Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #2 by David Bridel)

The process of building our script has well and truly begun.

On Saturday May 17th, our troupe of clowns spent the day at the Annenberg Beach House developing improvisations around the Jonah and the Whale story. I'm not inclined to give too much away, but audiences can expect a delicious contemporary twist on this classic tale of a man and a whale! (Actually, it's a fish that swallows Jonah whole. Not sure when or how the whale pushed her way into it...)

At this stage rehearsals follow a fairly simple pattern. After a warm-up that energizes the group, we choose small sections of our source material - this past rehearsal, I simply read verses aloud from my iPad, an Old Testament King James version app (!) - and then divide the cohort into groups of 3 or 4, who each spend about 15 minutes cooking up scenes that tell the story of that particular section. Our clowns, well-skilled at interpreting texts in uniquely creative ways, then demonstrate what they have come up with to the rest of the group in a kind of "show and tell" moment. Usually I find a way to record these demos - either by filming them or by rapidly scratching down bits of dialogue and action, even while they are happening - and then we briefly discuss the pros and cons of what we have seen, before moving on to the next section. It's often fast, sometimes furious, and always fun.

Later, at home or on an airplane (I just flew long-haul to Shanghai and back), I will mull over the various opportunities that the improvs have created, and start to figure out what works best with what, pulling disparate pieces together and imagining them into a tighter structure. At the time of writing, I have a reasonably organized "skeleton", pieced together from many rehearsals; when we return to rehearsal next week, the improvs will continue, but in a more targeted fashion.

This is my favorite way of working on making plays. It's not conventional authorship, nor is it exactly groupthink - it's a wonderful amalgam of ideas funneled into a rough vision, which I hope is both cohesive and expansive by the time it reaches its creative form.

It sure beats sitting in a room.

David Bridel
Writer, Co-Director, Noah & Jonah
Associate Director, Four Clowns

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #1 by Jeremy Aluma)

The journey of bringing adaptations of Noah & Jonah with our company Four Clowns to the Annenberg Beach Community House started many years ago. As a young Jewish boy, I was taught the Old Testament as a book of lessons or parables. They were guiding stories of humanity and man's relationship to God. What I appreciated most about them is the same kernel of wisdom scholars love about Shakespeare; no one is purely good or purely evil, and the key to a person's character is their motivation. I've been struck by these types of stories my whole life, stories of good people making hard choices, or stories of what makes us perceive people as evil. 

As a theater director, I've been wanting to work on these stories for over a decade, they've been rolling around in my head waiting to come to fruition. About 6 years ago, I started discussing it with another theater company I founded in Long Beach, but we felt we weren't ready for the undertaking. Then about 2 years ago, one of the members of Four Clowns made the suggestion of doing the stories with our company. I actually hadn't previously thought of them as ripe for clowning, I thought they were too epic and too sacred for the shenanigans of our company.

But when I brought it up with the rest of our company, and specifically David Bridel, we realized what a fantastic creation it could be. What better way to tell the earliest stories of humanity than through the heart of a clown. A clown is in touch with exactly how he is feeling, but is free to share it with the audience. A clown is not bogged down in philosophy, she is reactionary. And a clown can make anything funny.

So about 1.5 years ago, David Bridel and I started working with our company on stories from the Old Testament. About twice a month we would get the company together and just play with the stories. It was some of the funniest and poignant material we ever worked on. We continued to play with it for about a year and then felt ready to start pitching it to programs around the country.

The Annenberg Beach Community House seemed a perfect fit for two of the stories we most enjoyed dabbling in, Noah & Jonah. They both have such a strong relationship to the ocean, and both are such full and vivid tales. This is the first opportunity we have to present our adaptations of the Old Testament but future collaborations include going to Brazil to work on Abraham & Isaac at the Stanislavsky Institute, and we're waiting to hear back from a few more applications.

We couldn't be more proud and excited to offer these first two stories in what will ultimately be a many yeared journey for our company.
- Jeremy Aluma
Four Clowns Artistic Director
Co-Director of Jonah


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Four Clowns surveying their new domain....

Fresh from a stint at New York's La Mama theater, Four Clowns is creating original adaptations of the stories of "Jonah & the Whale" and "Noah's Ark" for the Beach House site. As our summer Theater Company in Residence, they'll be working from May 27 through July 18th, so if you see them rehearsing stop by and check them out! Free public performances in the afternoons of July 9-11 & 16-18, with reservations posted in June at annenbergbeachhouse.com/beachculture.
Noah, inveterate dreamer and eternal optimist, is faced with the most fantastic of tasks as the floods begin to rise. Despite the warnings of his oh-so-practical wife, he begins to build - and build - and build... Meanwhile Jonah - lazy, fitful, argumentative Jonah - is charged with a mission he doesn’t want, and escapes as a stowaway on a boat bound for nowhere. Before he knows it, he is deep in the belly of a sea monster, and in big trouble!
Four Clowns is a Los Angeles based nationally touring clown troupe. Dedicated to entertaining all ages and experimenting with the relationship between actors and audience, they create new works that utilize physical theater to shine a light on our shared humanity. fourclowns.org