always be some of the most sublimely bizarre, moving, and expansive characters in the western canon.
Beginning Clowns uses Shakespeare's Clowns as its backdrop and is essentially identical to the Shakespeare's Clowns class that I teach in NYU's Graduate Acting Program. Despite having clowns in the title, however, it's very much a class about failure.
*Not based in fact. That speech hasn't killed in three hundred years.
About why we fear failure so deeply and just how unnecessary that fear is. More specifically, it’s about using these clowns as catalysts not only to demystify the notion of failure in all of our work, but to befriend it and then put it to extraordinary use.
IN ORDER to do this and to play these characters, two elements are necessary in the actor, in my opinion. First, a deep connection to your own personal sense of joy. This feeds directly into the second which is the assumption of your own brilliance. Combining a number of exercises and concepts devised by my friend and collaborator David Costabile ("Billions", Lincoln), my teaching pre-deccessor at NYU Graduate Acting and the only person to draw my blood while using a stale bagel as a weapon (true story), and numerous others of my design or that I've blatantly stolen, we'll discover together where you're most and least comfortable embracing these concepts. As they each feed into and off of each other, most everything we do in this class will be upheld and supported by the pillars of those two ideas mentioned above. Out of these two concepts will grow many more.
For example, the notion of mining a comedic moment until it’s completely exhausted and trusting that another will appear immediately thereafter.
Embracing the notion of singularity and fully allowing one experience to have its due before moving on to the next. Exploring how status can be extremely fertile ground for conflict and comedy. Finding an answer to the question of what the hell is risk in acting work and how can we foster it at every turn? These are just a very few.
IF YOU HAVE no interest in Shakespeare or his clowns, understand that this class uses those characters as a backdrop specifically to help the actor engage risk reflexively not only in these characters but at any time onstage, in front of the camera, in the voiceover booth, and in one's own self-generated material. In my experience, anywhere where risk, surprise, and fearlessness are prized, this work will have a place.
SOUND INTERESTING? Fun? If so, then there's no small degree of badassery in you. If you answered no, chances are you're a nefarious agent of chaos. Which means you should lighten up and take the class.
The cost of this class is $500 for six 2 1/2 hour sessions which take place in studio space in Manhattan (usually in midtown). Sometimes, if the class allows for it, we'll go for five hours on a few consecutive weekends. If class size is large, we'll add hours so that everyone can work consistently (no additional cost). It depends on the schedules of those enrolled. There is a sliding scale available so please don't hesitate to contact me regarding that. I prioritize having a room full of people who are excited to be there above all else.