Cannonballista in Bristol This Weekend!

Oct 17 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Paul Blakemore

If you're in Bristol this Saturday night, you're in for a treat!  Liz Clarke will be bringing Cannonballista, her explosive new solo show, back to the place where we made it, the wonderfully quirky, original featured, ex-working men's club, The Brunswick Club! For one night only!!!

Here's Liz talking about the show in an interview with Theatre Bristol:

"Cannonballista is a show about grief, coping mechanisms and superhero alter egos! It brings together sheds, cannons and ridiculously high heels in a way that I’m pretty certain has never been seen before!

...The show is an unhinged celebration of our struggles and triumphs and the things we do to get us through. Meet Betty Bruiser - the ‘One woman husband and wife team’ She’s a human cannonballer and my alter ego."

Liz and I have been working on the show in many short bursts since January. It's been an extraordinarily deep, organic, nurturing process which you can read more about here

I'm really excited about seeing it back at The Brunswick Club, after it's premier in a proper theatre in Newport last month. The Brunswick Ballroom, where the show was made and where it will be performed on Saturday, has it's own distinctly wonky personality. It's clashing patterns and working mens nicotine stains have definitely crept their way into fabric of the show. 

Here's a little sneak preview of the carpet of The Brunswick Ballroom so you know what you're letting yourselves in for.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit

I'm really proud of what we've made, it's wild and tender, kitsch and raw and I do hope you can come and see it. 


Cannonballista plays at The Brunswick Club on 21st October 2017 at 8pm buy tickets here

For details of Liz's Super Hero Alter Ego Workshop, see Liz's blog.

You can read Liz's whole Theatre Bristol interview here.

Cliff Jumping For Beginners This Weekend!

Oct 13 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Debbie Sabina

Wowsers, what an incredible week's training with the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous!

All 12 fools have been split down into their component parts and reassembled ready to play for you at The Wardrobe Theatre all weekend, starting tonight!

We don't know which parts of us will turn up or what they will do or say, but each fool now has a cast of stock characters they can drop into at any moment; there are inner guides, inner critics, inner children, pessimists, motivators, nihilists, anarchists, dancers, singers, storytellers and a whale called Clive. 

Will this new format give the players even more confidence to take even more risks with their improvisation?

Come and find out!

Cliff Jumping For Beginners 

Friday 13th, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th October 

8pm  

Each night feature 4 different players 

£10 

Get tickets via The Wardrobe Theatre here

Find out more about Beyond The Ridiculous here

Read more about this weeks company training here

The Facebook event is here

Circus City Website is here

Cliff Jumping For Beginners Next Weekend!!!

Oct 07 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Jenny Drew

Oh happy days! The fools of Beyond The Ridiculous are gathering for a week of intensive training leading up to three shows at The Wardrobe Theatre as part of Circus City festival (13th, 14th and 15th October).

It's such a pleasure to be back in the company of the most wonderful, brave and compassionate gang of misfits. We're gently easing our way back into the fools world. So far, we've been reacquainting ourselves with our unique improvisation form (fooling) and finding out where we're all at, after a year of not playing together. My, how we've all grown!

The next stage of training will be to explore a new version of fooling. Up until now, the fools have always walked onto stage with absolutely nothing, discovering stories, characters and play in the moment. This week's training is geared towards each player developing their own internal cast of stock characters (i.e their inner critics, inner cheerleaders, inner teenagers, inner gods, inner dorks etc). The material will still always be improvised, but their familiar, stock characters will each have a place on the stage and will be available for the players to drop into, if they so wish. 

This new version of the form comes from my own work in progress project, earlier this year (hey, you can read more about those discoveries here). Through having a known cast of characters on stage with me, I found a real sense of stability, which allowed me to take massive risks in my performance. I'm intrigued to find out if it does the same for the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous. 

Our 3-night mini fooling festival is called Cliff Jumping For Beginners. During the performances, we'll be using the developed version of the form to explore the theme of risk, asking ourselves and the audience; what does 'risk' mean to you? How does it show up in your life? Are you a daredevil cliff jumper, a reckless romantic, a sensible risk-measurer or a quivering wreck? How does your relationship with risk effect your life?

Come and jump off cliffs with us!

13th, 14th and 15th October
8pm 
The Wardrobe Theatre
Each night will be different
£10

Get tickets via The Wardrobe Theatre here

Find out more about Beyond The Ridiculous here

The Facebook event is here

Circus City Website is here




Cliff Jumping For Beginners

Oct 03 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Jenny Drew

Artist Jenny Drew captured Beyond The Ridiculous host, Holly Stoppit negotiating with the audience during our last run. 

Fooling is a unique form of solo improvisation, where the performers respond to what's happening in the room as well as what's happening inside themselves. 

When you come to see the show, prepare to be part of the experience!

"REAL engaging theatre. We’re talking about what theatre sets out to do. The origins of theatre. Untranslated, original theatre." -Audience feedback

If you want your piece of the ridiculous pie, best book your tickets for our mini fooling festival, Cliff Jumping For Beginners now! We play on 13th,14th and 15th October at The Wardrobe Theatre at 8pm. 4 different performers each night. Part of Circus City.

Tickets here: http://thewardrobetheatre.com/live/cliff-jumping-beginners/

More about what we're up to here

Beyond The Ridiculous is back!

Sep 18 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Adam Fung

A year ago, the fools of Beyond The Ridiculous made the difficult decision to take a break from public performances and scattered our ridiculous seeds to the far corners of the globe. Collectively, we’ve been performing, directing, teaching, touring, moving house, playing music, producing, making our own work, giving birth to a baby (only one fool did that), going straight, going wonkier, winning prizes, losing keys and having many, many birthdays (one each to be exact).

Meanwhile, Circus City were casting their beady eyes around, looking for Great Things to book for their festival. Somewhere at the bottom of a memory draw, they remembered dusty old us. “We liked those Beyond The Ridiculouses,” they said, “Lets get them out to play again!” So they beat us roughly with one of those massive carpet beaters and here we are! Pale and moth-eaten and gearing up to play.

For three nights only (October 13th, 14th and 15th) at The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol, we will soar and flop and soar again, for your delight. Our night is called Cliff Jumping for Beginners and we’ll be performing solo improvisation, exploring the theme of RISK. Four different fools will play each night, so every night will be different.

We’ll be using a new technique I discovered with Franki Anderson during my Work in Progress project in the spring, hey you could read more about that here! With this technique, each fool will have a stock cast of characters to call on at any given moment. The material will still be improvised and new characters are bound to pop up during the performance (we couldn’t keep them away if we tried), but the theory is that the stock characters will give the performers a sense of stability which will in turn allow them to take more risks on stage. 

Come and discover with us!

Find out more about Beyond The Ridiculous here

The Facebook event is here

Circus City Website is here

Or get tickets via The Wardrobe Theatre here


Working With Liz Clarke

Sep 12 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit:

For the last 6 months I’ve been working with Liz Clarke, helping her to make her first full-length theatrical solo show, Cannonballista

We met in the dark days of winter, in a massive, freezing cold rehearsal space. Liz brought her breakfast in a tupperware box, I brought a cold and a blanket. We began the process of unpacking Liz’s brain. She talked and I wrote for three days and whenever we found a question we couldn’t answer, we used fooling (solo improvisation using multiple personae) to unpack the question. This invariably threw up more questions and by the end of three days, we had covered the entire carpet in paper.

The big thing that emerged from this brainstorming session, was Liz’s emerging desire to separate her artistic practice from her participation work. The two have always been tightly bound together, resulting in incredible projects that produce both edgy artistic bounty and carefully thought through participatory aspects, mostly designed for women with mental health issues. 

Cannonballista, in its last iteration, was presented as a theatrical cabaret featuring some of Liz’s solo work  amongst fragments of work created by participants of Liz’s Superhero Alter Ego Workshop. As an audience member, I found the show funny, risky, meaningful and brave.

Zoom forwards 2 years and there we were in that freezing rehearsal room, embarking on the re-mount of the show. But through the three days of brainstorming, it became clear that something had changed. Liz’s inner artist seemed to have grown; she needed more space to explore and express. So the decision was made to separate out the participation part of the project from the show. 

As a tie-in with the show, Liz will run the workshops, but they will be a private journey for the participants, instead of ending in a performance. We both agreed that taking away the pressure of public performance could potentially result in safer and even more meaningful experiences for the workshop participants. So we redesigned the workshop to focus purely on the process, drawing from Liz’s own artistic  / healing experiences. 

Watching Liz’s inner artist take her space over the last 6 months has been a beautiful and inspiring journey. We’ve played together for a few days every month and pretty much every time, Liz has arrived with a million reasons why we should definitely not make the show. Each time we’ve used ‘fooling’ to explore all the contrasting internal voices at play, until we’ve named all the fears and made sure the artist feels supported enough to play.

In our time together, I’ve facilitated Liz in her exploration of grief, coping mechanisms, how to live a sustainable artistic life, shamanism, burlesque, playful audience interaction, B-movie making, working with live music, storytelling, movement, dance and bringing live art into theatre and theatre into live art. The show is an awesome product of this intricate patchwork process, held together with laughter, tears and mystery. I love it and I do hope you can come and watch it.

Show dates:

Newport- 21st September 2017 at the Riverfront buy tickets here

Bristol- 21st October 2017 at the Brunswick Club buy tickets here

Cardiff- January 2018 Date TBC Sherman Theatre

For details of the Super Hero Alter Ego Workshop, see Liz's blog.

What Happened at Clowning Summer School

Sep 04 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeeeee

Wowee! What a week! 

I've been teaching clowning for over 10 years, but never have I had the opportunity to steep 12 people in the state of clown for  5 whole, consecutive days. I had notions about what might happen, but I chose to stay open to the process, designing each day as it came, in relation to the groups development and interests. 

We met in a lovely school hall in the centre of Bristol. As with all my courses, each day begins with a meditation, which allows participants to practice the art of relaxing with what is, an essential tool in improvised clown performance. Through regular meditation, participants begin to accept themselves and their experiences, which leads them to take greater risks in what they might be willing to share with audiences. 

After the meditation, we had a check-in, to find out where everyone's at, this supports the group through: 1.) practicing speaking to audiences from the heart and 2.) the group are able to gather information about each other, allowing us to take care of each other throughout each day.

The first day and a half were spent creating a good working / playing environment by establishing boundaries, shaking out inhibitions and increasing intimacy and empathy through play and reflection. 

When the group felt safe and silly enough, we moved onto recapping the basic clown tools, learned on the Introduction To Clowning Weekend. We explored rhythm, surprise, failure, breath and connection until their clown tools were good and sharp. 

Now it was time to drop deeper into their individual clowns universe. I adapted an exercise from Angela de Castro's clown training, mixing in a bit of dramatherapy to help the clowns reach deeper into their imaginations.

Clown Paradise

Through guided visualisation, art work and embodiment, each clown creates and inhabits their ultimate clown paradise, bringing back an imaginary object to remind them of their time in their perfect world. From hereon in, this 'object' kept in their pocket, serves as a key to their clown paradise. Every time they are about to step on the stage, they pause and reconnect with the 'object' in their pocket, giving them an instant somatic experience of their clown paradise. This seemed to relax and soften the clowns as well as cranking up the magical wonderment for whatever they encountered.

Next, we explored audience connection, playing a game called Clown Roulette, a game I developed with my supervisor, which the group embellished with their own ideas. 

Clown Roulette

Six people sit on chairs in a big circle facing in. They are playing the part of the audience. Inside the big circle, six clowns stand in a small circle, facing outwards with their eyes closed. They shuffle around in an anti-clockwise circle, singing a little song, "Shuffle to the left, it's Clown Roulette" (they made that up all by themselves) until they hear the bells ding. At this point, they open their eyes and see their audience member. The game is to approach your audience member playfully, checking in with them step by step, to find out where the optimum distance is for this particular connection. The audience can give a wink when the distance feels right and use their hands to signal the clowns to come closer or move back. The aim of the game is for the clowns to work within the boundaries set for them by their audience member, whilst also staying in touch with their own boundaries. Is it possible to sustain a playful connection whilst receiving direct feedback from audiences? Each clown had three goes with three different audience members before we switched around roles.

This game seemed to increase sensitivity and helped the clowns to keep dropping their agendas, in favour of finding games that serve the connection that's here right now.

At this point, the group had bonded in a big way and wanted to play together as a big group, as opposed to solo or duo clowning. So we explored ensemble play, discovering how to give and take the focus in improvised group play. We took this outside into the playground and they found out how to integrate the site into their play.

I'd been reading Patch Adams' book, Gesundheit! in preparation for the week and was inspired by his clowning adventures in Russia in the 80's. He'd been selected as one of 75 American delegates to go to Russia and build bridges between the two countries. He chose to go as a clown and spent 2 weeks making friends with Russian people:

"Dressed as a clown, I knew I'd have to stay in the role the entire time. I suppose it was my past experience that finally convinced me that if I led from my heart, the experience would be breathtaking. Love and laughter seem to be the prime ingredients of peace." Patch Adams

So, with Patch Adams' words ringing in their ears, I unleashed the clowns into an unsuspecting Bristol City Centre with only one mission- go and make some friends! We had an agreed route and each clown had a buddy clown, who they had to take care of, but apart from that, they were free to follow their instincts, playing the games that arose, connecting with the public in whatever ways felt good; this could mean direct improvised interactive play, long distance bus, boat or plane connections or just playing with the site and allowing the audience to witness their play. 

After some tricky negotiations (they really didn't want to come home), I managed to get all the clowns back to the school, where we did a thorough reflection, capturing their learning from their field trip and from the week.

I'm thrilled with how the week unfolded and intrigued to find out what might happen if I repeat this 5 day course and/or maybe even extend it to a 10-day course.... Watch this space!

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: meeeee

Me And My Critic

Aug 18 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Claire Robertson

That's what my critic looks like, what's yours like?

This Autumn, I am delighted to be offering 2 versions of my Inner Critic Inquiry 8-week course. To help you understand what might happen to you if you sign up, I’d like to tell you the story of where it came from.

Once upon a time I was a touring performer. For over 20 years (I started young!), I travelled all over the UK and Europe with various circuses, theatre companies and bands. I performed in big tops, small tops, street theatre festivals, green field festivals, theatres, village halls, weddings, schools and a public toilet (only once), making a living from doing what I loved, bringing joy and laughter to thousands upon thousands of people.

Yet there was always a nagging voice in my head. However much I rehearsed, however much I trained, however much positive feedback I received, I was never good enough for my inner critic. The constant putdowns put pressure on my performance, effecting me both in the rehearsal room and on the stage. My critic liked to let me know, in a myriad of devious and sneaky ways, that I was a massive fraud and not worthy of this life of joy, play and creativity. To guard against being found out as a fraud, I would either make myself small, insipidly offering less than I’m capable of, or I’d make myself massive, hard, defensive and unyielding. Either of the extremes made rehearsals incredibly difficult for me and the other artists in the room as well as creating a wedge between myself and audiences. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

In my mid 20’s I started going to therapy and exploring my inner world through creative writing and meditation. I got to know my inner critic intimately, discovering its particular areas of concern to be taking creative risks and emotionally exposing myself. I became increasingly aware of its fiendish methods for trying to keep me safe.

One of the curious things I discovered, was that I had been projecting my own inner critic onto fellow creatives in the rehearsal room and then onto audiences during live performances. I had created an incredibly hostile environment for myself and my creativity, which made taking creative risks and emotionally exposing myself very dangerous and often very damaging.

I have so many memories of shaking and weeping on cold, hard dressing room floors, followed by days of self-hatred, punishing myself for having ‘failed,’ when audiences had had the opposite experience. I was taking bigger and bigger creative risks, trying to fight the demons by attempting to conquer increasingly difficult levels of adversity, “When I’ve achieved this thing, THEN I’ll feel good about myself!” and sure enough, the critic upped its game accordingly.

I was stuck in this loop until I hit 30, when desperate for some peace from the critic, I completely let go of everything. I quit my own band, left my own theatre company and started training as a dramatherapist. 

Dramatherapy training is 3 full-on years of grappling with theory and philosophy, undergoing intense personal and group therapy, whilst also facilitating real clients through real therapy. It’s totally transformative and I loved every minute of it. 

I began focussing my client work on adults with mental health issues in my second year of study, which allowed me to integrate my performance training (specifically clowning and fooling) into my practice as well as allowing me to draw on my own mental health journey. My critic lurked in the shadows, watching and waiting for me to fall on my arse, but I was learning to accept support, to be gentle and to care for myself in a way that I’d never been able to before and most importantly I was learning to be vulnerable. The critic was losing its grip.

In my third year, for my final 2 placements, feeling stronger and healthier than ever, I decided to pilot dramatherapy workshops exploring the inner critic, first for circus students and then for women with mental health issues. The feedback let me know that what I was developing through my own suffering and softening was valuable to others.

That was 5 years ago and since then I’ve offered various versions of The Inner Critic Inquiry, met and melted a multitude of inner critics in a million rehearsal rooms, in my role as director of devised theatre and during my Fooling courses and as for mine…. 

It’s still here, but my position has changed. Rather than be beholden to the crippling criticism, I can hear the voice with curiosity and compassion, grounding myself in the here and now, before entering into a dialogue to find out what my critic is needing. Mostly, it’s something around safety. Through these chats, my critic is starting to understand that I have to take risks and emotionally expose myself in order to live a meaningful life and these days, my little critic helps me to measure those risks wisely.

Sometimes it doesn’t all go smoothly. Very occasionally, I fall back into old, self-destructive habits, especially when I’m tired or overwhelmed. But the recovery time is quicker than ever. In committing to the gentle, nurturing path, my life has changed beyond recognition. This year, I even got back on the stage, making 3 shows in 3 months exploring stage fright, vulnerability and connection. You can read about them here on my blog.

This autumn’s 8-week Inner Critic Inquiry courses will integrate my deeper understanding of the inner critic, increasing the focus on self-nurture, resilience and group bonding before launching into the transformational work of exploring and embodying our critics. Taking it back to it's original 8-week format (instead of the weekend version) will allow you to practice what you're learning on the course throughout the week, whenever your critic rears its head, reporting back to the group each week for shared investigation, empathy and celebration.

The Inner Critic Inquiry will be running on 8 consecutive Thursdays from 19th October at The Bristol Improv Theatre in Clifton, Bristol.

Afternoon version 2-5.30 pm

Evening version 7-9.30 pm

Spaces are limited, application is essential.

For more information or to apply have a look at the course description here.

Holly Stoppit’s Autumn Workshops 2017

Aug 14 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Paul Blakemore

We're delighted to announce our Autumn Workshop programme for your delectation!!!

This term we're offering:

4 x Introduction To Clowning Weekends

2  x Inner Critic Inquiries

1 x 10 week Clown to Performance course

And a partridge in a pear tree.

We hope we've got something for you. Have a read below to find out more. 


1.) Introduction to Clowning Weekends

This is a 2-day foundation, which gently immerses you into Holly Stoppit’s world. If you like it there, there’s plenty more training to be had afterwards in the form of summer schools and weekly courses.

Read all about Introduction To Clowning here.

Holly will be offering an Introduction To Clowning Weekend every month this autumn:

 9 & 10 September Facebook page SOLD OUT

28 & 29 October. Facebook page SOLD OUT

11 & 12 November. Facebook page PLACES AVAILABLE

2 & 3 December. Facebook page PLACES AVAILABLE


2.) 8-week Inner Critic Inquiry, daytimes or evenings SOLD OUT

Are you plagued by self-doubt, riddled with self-consciousness, fearful of putting yourself  / your work out there? Do you feel like your choices and your potential are limited? Would you like to feel braver and able to take more risks in creativity, work, love and life? Then this is the course for you!

This popular course will help you release the grip of your inner critic, through drama, writing and art. 

Read more about The Inner Critic Inquiry here.

Courses start Thursday 18 October.

Thursday daytimes, 2.30-5pm.

See the Facebook page or go straight to the application form.

Thursday evenings, 7-9.30pm.

See the Facebook page or go straight to the application form.


3.) 10-week Clown to Performance course SOLD OUT

This 10-week course builds on Holly’s Introduction to Clowning Weekend. ***You need to have completed Holly's Introduction To Clowning to get onto this one***

We'll playfully bring the group together in a full weekend workshop, before launching into 10 weeks of play and learning. Each week, we'll drop deeper into the state of clown, exploring ever riskier realms of authentic interactive improvisation. The course culminates in a clown show at The Wardrobe Theatre and a guided reflection session to extract your learning.

Read more about this course here.

• Primer weekend: Saturday 16 & Sunday 17 September, 10am-6pm

•10 week course: Tuesdays, 7-9.30pm, starting 19 September

• Performance at the Wardrobe Theatre: Sunday 19 November

• Final reflection & debriefing: Tuesday 21 November, 7-9.30pm

Further info on Facebook

or go direct to Application Form.


What actually happens in a fooling workshop?

Aug 03 2017

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Paul Blakemore

People often ask me this question and it’s a bit hard to answer in a sentence, so I gave myself the task of writing about it, in no more than 5 points. Here's some of the things that happen at my 5 day Fools School.

1.) Building Trust Together Through Play And Sharing

I’ve recently discovered Brene Brown’s useful trust-building acronym, BRAVING (Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment, Generosity). This simple list of trust-building prompts could also describe the underlying group process that happens throughout my workshops. 

Boundaries- We establish and maintain healthy boundaries so that everyone feels safe enough to let themselves be seen and heard.

Reliability- We show up for ourselves and each other. We stay. We accompany each other through joy, sorrow and discomfort whilst also taking care of ourselves.

Accountability- Using non-violent communication techniques, we are able to discus when we’ve made mistakes, to own our mistakes and acknowledge the impact we have on each other.

Vault- We agree to hold each others stories in confidentiality, so that we are all free to explore and express.

Integrity- We can feel free to speak our truth within the boundaries that protect us all from harm.

Non-judgement- We use mindful language techniques to keep the space free of judgement. For instance, we use a positive feedback model to make sure that we are feeding each other as opposed to criticising each other throughout the week. 

Generosity- Lovingkindness (Metta) is woven in throughout the course, the metta bhavna meditation inspires kindness and compassion towards ourselves and each other. 

All these factors help to maintain a safe space where we can take risks to be seen and heard.

You can look up Brene Brown's TED talk here.

2.) Invoking The Archetype Of The Fool

“In the tarot the Fool is portrayed wandering in the sunshine with a knapsack and his little dog, seemingly without  a care in the world and with no particular place to go. And he is about to step off a cliff! Perhaps the Fools knows he will go over the cliff but continues to smile because he also knows he will never hit bottom. Maybe the Fool understands that he, the cliff and the bottom are all illusions.” Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Crazy Wisdom.

The Fool carries the value of 0 in the tarot deck, putting him outside order and hierarchy, this is what gives him his power. You’ll find the Fool in the modern card deck, you’ll know him as the joker. Jokers are used in some card games taking on whichever value you choose, this is the power of the Fool. He can appear as a King or a peasant, choosing the form (or mask) that most enables his truth to be heard.

We invoke the archetype of The Fool by embodying our masks.

3.) Embodying Our Masks

“By giving each figure its voice, we let the soul speak and show itself as it as, not as we wish it would be.” Thomas Moore, Care Of The Soul

During the course, we explore many different ways of finding and embodying our masks. ‘Masks’ can mean roles we play in life e.g mother, teacher, singer. ’Masks’ can also mean ways in which we relate to certain people / in certain situations e.g shy one, party host, the judge, the cheerleader. ‘Masks’ can also mean archetypal characters that everyone recognises e.g The Innocent, The Hero, The Sage. These are the masks that Carl Jung described as belonging to the collective unconscious, which everyone, everywhere in the world can access through dreams, myths and stories. 

We find all these masks by noticing our natural impulses and turning them up. We might start with a physical gesture, a feeling or a thought and by giving it our full attention, we allow it to become a living, breathing, full body mask.

Through embodying our familiar masks, we gain a sense of playfulness and freedom around the masks we play in life. It’s easy to feel stuck with a particular range of masks, but this work allows people to discover that they have choice. Through playing, they can discover nuances within their familiar masks, or they can try out new masks for the first time in a supportive environment. Developing a lighter attitude to the masks we wear in life allows people to feel empowered to break out of negative patterns of relating. When we know we have choice, we are free to grow, to develop, or to stay the same, but it’s our choice and not something being forced on us from the world or our past.

4.) Exploring What It Means To See And Be Seen

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Throughout the course, we do many exercises that allow us to explore how it feels to witness and be witnessed by another. These exercises help us to notice the masks that pop up automatically when we come into connection with other humans. Do we guard ourselves? Do we push the world away? Or do we give away too much too soon? Do we judge other people or do we put the mask of the judge on the other so that we can judge ourselves? Who are we making the other? 

These insights allow us to play with what is and play makes space for growth, change or transformation. When we become aware of our automatic responses, we create choice. We can choose to continue to use the masks that have served us thus far, or we can choose to try something else. 

5.) Improvising Solos For Each Other

“Improvisation, writing, painting, theatre, invention, all creative acts are forms of play, the starting place of creativity in the human growth cycle, and one of the great primal life functions. Without play, learning and evolution are impossible.” Stephen Nachmanovich, Free Play

In these improvised solos, we enter into the empty space and find out what masks are around today. Each mask has their own spot on the ‘stage’ and the player hops between the masks, finding out what they’ve come to say. Sometimes the masks speak, sometimes they dance, sing, spout poetry or just lie down on the floor.  

There is an incredible magic that happens with this work, whereby if the players are able to relax on stage (which they learn to do through meditation and breathing exercises during the week) the masks that appear on stage are often relevant to many members of the audience. As the players slow down and the armour comes off, their play takes on a simple, full-hearted quality which deeply touches the audience, releasing laughter and tears in equal measure.

I facilitate the solos from the side of the stage, sometimes offering music to support the player’s exploration, sometimes chatting with the masks to help them express what they've come to express. At the end of each solo, the player receives facilitated feedback from the group.

How former participants describe this workshop:

"Transformative. A week of getting to know yourself, the little weirdo inside and the angry one and the scared one and the naughty one and the crazy one and letting them out to have their say. I came out feeling much more comfortable in my own skin."

"A week spent getting to know all the different people in your head and making friends with them. Holly creates a really safe and fun space in which to do that. Its really cathartic and done in a really embodied way."

"Allowing oneself to be vulnerable and seen by others. Being authentic, in the moment, playful and real. Entering a process of finding oneself and letting go of what isn't helpful. Creatively following an impulse and seeing where it takes you."

About Holly Stoppit

I originally learned the form of Fooling from the master of Fools, Franki Anderson back in 2002, in a three month course called The Fools Journey. I have since trained in clowning, improvisation, physical theatre, dance / movement, voice-work, playwork, non-violent communication, meditation and dramatherapy. My workshops mash all this together to provide deep exploratory process for performers and non-performers who wish to explore the nature of connection. I am also artistic director of Beyond The Ridiculous, a phenomenal company of fools. 

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