LA STAGE -- Ashley Steed

All summer long I couldn’t wait for class to start. Yes, that’s right – I was super excited about taking a class. That’s because it’s a clowning class. Yes, that’s right – I said clowning. I’m taking “This Crazy Life” taught by David Bridel and Orlando Pabotoy, co-founders of Studio Six Clown School – LA’s first clown school.

Never have I been more excited, albeit terrified of a class. Being funny with no expectations is one thing; being funny on command is another. But as I’ve learned from this class being funny isn’t necessarily the means to making people laugh. It’s about being committed and having fun, and sharing that with the audience. That sharing takes incredible courage. On the first class Orlando gave us our homework, “I want you to have fun this week.” I think I can manage that.

I’m amazed by how so many profound discoveries are made while doing something completely ridiculous. Even with the simple act of laughing. We did one exercise where all we did was laugh for what felt like 5 days. At the end of class I was light headed and felt ill – but completely energized. What a release! I don’t think we as a society laugh nearly enough.

Although I haven’t been able to completely kill my inner critic (I’ve tried, but she won’t die. Kind of like Rasputin), I’ve been able to say to her “so what?” So what if I look like an idiot? So what if they’re not laughing? So what if I fail? So what if it’s not perfect? Hey, I’ve got news for you – life’s not perfect! So what?!

As we get older, that inner critic becomes louder and more powerful. Remember those days when you were a kid and played with absolute abandon? Can you think of the last time you laughed so hard you toppled over with tears? Or how about just letting loose your funky duck inside you? That is the art of the clown. Saying “so what?” to the critic and letting your sense of play, investigation, truth, courage and fun come bursting out. As my godfather always says – growing older is no excuse for growing up.

Both David and Orlando are like two big kids themselves – they are also incredibly perceptive and inspiring teachers. I watch them observe just as much as I watch my classmates. Their astute observations are deep, thoughtful and pertinent. They are the perfect duo: Orlando with his bursts of beautifully messy energy, and David with his calm silliness. Their different approaches to the art of clowning compliment one another, creating a truly spectacular and unforgettable class. I always look forward to class on Sundays, and I always leave class energized by what we’ve discovered. I’m also incredibly sad that it’s coming to an end. Which is why I’m signing up for another class.

The clown is fearless; the clown is honest; the clown is here and now; the clown reminds us that it’s ok to be messy, to let things happen, to be yourself. The clown is not some elusive state of being – it is in us all. So let yourself have fun today; let out your inner clown.