Clowns In Crisis Open Space Notes

Nov 13 2020

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Last clowns standing at the end of The Open Space

On Sunday 8th November 2020, we held an online Open Space session on Zoom, exploring the theme of our conference, 'Clowns In Crisis.' All weekend, through performances, workshops and a panel discussion, we'd been exploring what clowning can do for us and what clowns can do for the world

The Open Space was a chance for an international group of clowns and clown enthusiasts to come together and discuss what was relevant to them personally and professionally. This blog captures a little of what happened, including notes and pics from participants.

After an introduction to the ways of the Open Space, the participants were invited to submit titles for sessions. We then set-up breakout rooms and the participants were all free to move between the sessions, following their own particular lines of inquiry.

We held two 40-minute sessions titled as follows:

Open space Round 1

  • Find your whole! An embodied emotion workout
  • The invisible audience that see's everything
  • Clown as a tool for self-knowing
  • What is the purpose of the clown in times of crisis – especially in corona time
  • How can we use clown to help opposing political parties to understand the pain of the other?

Open Space Round 2

  • How can a solo clown transmit a rebellious and/or political message?
  • How can clowning help the world?
  • Clowning for personal and collective healing
  • How do clowns cope with loneliness?
  • Games?

Session notes

We invited participants to submit their notes and here's what we received:

1.) Clowns In Protest

Click this link to find your way to Martin Huckle's notes, exploring the role of the clown in protest.

2.) Clowns In Crisis / connection

See below Alice Boland-Rhodes' handwritten notes exploring the theme of clowns in crisis / connection

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Handwritten notes from Alice from @nooutcomeart
Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Handwritten notes from Alice from @nooutcomeart

3.) Clown As A Tool For Self Discovery

Here's James Dean's notes, submitted via the Zoom chat:

Clown as a tool for Self discovery: clown has in it expression, connection, humility, vulnerability, playfulness, presence and courage. To set your self aside to be in the present moment with other people - saying the things we hide about ourselves. Being uncomfortable in getting it wrong. Being OK, present to that, then other people take on from that, their confidence, that it is OK for them.

2nd part to Clown As A Tool For Self Discovery: Well if you meditate you can see fear coming and choose your response. How do we know which is which between performance and therapy? Performance is entertaining/ funny we are really bringing it.

3rd part to Clown As A Tool For Self Discovery: It’s embarrassing if you are the audience and somebody is using it as therapy. End

4.) The Invisible Audience That Sees Everything

Here's Granny Crank's screenshot from her group's investigation of making work accessible to audiences with disabilities. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Screenshot from Granny Crank's session exploring the invisible audience

5.) Clown As A Tool for Looking In Rather Than Looking Out

Jonny Hoskins's notes from attending Merry Miguez's session

MM is an Argentinian theatre person interested in the connection with audience  

humility = setting your ego aside in order to be present with others

allowing yourself to be seen –

connection to the inner part (clown)

avenue to be authentic and real and connect with others

you can tell when it’s not coming from inside

a true sense of self inside

what is the benefit of doing a clown workshop?

2 things – 

1 inviting people to laugh at who you really are

2 play

Fool – fool can say in court what no one else is allowed to say

Jonathan Kay = archetypes

 Merry comes from theatre more and more interested in the everyday life of people – nowadays crises and it is hard to be in the moment as regular people

How do we do that?

Incredibly difficult to be in the moment when on stage with nerves etc.

meditation enables some to recognise/let go of/be with fear

What if I slow down clown so much that people know what the game is?

What are we responding to?

If we can do that through clown we can learn to do this in real life.

‘I’m ok if it goes wrong’ even if people are watching!

This also allows others to feel ok about that too,

This could be a spiritual dimension

Relationship of clowning with the audience – set up with audience

Exercise – doing nothing/being there for an audience

Is it sometimes too much? When people treat clown as a spiritual process

personal aversion to being too religious/reverent

Gnosis magazine – article on the sacred fool

It can be really uncomfortable watching someone be – and it can be really beautiful/rewarding to see them. 

Difference btw therapeutic/learning processes and performance

When is it for me? When is it for the audience

6.) Clowns In Crisis At Home Alone

Sarah Green's pic of the event in full swing.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Sarah Green's pic

7.) Healing For Self / Others

Notes by Jonny Hoskins from Jeff Gordon and Yoram Shenar's session

JG and YS are in Israel - training to be therapeutic clowns

process = deeply transformative in enrolling as a clown

strength to be able to confront most difficult circumstances in life – clown enrolment creates a positive impact and changes the way they view the world

have developed clowning for recovering addicts

in control out of control = healing/chance of recovery

clowning helping others – structure helps me with other people 

if possible try to see a clown in a person – feel that I’m looking through to go beyond a crisis to interact with a person

hardest to do with people closest to self

as a dramatherapist clown comes especially into groups – fool – modelling its ok not to know – humour and therapy – harder with individuals as  a psychotherapist

 ‘the healing power of humor’ – recommended book

 what does the clown bring that no other role brings?

What impact in therapy?

emotion work – chris – immediately about clown – crisis in world has a lot top do with the personal crisis – eco (ego) ?) system breaking down – clown willing to play with the whole thing – engage listen trust its intelligence – playing clown is finally empathy for my own emotions and then opens up to connect with others – even the natural world – including anger hate grief – ways in through clown – lighter. playful. start to play , lighter and lets us tackle the bigger stuff

 Holly – help people detach emotions from the story – tabu around feeling strong  emotions – especially sadness and fear in men and anger in women, and in the UK joy in everyone

broad brushstrokes

helping people to uncap emotions by recognising they have picked up conditioning

deal with unwelcome sides of self

Jeff - clown demands to be authentic to all emotions

paradoxical – feelings are multi and run through us – to be strong in our vulnerability 

not project fear etc to create division/conflict

deal with inner conflict

sad happy courageous fearful; living more harmoniously is the way of the clown

 what is the relationship btw audience and clown? Holly

Who are you casting the audience as?

 is it possible to be present as self and really meet the audience as how they are and be here in the now?

 paradoxical nature of the clown – that is the real human – all the conditioning

 work in theatre/street … simply being as opposed to 

 follow what people bring - someone in audience comes up with their own material – clowns become the audience and the audience bring the show – witnessed by the clown transfromative being changes way of seeing things – 

have you ever been attacked - ? recommendation to have someone in high vis to protect/security

Michael Leunig story about becoming an audience of 1 = the greatest magician of them all

clown outside of theatre 

Patch Adams – a clown is a trick to bring love closer

being authentic

both = dramatherapists

crossover with dream doctors in Israel

 personal journey – less introverted – gave up alcohol – at work become more popular as a line manager – approachable after doing clowning

 celebrate fully who we are

get closer to self

 is it just the act of playing- not clowning - eg winnecott the pedagogue looks at playing

Clown takes play to another level – TOTAL play -total immersion in the play

that also happens in clown- arrival in a free space to be fully in the moment

how healthy it can be to be in role – for as long as possible – how much do you need to be in clown to be fully integrated – do you become integrated?

clown gives us freedom from role conflict

are we getting back to being a child? NO! you are going to be adult and child together  (you’ll never be a child again)

‘Go out as clowns as a a rabble of 12 and meet the clown tamer – go out to the city centre – the clown is a bastion of play…. this person is something other – not an average encounter – the clown carries a magical world with them – they are a walking permission slip to play – half of participants are performers half not – remarkable what happens to people – sensitive and brave enough to show themselves

it opens other people up if we can be in that place of honesty – you are out there. vulnerability – you are unmasked, naked. this is who I am and I am not afraid to show you…..

helps others to find the courage to do that

have seen OCD person as a clown not show any symptoms - she came out and said wow – did I do that? different state of being

I feel alive again when I do clown even on my own

clown allows us to play with things we are afraid of in life

‘open your mouth and let your brain drop out’ and walk around looking for your brain – great exercise

beautiful thing about in clowning = we access the wisdom of our heart

Thanks to everyone who attended and especially those who shared their notes - it's great to have an insight into some of the things that took place!

If you'd like to see an overview of the whole conference, click here.

If you'd like to see a recording of the Friday night Clown Cabaret, click here.

If you'd like to see a recording of our Saturday Night Panel discussion on the theme of Clowns In Crisis, click here.

If you were at any of our conference events over the weekend of the 6-8 November, please take a moment to fill out this feedback form. Thank you!

If you'd like to donate to support the organisers of the Clowns In Crisis Conference, follow this link.

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