I! AM! MIGHTY!!!!!!!

Adrian Danzig, Paul Kalina, and Molly Brennan in 500 Clown MacBeth

Shannon and I took our first 500 Clown class last night taught by Paul Kalina through the Actors' Gymnasium. Despite being physically active for at least two of the two and a half hours of class (as opposed to my usual two to two-and-a-half hours per week), I feel surpisingly good today, and Shannon reports feeling pretty darned good himself.

It's unlike any other improv class I've ever taken, though it started like one. The first game we played was a name game where, while standing in a circle, one person started by saying another person's name (preferably someone actually in the class). That person, without speaking, then touched the person to the left or right on the shoulder. The person who was touched said someone else's name, and that person then touched the person to his or her left or right....and so on. Easy enough, but it was the first day of class, we didn't know more than a few names (though now I know 10 of the 12!), and we were a bit nervous so mistakes were invariably made. The faster we played, the more mistakes. Each time a player made a mistake, he or she had to die a convincingly horrible death based on how s/he felt about making the mistake.

It was hilarious.

That is where any similarity to any improv class I've taken ended - about 14 minutes into the first day of class.

The next exercise....well, talk about getting you out of your head. We each had to carry and be carried by every. Other. Member. Of the class.

And you couldn't carry two people the same way, ie: piggy back.

Oh! And you couldn't gesture to indicate how you intended to carry or be carried by anyone. In fact, there was no actual speaking allowed, but you could make sounds to show how you were feeling while carrying or being carried. You had to organically, I really don't know how to explain it, allow the carrying to happen.

I thought I'd start easy by carrying the tiniest girl in class across the stage. WRONG!!! SHE ended up carrying ME confidently across on her back. I later carried her across on my hip. Feeling her lift me and make her way across the stage made me realize just how many levels of preconception I was going to be wading through, slashing and burning, during the exercise. If she could carry me, I would be able to carry people larger than me, too. When Paul was explaining the rules of the exercise, I was thinking, "No way in HELL can I carry that guy alone." Turns out there was only one guy I didn't carry across alone.

If you saw a person struggling trying to carry someone across, you could help them carry their player. One girl was trying to carry a guy backwards on her back on all fours (he was also facing backwards, the same direction as she was). It looked like they were having a hard time getting balanced, so I faced forwards on all fours, scootched back so my feet were between her legs, he then lay back over the two of us and we slowly made our way over - her moving backwards while I moved forwards - to the other side of the stage.

Let's just say any boundary issues were pretty much eliminated within the first 15 minutes of class. It was pretty incredible how intimate (I don't really know what other word to use for it, really) we each got with eachother during this exercise. And yet nobody seemed to feel embarrassed or shy or uncomfortable. There was an immediate sense of trust. Though we were allowed to yell "BAIL!" if someone felt uncomfortable or thought they were going to fall or be dropped, this was only called once, and that was during a really precarious, oddly-executed carry, and the three of us were very close to the other side of the stage.

I was very pleased to find that Shannon really enjoyed the class and is looking forward to next week! THANK YOU SHANNON!!! for taking this class with me! I've wanted to do so for years, and it's so much more fun with you in it, beloved husband/best friend/classmate! Plus I don't have to try to explain what happened in class. Don't know if I can now!


Rev Transit said...

I want to hear Shannon's take on this class. It sorta reminds me of Jumanji doing Pilates with his gf.

Shannon said...

My take on the class is...complex. It's going to be good for me.

I enjoyed the class a good deal, but have been a bit subdued since the end of it. Usually, that's a sign that my subconscious is grinding through new thoughts/perceptions. I woke up several times last night thinking about the class and had a vivid dream that was clearly derivative of my experience in class (had a farmer showing me how to farm). When I first started taking improv, the ideas Claire taught us spilled out beyond the classroom and changed the way I act, view the world, etc. I have a feeling this class will do the same. Which likely means it won't be easy and that there will be parts I loathe/make me horribly uncomfortable. But there will also be parts that will be amazing and fun. And the two may strangely overlap at times.

So many thanks to my wonderful wife for getting me involved in this madness.

Rev Transit said...

Yeah, that's about how Jumanji views Pilates.

Except for the farmer part. He usually dreams about racecars.