In the introduction for Discovering the Clown, or The Funny Book of Good Acting, Christopher Bayes outlines that his book (with contributions from Virginia Scott) is not a guide for how to teach clowning or act like a clown. Instead, he writes, Discovering the Clown should serve as “a book about theater, acting, and all the possibilities of the comic world.” That distinction will likely be important for many readers, as it was for this writer. For regardless of whether or not you’ve dabbled in comedy, acting, or clown, or are an admirer from the audience, you will likely find both joy and wisdom in Bayes and Scott’s book. After all, who couldn’t do with reading about how to access one’s own inner playfulness?
Bite-sized chunks of clowning wisdom in Discovering the Clown
Discovering the Clown is organized into four sections. Part One discusses the nature of talent and how to go about discovering your own talents and their relation to both clowning and your voice and body. The other parts of the book build upon these ideas so that even if you’re unfamiliar with much about clowns, you finish with a much deeper appreciation of the physical, mental, and emotional work that goes into becoming a clown. These reflections only span a few pages, making Discovering the Clown an easy reference as well as the kind of book you can progress through at your own leisure.
Christopher Bayes approaches clowning from a variety of angles
As a writer, Bayes mixes things up in terms of content. Some portions of Discovering the Clown have a more esoteric or philosophical feel, while others break through more academic trappings with down-to-earth analogies. “Mr. Shotgun,” for example, is used to refer to the feelings of desperation a student of clowning may feel when forced to make an audience laugh. “Smell the Barn,” “The Sweet Spot,” and “Zone of the Pathetic” are also idioms utilized to describe different aspects of clowning and stage direction. Overall, Bayes’ careful structure and inventive use of language helps to create a book that builds upon itself while providing easy access and understandable descriptions of the different phenomena actors will experience while pursuing clown.
One theme of Part One which is built upon throughout the book is the concept of “socialization,” and how societal expectations and regulations dampen down our sense of self. Breaking down socialization doesn’t mean being unruly or rude, however. Instead, Bayes shares that “the clown is free to express itself grandly and truthfully in the moment,” because of its lack of social inhibitions. To this writer, at a time where the country is becoming more and more divided, thinking about the different ways in which you could break away from socialization may be a worthwhile resolution for the new decade. If this idea sparks interest to you, you’ll surely find unique wisdom in the passages of Discovering the Clown.
For more information or to purchase a copy visit the Theatre Communications Group website.
Images courtesy of Christopher Bayes
Read more about him and other Picture this Post writers on the Picture this Post Masthead.
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