Tag helikos

A Short Visit With Matteo

Matteo Destro is a mask maker, theater director and teacher. He was my mentor during the years I spent in Italy studying movement theater at Helikos and it’s his voice I hear in my mind whenever I’m making masks or puppets.

He was passing through Ljubljana so we threw him a little party.

In just a few hours, three years worth of work and lessons came back in a flood. Sensitivity, silence, and observation all contributing to the poetry that can be achieved through theater. Not to mention I got to see some of the new masks he’s been working on. They are beautiful full face leather masks that are so simple and strong.

We even had time to make some goofy pictures thanks to Justin and Ilgaz.

Good to see you again Matteo!

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Spiralni Cirkus

Thirteen of us students from Helikos performed a selection pieces created in the past years at school for two nights of performances in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was a wide ranging show full of masks, clowns, and eccentric characters, showing off a few of the many theatrical territories we touch on at school. All knitted together with in-character transitions and set up, Muppet Show style. The audience response was gratifyingly positive, making the whole adventure entirely satisfying and worthwile.

A huge and gracious thanks to Ana and her partners at Pripovedovalski Variete for inviting us and hosting so many performers in such high style. These photos were taken by Katarina Juvancic at the Glej theater.

More Clowns

Whoa! Look at all these clowns. We all worked hard over the weekend to get ready for our public show next week. So far it’s impressively stupid in parts, in other parts head-slappingly ludicrous, and in still other parts it’s full hearted and funny.  If you happen to be in or around Florence this Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, you’ll have to stop in and see us.

If you still can’t get enough, check out this interview from the New Victory Theater, with some clowns I met last summer in NYC at the Brick International Clown Theatre Festival. Enjoy reading what Billy and Summer say about this world of working clowns.

Campbell Vann Damme

We’re wrapping up this year in school by diving headfirst into clown. It’s an ancient theatrical territory, subtle and personal, and when it’s working it crackles with joy and life.

Probably you’ve heard someone tell you they are scared of clowns. The rainbow wig, a terrible red grimace, smeared greasy face paint, cackling out a laugh with every breath. Clowns we all know seem to shout: everyone should be having fun all the time! I agree, that is pretty scary.

Most of our shared experience of clowns comes from pop culture. Krusty from the Simsons, Stephen King’s IT or the most evil of them all, Ronald McDonald. These guys are miles away from the clown work we do at school. They are devices that use the image of a clown to hide sinister motives barely hidden under that painted on smile.

All the clowns I look up to have less of the trappings of a clown. Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball or Mr. Bean don’t have wigs or face paint. But it’s fun to watch them fail so honestly and completely because they are ridiculously full hearted and imperfect characters. They may be full of themselves and short sighted but they are marvelously curious and completely affected by the world around them.

The director of my school says that an audience will treat clowns in one of three ways, they laugh, walk away or kill the clown. (Kill the clown? Sure! Think of the court jester who mocks the king a little too sharply, or more recently that weeble-wobbling BOZO punching bag that wont fall down.) Well, my latest clown is called Campbell Vann Damme. He’s a mind reader, a snake charmer and a complete idiot. As I’ve worked on him these past few weeks I’ve alternated between wanting to ignore him, wanting to kill him and falling down laughing playing him in improvisations with other clowns from my class.

In a way this clown is what is left after everything I use as a performer to connect to an audience is taken away. All that is left for poor Campbell is my instance on being out in front of an audience. Everything is gone except the plastic red-nose and me. “I deserve to be out here,” he says and I say at the same time.


Half Mask Commedy

A few weeks ago we performed a few public shows in half-masks. We had a photographer come, Stefano Borghi, and I just got the photos back. I’m happy to finally have something to share of the wild work I’ve been doing here the past months.

These first to are of me and my friend Anja Završnik in a piece we made called The Box or Identity Card. Rosie was expecting a nice vacation was stopped at the border by a very eager border agent. On the border the consequences are steep and decisions are made in an instant.

The night was full of tragic and funny short plays. A stolen crown, a dead cat, a deranged pizza man. This last photo is of the second piece I made with Cynthia Kneen, The High Wire. The mask work is over now and I’m on a two week vacation, when we all get back together we’ll jump into some of my favorite work from the first year, red nose clown. In the meantime, rest, relaxation, and anticipation!