In the first two weeks of our summer intensives, physical theatre students completed either the Clown Intensive taught by André Casaca and Federica Mafucci or the Hidden Dimensions Intensive taught by Sam McGehee and Sašo Vollmaier. Our dance students completed the C.O.R.E Intensive taught by Helena Fernandino and Wagner Moreira. Below summer students Hugo, Jessie, and Delia reflect on their experience at the ADA with one intensive done and one to go.
Hugo Crick-Furman, Arizona State University
Summer Physical Theatre Intensive (Clown)
Lessons From My Time Among the Clowns
It has been two weeks since I first entered the Accademia Dell’Arte. In that time, I have had one mission, as a performer, as a student, and as an amateur self-proclaimed cultural anthropologist. My task has been to live among the Accademia’s local clown population in order to clean what secrets I could from their strange (yet amusing) world. I present some of my major observations to you now, in hopes that you too can learn from the clowns, a people with a vibrant and oft-misunderstood culture. The most major surprise that struck me during my time with the clowns was that, despite a modern influx of coulrophobic propaganda (Stephen King’s IT springs to mind as a particularly insidious example of the genre) the world at large holds no small amount of affection for our red nosèd friends. Even those new to their world (including myself) were frequently taken in by the bizarre rituals and antics of the clowns infesting the Accademia. Laughter, applause, and comically exaggerated gasps of wonder were par for the course among audiences to the secret rites of the clown. Outside the world of the Accademia, too, clowns are not nearly as despised as their media representation would have you believe. A far cry from the terrified screaming of the witnesses to King’s Pennywise, many living humans note the existence of clowns in the real world with amusement. Andrè Casaca, this researcher’s main liaison with clown society, described several instances in which children would react positively to his red nose in public. As part of my research, I attempted to replicate these circumstances by going about Milan wearing my nose and was greeted by several live human adults engaging enthusiastically with my newfound strange clownish presence. It seems that clowns CAN serve a positive purpose in
society, despite what the mass media claims.
Eat your heart out, Stephen King.
I would also like to note a few interesting examples of culture shock that I experienced. I will refrain from harping on about one of the biggest differences between clowns and human people: that in clown society, someone throwing things at you is not necessarily a sign of animosity. My colleague, Rachel Wansker, noted this in a previous article in this very publication.
I will, however, make note of the extent to which clowns seem to value stupidity and failure. This is because, in the mind of the clown, to be stupid is to be innocent– to be free of judgement and able to feel and to live deeply. This clownish innocence extends to the way in which they interact with the concept of failure– rather than running from failure or attempting to resolve problems so as to avoid failure, the clown lives in it, even soaks in it. Yes– the clown bathes in failure, in mistakes, in problems, just as a young cape buffalo may wallow in the nourishing mud of a local watering hole. It is in this way that the clown learns to face the world. With a red nose on their face and a deep, foolish innocence in their hearts.
Therefore, it was with no small amount of pride that, at the conclusion of these two weeks, Andrè Casaca announced to his mutiny of clowns* that each and every one of us was more stupid than the day he met us.
And in that moment, it was the highest compliment we had ever received.
* While there is some debate as to the collective noun for a group of clowns (many disreputable and amateurish publications have been known to use the terms “alley” or “trunkload” for example) these terms tend to be hedged in outdated and frankly insulting stereotypes. This hill is the one I am choosing to die on, and I urge my colleagues to join me there.
Jessie Jordan, Marymount Manhattan College
Summer Physical Theatre Intensive (Hidden Dimensions)
Hey! I’m Jessie and I’m a musical theater student back in New York who decided to study abroad here in Arezzo! The training at Accademia has been so different then what I have received back home. We have worked on so much mind, body, connection to allow ourselves to tell stories through movement and eye connection. Our teachers have pushed us to follow our impulses individually and as an ensemble which has transformed our storytelling and presence on stage. We’ve been training to do all of these elements through musicality which has been absolutely fascinating. It has been so eye opening to learn this physical theater and how it can shape each of us.
The atmosphere at Accademia is also so peaceful, including living at the villa which has been breathtaking with different colored sunsets every night! Outside the villa I’ve traveled with friends from the program to experience Arezzo and I even accidentally ran into a huge concert around what appeared to be a quiet corner! On weekends we try to travel as much as we can to experience Italy. We did Venice this past weekend and Cinque Terre is next!
This experience has exceeded all my expectations in every inspiring way. I never really thought of myself other than a contemporary artist, but slowly I’ve been allowing myself to change and have been adding things to my own resume that I used to think were waaay out of my reach. It’s showed me that taking risks can open up doors for you that you didn’t even know were possible! Try new things! Meet new people! Explore new places! Experience getting out of your comfort zone! It really changes your perspective on yourself and life.
Delia Ibañez, Arizona State University
Summer Dance Intensive (C.O.R.E)
Many dancers say they connect to their form as a means of self expression. That moving their bodies is easier than using words to communicate. Sometimes, however, that can get dancers stuck as artists, as if their voices don’t matter. At the Accademia Dell’Arte Summer Dance Intensive we are shouting, whispering, showing and telling our stories. In Creating Opportunities for Research and Exploration, a workshop developed by Wagner Moreira and Helena Fernandino, we are being reminded that moving our bodies is not the limit of our capabilities.
We began our week with Helena exploring a number of sensations through partnerwork and improvisation in the mornings. As the afternoon came we were exposed to working with paper bags, which have become our new best friends. These simple containers became vessels for nostalgia as we created compositions based on paper bag vests and swords. These bags have held our treasured memories of our time in Arezzo, and served as a friend to talk to or a mask by simply cutting out two eye holes.
There was something so real about the process of this course that allowed us to stop having to perform and encouraged us to really feel. We knew we had the safety of a bag to cover our faces if we wished, but instead we have leaned on one another for comfort. As a cohort, the dancers were given a safe space to explore, take risks, and share. C.O.R.E. has allowed us to strengthen our technique, but what has been of the most value is the creative tools we have been given and the reassurance that our voices do matter. That we are as capable as any other artists to speak our minds.