Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left blank for surprises]

Welcome to the internet home of Tina Rowley. Here you'll find my blog, links to my other published writing, and whatever ends up climbing into the space I left blank for surprises.

 

what happened in clown class


For those of you who are like, "Tina, we do not care that you are getting married. Blah Blah Blah with you all the time! Go universal or shut it," I am here promising that I will make an effort to bring you the stories you're looking for.

Maybe you're looking to know about Clown Class.

Perhaps you want to know why I took it. You might want to know, "Tina, are you a CLOWN?!" Because you might be like, "Oh, shit. I don't want to read some clown's blog."

I am not a clown. I'm an actor. And, look. I took the class because the description of the class on the website was something like:

The clown goes on stage intending to succeed, and fails.

This seemed so character-building to me. I thought, hey! I'm afraid of failure! I'm afraid as an actor, and as a person. This is my chance to make peace with failure. This will be great!

Who in their right mind thinks the process of making peace with failure will be great?! It isn't great. It is sucky in the extreme.

But I didn't know that then. Also, the teacher was someone I knew to be very fantastic and right-on. HE wasn't the problem. Clown class was the problem.

In a nutshell, what you had to do was find yourself a clown character. No, actually, you were really supposed to let it find you. Let the clothes find you, let your inner clown out organically. Release your inner Clown David like the Michelangelo you are.

I tried some different personas. Uptight maitre d' clown. Neither here nor there sort of upbeat messy clown. And then, goddamn it, my inner clown found me.

And she was a sad clown.

Oh my god! Who wants to be a sad clown?! Nobody wants to be a sad clown! I scrambled in every direction away from Sad Clown but she wouldn't let me go! How I could tell that she wouldn't let me go was that every single time I went to clown class, I ended up weeping in there, right in front of everyone, all the time. Like clockwork, like a clown Ally Sheedy in the clown Breakfast Club (although she was more catatonic than a weeper, I realize - but you feel me, I hope. You can picture the type of clown I was becoming). I wept during exercises, I wept watching other people work. I wept at the beginning of class and I always wept at the end.

And I wasn't a FUNNY sad clown. No, I was just a sad sad clown.

I remember driving once to clown class after my teacher, George, had convinced me not to drop out. I was crying already in the car on the way there. I didn't want to go face down failure anymore. The song "Hang On, Sloopy" was playing on the car radio. I sang along to it, weeping, thinking of myself as Sloopy.

Hang on, Sloopy.
(Sloopy, still go to clown class.)
Sloopy, hang on.
(Look at you, Sloopy, so brave, going to clown class.)

There was a clown in there, Eva, whose clowning was always funny. Her clown was all sleek and realized and kind of acrobatic, and she always made George laugh. I was beyond jealous. My clowning mostly just made George speak gently to me, as one speaks gently to an unhinged, unsuccessful, unfunny, crying clown.

And the failure part came in (apart from in my case, which was nearly all the time) when we had to go up there and do prepared or improvised routines, which would be met with stone cold silence. You had to just flail away and make shit up until you'd lost your mind - until you'd truly failed - after which it was possible that you'd stumble on the "bid" (pronounced bead), which was the sort of essence of the thread that could lead you somewhere truly out-of-left-field funny. Some people made it there sooner than others, and got to enjoy the sincere laughter of their teacher and their peers. Others, like me, would be staggering around for what felt like hours, searching for the goddamned bid, totally cold, colder, freezing in relation to whereabouts of the bid. And we'd end cold. I'd end cold.

Now, a lot of things in the class were great. It was very fun running around in an exercise pretending to be made of fire in my upper half, and water in my lower half. Some of those other clowns, also, were really funny and didn't send me into paroxysms of envy, and they were fun to watch. We learned this great scale of intensity we could use, from 0, being almost entirely inert inside and out, to 6, in which you come as close as you can to dying in a self-created explosion of feeling.

And if you think that you would get something out of taking a class to make peace with failure, by all means. You should do it. You will get something out of it. I don't mean this to be some kind of cruel dog dare. Totally, do it. My honey is going to try it, and I almost would take it again just to be a fly on the wall and see him go through the clown process. I really almost would. Except that I totally will not.

Goodnight, friends. Soon I will tell you the story of how I went to jail.

Coming Summer 2005.