Thursday, October 11, 2012

Resurrecting the Clown Conservatory

[post 286]

About a year ago, rumor had it that San Francisco's Clown Conservatory, which I'd written about in this 2010 blog post, was on its last legs. Another hard pie in the face for  Bay Area zaniness, what with the School of the Flying Actor (James Donlon & Leonard Pitt) having recently closed its doors.

But as Mark Twain famously said, and I quote, "reports of the Clown Conservatory's death are greatly exaggerated." The conservatory, which is a wing of the SF Circus Center, is once again up and running, its new school year having gotten under way earlier this month.

"A well-trained physical comedian with strong circus and clown skills is always in demand."
Clown Conservatory web site publicity

As far as I can tell from the web site, it's a solid program. Its curriculum:
• Neutral Mask
• Movement / Mime
• Games 

• Slapstick comedy
• Acrobatics
• Improvisation
• Dance
• Skills

• Clown
• Performance

• The Business of Showbusiness
• Clown Makeup and Nose making
• Research

Click here for complete course descriptions.

The conservatory is under the new leadership of director Joe Dieffenbacher and associate director Dan Griffiths, though without the services of such past stalwarts as Jeff Raz, Judy Finelli, and Domenique Jando. Paoli Lacy and William Hall, who were there when I visited, are still listed as faculty. Joe and Dan both have very strong clown and physical comedy credentials, as you can see here.

The main program runs from October through May and is divided up into four 7-week intensives, the first two devoted to clown, the third to commedia, and the fourth to bouffon. They are also offering weekly 2-hour "studio classes," apparently intended for those who can't do the full program, but the details on this so far are sketchy.

Although there are similarities beween the conservatory and the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, Ca.  — which both Joe and Dan attended — this is as far as I know the only full-time program in the United States devoted to clowning. It's good to have them back!

Click here for Clown Conservatory home page.

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