Holly and Dominique chat about Summer School

Apr 24 2019

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly Stoppit

Holly Stoppit and Dominique Fester sit in the dappled sunlight in Dominique's garden, chatting about their upcoming summer schools, what they're excited about and what you might get out of it if you sign up.

H: Hey Dominique Fester, we're running some summer schools, this summer!

D: We are, Holly Stoppit!

H: We're going to do 4 weeks of summer schools. In a row! I'm going to do the first one which is Deepening Clown, you're going to do the second one which is Physical Theatre and then I'm going to do the third and fourth ones which are Comic Storytelling and Fooling and people can sign up for however many weeks they want to do. It's going to be amazing. When you think about running your summer school, what are you excited about?

D: Ooooh, so many different things, I think the most exciting thing for me is giving people space to discover how their body moves, to check in with their body, because our feet and our bodies carry us around all the time and we don't pay much attention to them. So the first thing is about getting into our bodies, enjoying how they move, being playful in the space, and having rest and space as well. Although it's a Physical Theatre week, there'll be space to rest and enjoy our bodies as well.

H: Rest is radical, isn't it? I did a training on the weekend with the Fools of Beyond The Ridiculous. We got to the end of the day and we still had a 20 minute spot and I said, “What shall we do? We could do some writing, we could do some drawing, we could play some games, or we could have a rest.?” And everybody looked at me and said “Oooh! Can we have a rest?” So we had a 20 minute nap, all of us, we all lay on the floor with cushions and blankets and put some music on and we just had a little rest. I think it's really important in performance training, but also in performance to learn to relax.

D: Yes definitely.

H: If you're coming onto stage with loads of tension in your body, then you give this tension to the audience and then it comes back and so learning to relax is a major component of our performance training.

D: Definitely, and I think as well, relating to that, on the Physical Theatre course, one of the things we look at is how we feel when we do certain exercises, what kind of emotions do we experience, what sort of atmosphere is left drifting around in the room? We spend time noticing that, because then we realise the effect it's going to have on the audience. We spend time noticing how our movements or the things we create visually, will make an audience feel and then we can use that in how we create stories.

H: Mmm. Ooh I like that. And that's really connected to the way that I work, as you know, because you've done all my workshops.

D: I have!

H: It's a really fundamental part of my practice to tune into how you feel and then you play from that place, with authenticity. The first summer school week I'm doing, Deepening Clown, carries on from where the Intro To Clown leaves off, and it's about getting deeper and deeper into that state of presence, of mindfulness, of being able to notice how you are and play with it in the moment. It's a lovely journey to take people deeper and deeper into this space of permission and anarchistic play. When I've run this course before, the end result is this amazing, vibrant, playful, alive, connected, responsive, sensitive, quality of play that's really delicious.

D: Yeah! When you were talking then about the looking aspect, I'm remembering when I did your advanced clowning course, the looking at things, taking time to mindfully take in the world around you and how it makes you feel, and using that to conjure up a delight in what you're doing, that feeds in really well to what I'm then doing in the Physical Theatre week, because we're also looking at what we're creating with the visual. The secret that nobody talks about is that physical theatre is actually visual theatre.

H: [sharp intake of breath] What?

D: Yep, it's true! So that looking and soaking up you do in the Deepening Clown is really really useful when you then come to the Physical Theatre week, because it then comes out in your physicality. All these juicy colours you've been enjoying and textures and things that other people have drawn your attention to, they're then in your body, embedded into you and they come out in your physical theatre. So those 2 weeks fit really nicely together.

H: And then the week after, we move into Comic Storytelling, which I think is really exciting – Deepening Clown is looking and seeing and connecting, Physical Theatre is expressing through the body and the third week is learning about the craft of storytelling – how do you take all that experience and then craft it into a story? We work across the three different mediums, the first is red nose clowning – where we explore non-verbal storytelling - which will have a lovely lead in from physical theatre. Then the next component is improvised storytelling, where we'll be using fantasy and fiction to learn the structure of storytelling and how to structure a story on the fly and then the last component is autobiographical storytelling – telling your own story. But by this point, you will have had the clown, the physical theatre, clown storytelling, fictional storytelling and then when you come to your autobiographical storytelling, you've got all of these tools at your disposal, to tell the story that needs to be told. Weeeeeeee!

D: Absolutely! And the joy that comes all the way through it is an important component of it, because obviously, you're kicking off with the Deepening Clown and the joy and the pleasure that's instilled is one of the first building blocks to the entire process. And that's in the Physical Theatre as well. It's not deadly serious, in fact it doesn't really become serious until later on when we drift into the magical mesmeric world of neutral mask, but initially, it's just joyful, it's playful, we discover all the movement and physicality through having fun with each other and making connection and feeling safe with each other and that carries on through. It's not one of those painful training boot camps.

H: We hope it's not [it's not]. So after Deepening Clown, Physical Theatre and Comic Storytelling there's Fooling, which is solo improvisation where you'll have this incredible tool kit now – you've got connection and noticing, being able to express through your body, you've got how to craft a story in the moment and finally Fooling, which is basically all of that put together.

D: Oh my goodness! I've been lucky enough to do the Fools training and to be part of Beyond The Ridiculous and for me, it just feels like, Fooling brings all of your skills together and it enables you to have access to them in the moment, so you don't have to go away and do painful, excruciating rehearsals where you're trying to think of what to do, it just completely liberates you from that stuck place. I can't recommend that enough! You'll feel like you're a bit of a ninja, by the time you've finished the Fooling.

H: Yeah wow, after the fooling, you'll be back in the world again, but with this incredible pallet of skills and tools.

D: Yeah! And it bleeds into your real life as well. That confidence to be in the moment and “carpe diem” as they say!

H: To feel like you've got the tools to deal with whatever comes up, in a playful way, in a creative way.

[A helicopter flies overhead and both stop talking to look at it.]

D: You can't see us, but we're looking at a helicopter.

H: Against a blue sky.

D: Through the leaves in the garden where we're sitting.

H: A small cloud of midges...

D: ...floats above us.

H: The promise of summer hovers in the air.

For more info about the summer schools and links to application forms, click here.

Please note that you need to have completed Introduction To Clowning to attend Deepening Clown, Comic Storytelling, or Fooling. This is not essential for Dominique's Physical Theatre course.

There are discounts if you attend multiple weeks.

Deadline for applications: 6th June

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