Clowning Around


Clowning Around with Shakespeare

February 4 – March 25, 2013, (off Feb.18),

Mondays 5:30-7:30 pm

$180.00 (U of T students and staff); $270.00 (non-members)
Debates Room, Hart House, University of Toronto.

For registration please contact Hart House at

For information on the course please contact Fiona at

“The Fool knows that the only true madness is to recognize this world as rational.”

Jan Kott

The clowns are doing the Bard and they do him so well.  Bring in your favourite Shakespeare passage and we will find the ‘clown within’ to animate those grand speeches. the clown will tackle the text, wrestle meaning and emotion from it and emerge victorious with a fun and fulfilling interpretation of Shakespeare’s powerful and moving prose.  In this course we will explore basic elements of clown and Bouffon, image streaming and physical theatre. With these skills the clown will tackle the text, wrestle meaning and emotion from it and emerge victorious with a fun and fulfilling interpretation of Shakespeare’s powerful and moving prose. Only play, imagination and tom-foolery will be tolerated. This is a course for all those in love with the bard with or without clown experience.

A note: Keep your speech succinct and learn it as best you can before the first class. Read the play or look it up on Wikipedia- noting the story line and biography of your character.

‘That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.’ Isaac Asimov, Guide to Shakespeare.

Student Testimonials

“She is a clown. She is encouraging. She is fun.”

“Fiona knows how to motivate and create the necessary environment.”

“Approachable, dynamic, really strives to communicate clearly and support us in the often scary task of vulnerability.”

” I learned the ability to be fearlessly spontaneous and that failure can sometimes be more enjoyable than success as there’s often more to discover in it.”

fiona griffiths clown

Moments to celebrate our animalness, our humanness, our larger sense of God,

moments when we touch each other deeply in a moment of laughter.”

Richard Pochinko

Send in the Clown

Posted By Graham F. Scott On March 16, 2010 @ 12:32 pm In Life on Campus, Spring 2010

Fiona Griffiths’ character Mabel is a ballerina who longs to dance Swan Lake. “Everybody needs to play,” says Fiona Griffiths, the actor and choreographer who recently taught an eight-week course in clowning at Hart House. “That’s the really great thing about clowning – we get to play. We think that as adults we shouldn’t.”

“Clowning Around” was part of Hart House’s Creative Classes [1], a series of courses in acting, filmmaking and photography introduced last fall. While clowning is great training for actors, she says – allowing them to dig deeper into their characters and act instinctually and authentically onstage – anyone can benefit from unearthing their inner clown. “There are therapeutic benefits of laughter,” says Griffiths. “It relieves stress, stimulates your immune system and improves oxygenation. Your dopamine receptors go crazy.”

Griffiths is a veteran of Canada’s small but vibrant clowning scene, and she travels prepared: at one point she roots around her purse and triumphantly produces a red nose, which she waggles at the end of its elastic strap. “I never travel without an emergency nose,” she says with a laugh. But for Griffiths, laughter isn’t the only emotion involved in clowning. She is a devotee of Pochinko Clowning, a deeply emotive style – in contrast to the highly stylized and structured clowning of the European tradition – developed by the Canadian Richard Pochinko in the 1970s. It encourages unstructured play and mask work to promote a state of emotional freedom. Often that emotion is joy – but not always. Griffiths’ first clown character was Mabel, a failed ballerina who longs to dance Swan Lake but instead ends up choking to death on spaghetti at her own birthday party (at which she is the only attendee). The performance itself is a piece of slapstick, rooted in deep melancholy. “Clowns tell the truth,” says Griffiths, and sometimes that truth is ugly. Griffiths’ Hart House class, though, accentuated the positive, to create a feel-good bubble where grown-ups could forget their jobs, PhD theses or mortgages and concentrate on just having fun again, through music, movement and improvisational games. “I’ve noticed over the years that students are more and more out of their body,” says Griffiths, noting they can be wrapped up with their Blackberrys, high-def TVs and Facebook statuses. Clowning, she says, helps them “connect with themselves again.” Griffiths adds: “The only technology is the red nose.”

Article printed from University of Toronto Magazine:

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