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Clowning King Lear

This Fall we're creating a King Lear centered in the tradition of the traditional clown. NOT the circus clown, although that tradition is also revered, but more in the style of the white clown. As we explore this play, while Calvin's theatre program has been severely cut and my position eliminated in the process, I reflect much on the absurdity of human loss and suffering. Lear will not relent or change, even when the Universe tells him he must, through the cruelty of his daughters and his own misjudgement, or hamartia -- missing the mark and eventually going mad.

The clown is the elegance of this expression, existing only in the present and handling only what is in front of his nose.

And what we learn from the clown is that remaining in the present is all we have and if we become too future or too past oriented, we destroy ourselves and one another. Lear forgets the love of his daughter in a present moment, focusing instead on the future and then the past haunts him, drives him cackling mad through the play until he is finally reconciled to her, and dies.

The play is one of the oldest source stories that Shakespeare used, dating from the 8th century BCE, and Shakespeare turns it from a comedy to a tragedy. What I've learned in making it into a piece of clown theatre, adapting it day by day, is to stay focused in the moment, with my actors, and make art, even in the midst of massive cuts to our program. We survive, like the clown, through creating and being and staying together.

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