Monday, January 17, 2011
Pushing on four walls
I just had an amazing weekend full of challenges and groans. Groans of pain, pleasure, delight, anger, disgust, anguish and love. I took a buffooning class at The Center for Movement Theatre with Dody Disanto. Dody brought a special guest from New York, Eric Davis, aka The Red Bastard. Eric came down to stuffy DC to teach part of our class, but more importantly to share his show with the DC community. His show on Thursday was something I had never seen before. It was grotesque and wonderful. I was floored.
In a nutshell, and said in the most crude sense, buffooning is clowning on crack. We spent the weekend in incredibly uncomfortable costumes we had created that illustrated the buffoon that lives within us. My head was encased in a helmet, wrapped in a scarf, branches grew from my fingers and I had a nub of a tail pushing through my pants. Dody encouraged us to do what brings us joy. And when we loved it, to do it again. We were birthed into the existence of buffoon. I crawled and screamed through the weekend with other buffoons, creating a clan and exploring the vertical plane where buffoons exist.
And just as we reached a place of insanity, she encouraged us to shift, to find a place of stillness. Eric noted that buffooning is a constant cycle through 1. jubilee, 2. mysticism/love and 3. trickery/insanity. Each of the three require a different energy.
The magic of the buffoon is their free reign to outstay their welcome. To mock the audience. The perfect liar.
Now, as I sit in a coffee shop on this day off, a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. I look at the world around me from a new lens. The animals that we are.
And so, here's to the buffoons. It has expanded my understanding of the world of clown. It has created a new found passion (as if I needed one more.) It makes me hungry to learn more.
I find myself going deeper into this rabbit hole of four walls: theater/arts for social change/conflict resolution/international development? I often wonder if it is a rabbit hole or just a series of random interests that I toggle between, that will never merge into one clear form. Will I never come out the other end?
I continue to search for the place where Boal and clown coexist. The world where the aesthetic brilliance meets the amateur raw truth. Where these two worlds merge and collide in a way that the witness cannot help but be drawn in, the way humans want to say hello to a sweet little kitten; where the innocence draws you in and the insanity keeps you there. But a place where, as Brecht says, catharsis eludes the spectator. Where, as Boal says, the onlooker becomes the spect-actor. And through this, society engages and finds a reason to create more space for compassion and listening in their lives. Where education meets beauty. And the educators are learning as they teach. The participants, through their performance, discover a new paradigm for creative problem solving. A new approach to the resolution of conflict. Am I simply describing really good theater, or does the theater community have something to take from the conflict resolution community? Can Bohm's theories, Boal's techniques and Lecoq's aesthetic coexist in one space? What the fuck does that look like?