Clown Exercise: Lesson Two!

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“Clowns take pleasure in every emotion and every thought is articulated for the audience.”

I absolutely love playing this game with clown students of all ages. I actually learned this game back when I went through Ringling Clown College. Although clowns are seen as versions of regular people, we are in fact cartoony versions of regular people. Therefore, our emotions and reactions must be over the top in most cases. This game and exercise can teach just that! In fact, you could technically do this exercise by yourself. You can even videotape yourself doing the exercise so that, when you watch it back, you can see your progress in learning this skill of "emotional ranges".

Have students find their own space in the room. The students will do the following exercises with increased physical and vocal intensity. All exercises will start at level one and will build to level ten. Keep asking students if they are “working at their maximum!” The students will not use words, but will use vocals. They must always stay focused on the activity even if it is too scary or sad. Remind the students that they must play for you (the audience) and each other not to the floor or for themselves. For example:

Pick flowers with sadness at level two. As if these were the flowers that your lover gave you and you are no longer together. Now at level five, etc.

Paint toenails fearfully at level one. As if at any moment your hangnail may come loose and then there will be blood everywhere. Now at level eight, etc.

Paint a picture happily at level three. As if you know it is going to be sold for a million dollars. Now at level one, level nine, etc.

Other emotions and attitudes to try: Puzzled, bored, jealous, lusty, tired, cautious, knowledgeable, worried, angry, confused, arrogant, naughty.
This activity can also be done with the following scenario: The love of your life broke your heart (sadness) and now you are going to write your partner a letter (anger) and now that you have let your anger out you see yourself in a mirror and realize how fantastically gorgeous you are (admiration) and then you see someone across the room that you think is cute (flirtation).

Again, this exercise can really help one learn the emotional ranges that clowns should know how to do. As cartoony versions of regular people, it's our job of not only being the official representatives and ambassadors of the “human” in the circus, but we are also to showcase the vast array of human emotions to portray certain situations in an environment where EVERYONE can see! Even those in the nose bleed section of the circus. The audience can't see a level one emotion from the nose bleed section, but they totally can see a level seven or ten! Work on this skill, and you'll see how well it'll help you not only connect to your audience, but also entertain them as well.


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