Sunday, June 29, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah- Mass Murderer? (Blog Post #6 by Don Colliver)

Incendiary title, I know.  Bear with me.  Four Clowns is getting closer to our opening- just 10 days away!  Our troupe is busily going through the nuts and bolts of putting up a production: learning lines, figuring out blocking, finding props, creating costumes, etc.  

Puppetry on the Beach

I've been reading and rereading and rereading these scripts, particularly Noah, as I'll be playing his character. I can't help but be struck by the way this Bible story deals with the issue of faith, and how the conclusion is just not wrapped up in a nice little bow (like most blockbuster films these days).

Current Noah beard status.  10 days to go!

Noah is a man with faith.  That's a good thing, right?  His God tells him to do something, which he does, unquestioningly.  But, then, he is seemingly complicit in a mass 'cleansing' of humanity, maybe even genocide, depending on how you define the term.  So, where does that leave Noah? Just following orders?  And what about God?  What's his deal, anyway?

So, at what point does faith become a bad thing?  When is it okay to question authority?  When is it okay to trust that which we don't understand? I'm vacillating day-to-day about how I feel about Noah. He'd been told his entire life to obey God, so he does.  And then what?

Lighthearted rehearsal fun

So, in addition to fart jokes and general zany-ness, this production will definitely raise some big questions.  If you figure out the answers, let me (and Noah) know.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah and Jonah (Blog Post #5 by Lis Vizcarra)

Life's A Beach

This is my first ever blog entry.  I'm going to write from the heart and hopefully coherently.  First off, if you haven't yet visited the Annenberg Beach Community House, you must, immediately.  It is an oasis and such a beautiful place to visit and even more welcoming as it is a public beach house.  That is very cool.
I relish the time I've spent rehearsing here.  Nothing beats having the ocean as an audience and as a source of inspiration.  I can literally stare off into the distance whilst trying to remember my line and I imagine it looks as if I am deep in spiritual thought.   To a certain degree I am.
For the past five years, spirituality and a connection to the Great Creator as I like to call it, have been a daily practice for me.  Clowning and the Pacific Ocean are two of the main sources through which I tap into that divine source.  It is so thrilling to have these two entities come together at the Marion Davies Beach House and to be telling such epic tales.
Telling the tales of Noah's Ark and Jonah and the Whale has felt very epic.  Four Clowns and all of its amazing creatives I am blessed to work with ask me to dig deep down into the heart of myself for the funny, the poignant, the human.  I have been mining for these for the past 10 years through my education in theatrical clowning.
Clowning to me is all about bringing to the surface those basic human turmoils and triumphs that penetrate through language and culture and are universally human.  What better material to test this out on than The Old Testament and what better setting than the beach?
I am so looking forward to the next weeks of rehearsal and then 6 performances we have.  I hope to see all of you there and please stop by and watch us rehearse.  It's a hoot and a half. See you at the beach!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #4 by Jamie Ann Hultgren)

Living in LA can be a real goat rodeo. 

Maintaining a (functional) life as a performing artist here means a constant juggle of day jobs and family responsibilities while carving out the time and space in your head/heart to expand instead of holing up in bed after an epic car battle on the 405. I suppose every career and geographic choice poses its challenges, but coming from the MidWest several years ago, I find myself having to work much harder to stay sane and grow.

I’ve been very fortunate to find an artistic home in the Four Clowns company and the associated Clown School (where many of us train). When I first moved to LA I tried a slew of different acting classes and found most of them to be a bunch of networky bull. So almost defiantly, I decided to delve into clown work and found a sanctuary where the work I was first drawn to as a performer (emotional, physical, spiritual, et all) was getting done. The work of the clown is being ever present, ever true- and if you avoid the work, you are slaughtered by the searing wit of an instructor or colleague. So in an effort to not get slaughtered, you prepare and scare yourself silly, making a complete fool of yourself while exposing your vulnerabilities on a regular basis. And at the end of the day, you're relieved because you’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly- you’re no longer carrying it with you.

But Four Clowns has the challenges of any young theater troupe- securing rehearsal space, funding, and selling enough tickets to keep the company alive are near constant concerns. So having the opportunity to be in residence at Annenberg for the summer is a really a dream for us, because the support of the City of Santa Monica and The Annenberg Foundation takes so much of the drudgery out of the equation, allowing us to focus more on the work itself- and not only that, but it is an awesome excuse to get out to the beach everyday.

So many company members keep saying what a relief being at the Beach House is. Exiting off the 10, heading through the tunnel onto the PCH, the ocean comes into view and suddenly my anxieties dissolve and brain expands, the frustrating jungle of LA ceasing to exist, only sun and water now. At last, I am free- to play and be a part of a community. Every care disappears and the creative work just sort of happens.

Both of our shows, Noah & Jonah, obviously have strong water themes, and performing against the facade of the Marion Davies Guest House, I don’t have to imagine all that hard to find myself in the shoes of the characters we play. I just look out on the ocean, already in awe of its beauty, power, and magnitude, swiftly delivered to a frame of mind where reflections on humanity and our place relative to all creation is uniquely available- thoughts that can feel so far from my little head when I’m squeezed into my Corolla on the 101.

Jamie Ann Hultgren
Performer, Noah & Jonah
Company Manager, Four Clowns

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #3 by Courtney Buchan)

Rehearsals for Noah & Jonah are now in full swing! David Bridel has a solid skeleton structure of what the scripts will look like, which means our next step has been to fill in the holes. This past week, we specifically were focusing on how each scene might play out. We know what key elements the scene needs to contain, but we still need to discover who these characters are and what their relationships look like. For example, we know that God put Noah through a test before he was told to build the ark. What we get to fill in and explore through improvisation scenes, is what those tests might look like, Noah's relationship with God, and how successful Noah actually was at completing God's instructions. It's been incredibly fun this past week to explore within our skeleton structure the limitless possibilities we have in telling these stories.

As a director, improvisation has been amazingly helpful for me in this process. The amount of incredible, hysterical ideas our ensemble of 7+ company members have developed, far outshines anything I could have come up with on my own. Creating a piece from the ground up as ensemble, makes for a rich well of ideas to pull from. We spent this past week working on creating substance- improvising scenes that David had roughly structured, and then we'll see which idea gems want to make their way into the final script. By the end of the week we had filled in almost all of the gaps that David had wanted to fill, and we had some amazing comic bits that I hope we can find a way to incorporate in the production.

Now that we've had our week of intense improv, David will go back through all of the videos we've taken, notes we've written, and jokes he couldn't forget if he tried, and start creating dialogue and plugging in ideas. On Tuesday, we'll have a read-thru of the script, and then start working with it. The next step in the process will be to play within the confines of a scripted piece, and see what we can find. It's been such a fun process so far, and the amazing location that we get to work in just adds to everyone's enthusiasm. There's nothing like creating two shows that deal with the ocean, and having the ocean RIGHT THERE. Everyone is exhausted on arriving to rehearsals- exhausted from traffic, from work, receiving a bad haircut, etc. But once everyone has arrived and we take a moment to look at the ocean, breath in the salty air, and play a silly school yard game, we are all ready and exited to work. That's the amazing thing about theatre, by its very nature it brings people together, and forms community instantly. This is good for my soul. I'm excited to get crackin' on this new script David will have! Scripts ahoy!

Courtney Buchan
Co-Director- Noah and Jonah