Saturday, October 6, 2018

Book cover and excerpt


SHORT INTERVIEW
A Student Journalist Engages The Author

Q: To you, what makes a great clown performance - if you were in the audience. what are 3 or 4 things that must be present for you to rate a clown performance "great"?

A: These are all personal answers, I'm just speaking for myself obviously.
I look beyond the physical skill-set and watch for 'risk and redemption' because that to me illustrates the commitment the performer has to exploring the dynamic of clown or any performance.

Risk and redemption is the conscious puncturing of the audiences faith in you, it raises the dramatic tension not so much in the performance but the room or venue itself. Then the performer takes that and with mastery relieves that tension and redeems him/herself and in so doing further cements the trust the audience has. Each time you do this you push the perimeter of what the audience will accept further out. It becomes harder to do consecutively because of this and it is my personal litmus applied to clown.

Dirty Fred is a master at this, Leo Bassi is a master at this, Tony Livingspace, Bobarino Gravitini, Peter Post, also employ this gambit woven into their shows.

I'd be looking at character also, empathy. Do I have any. Is the clown solid or brittle, is it skills-based, in which case it's just cabaret using the clown form and I'm not so interested because while I admire physical skills and use some myself, clown to me is about empathy more than admiration.

Having been street-based for a large portion of my profession I look too at the interaction between performer and audience. If it is a stage piece without interaction I look for the clown’s pacing to see if it's rote or flexible, I look for variations.

That's three things.

Mostly I'm looking at the quality of the relationship the clown has.

Q: When you walk off stage after a show and it was the most incredible show you've ever done, what four things did YOU accomplish?

A: I made people cry with laughter, (passive aggression at its finest),
I felt a lot of love. I explored a structure of my own making to create laughter and celebration out of passing foot-traffic, I accomplish pride. I conveyed my worth to strangers who reinforce it by donating towards my work. I accomplish the means to carry on.

Q: Does it make a more impactful show if you can take the audience through a range of emotions ?

A: Which is tastier, a peanut or a 12-course meal?

Q: What led you to clowning? When did you first know you wanted to be a clown?

A: Philosophically I was drawn to both mime and clown in my teens as I tried to work out as you do at that age, what contained within my culture was real and what was simply fluff reinforced by society’s collective hallucination of itself. I didn't trust language itself, too slippery, I can wrangle words purty good but I was more interested in the quality of silent communication. I thought it had the potential to be both pan-cultural and perhaps if I were lucky, profound. I saw that clowns are allowed to take liberties, they are allowed that role as long as they can handle and master the situations they create. I found that very seductive as I'm playful and wanted to be so on my own terms.

Q: Do you wake up as a clown?

A: Do I exist without an audience? yes.

Q: How has clowning changed you, personally?

A: As a male I'm much better at makeup than most.

I have a lexicon that includes status awareness, body language, tone, pacing and subtext. I perceive tension because it's my job to create it in small part and as such I am sensitive to it, it's a factor in comic timing. These things all bleed across.

Q: Describe how you interact with the audience.

A: I pretend I can barely tolerate them, they see through it but it's funny.
I submit passing pedestrians to indignities and my audience watches and laughs. Or I do a stage piece which is usually more skills-focused with some emotional attachment. Or I do some conceptual piece of whimsy and the audience interact with their own curiosity more than anything.

Q: Is it necessary to create anarchy? Can you do a show that is safe and nice?

A: That's a very polar question. One thing to bear in mind is that to a real degree you are a technician, another thing to bear in mind is that the collective reality of a show is firmly rooted in the minds of your audience. You can make them hear words articulated by a squeaky doll simply by mouthing those words as you make the sound. Sounds incredible, but I watched Hoopal do this night after night and it was eye-opening. I too heard the words in my head that did not exist.

Anyway, anarchy, maybe, more likely moments between studied impulses that seem like anarchy to an audience. Anarchy's a tricky concept; socially it's always been vague and in absolute terms the Heisenberg uncertainty principle suggests that Anarchy is a subatomic constant.

I have nothing against safe nice shows.

Q: What is the funniest thing that ever happened on stage?

A: I've had a few things that could go here but the best ones are all me suffering, dancing into an overhead fan in Edinburgh, vomiting on a Japanese audience.

The funniest things in the show to me are those moments where someone shucks off their anxiety and plays in some way with me and the audience roars its approval.

I could list moment after moment. I won't, though, because I can't afford the time right now.

Q: How do you filter your impulses when you're performing or interacting with the audience?

A: You kind of evolve behavioural templates, the borders of which have been defined by past experience.

I filter my impulses determined by my perception of where the audience are in their relationship with me, am I still flirting with their approval? Or am I at the next stage once I've seduced them, of perhaps taking them somewhere new.

Q: Who are some of your idols? And why?

A: Bassi, Grock, Butterflyman, Dirty Fred, there's lots of others I draw from but I tend not to idolise ( it can be really painful when you divorce).

Q: What reaction do you get when you tell someone you're a clown?

A: I tend to say I'm an adhesive chemist, it's just easier.

Q: What do you do, on stage, that makes you a great clown?

A: I own the fact that I inhabit this role naturally.

Q: What rules do you have about interacting with the audience, touching the audience?

A: I don't have an overt sexual aspect, I can be excessively romantic but I never express any libido of my own. I will mimic a dog and hump a lampost like someone's leg but that's the dog’s libido, not mine.

Q: Have you encountered clown fear? How do you deal with it?

A: I try and amplify it for the amusement of others; these people cannot be cured, they can still, however, be useful in the production of comedy.

Q: Is connecting with the audience the most important thing you are trying to do?

A: I have to connect with them so that they can connect with each other and become one temporary collective celebratory animal.

You know that scene where the dad’s laughing his head off but still remembers to glance across at the family and mum and the usually surly teen and the two younger kids are laughing, as are everyone around you.

That moment of freedom for the dad and everyone as they find themselves unexpectedly celebrating in a crowd or audience.

That's the most important thing I am trying to do.

Q: Is there a delicate balance between brave and daring and not offending the audience to the point of alienation?

A: See answer one, "Risk and redemption"

Q: Touching moments - what have people said to you after a show?

A: "I haven't been going out because I've been very depressed but I dragged myself out today to join the world and I saw you and watched you and you made me laugh. Thank you very very much for showing me I still can."

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The rest of my life...


As many of you know I've had a spot of cancer. Overall it’s been quite invigorating.

I have a 50/50 year by year chance of living for the next 5 years and as I’ve just had major surgery and been pronounced cancer free I’m working on the assumption that the coin for the next 12 months has been flipped and landed in my favour. I’m figuring pretty long odds of anything incapacitating me from scratch within a 12 month period, which I won’t be able to replicate at any other point in this 5 year period.

Living year to year is not new, the mortality horizon gives it an interesting frisson though.

Initially I thought a "Lurks Last Legs" tour. Canada, Glastonbury, visit some old friends in Europe.

I think I'll have that in reserve and revise the weirdness that is flyfishing. It's less strenuous, involves another performer, [I can use guest performers perhaps]..and it's fittingly unapologetically surreal.

http://www.martinewen.com/public_html/antigravitytheatre.com/www/flyfishing.htm

Sent letters out to Canada, Glastonbury next.

Be based in NZ til next late may firming that up as well as 2020 projects, an international clown symposium in Wellington and the ever simmering Clown Tomb project.

So each year at a time with a small investment to carry on to the next if I don't explode into a bodysuit of melanomas and expire in a puddle of morphine as is the first world norm. Or get brain cancer or the larger of my testicles becomes a man eater. I'm told the odds are non specific. Dramatic tension!

Deadline for new book is nov 1st at the Latest. Just cover to go.

Looking for accom in NZ and internationally and additionally pondering putting burningman at the end of the season in Sept.

update complete.....

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Funafuti

an exercise
Funafuti is an atoll on which the capital of the island nation of Tuvalu is located,
It's a narrow sweep of land with several inlets surrounding a central lagoon. Its 28 degrees most days and rainforest humid . It's the main island in a small chain and has a population of around 6000 people. The total population spread out over a couple of Islands is close to 11 000.
The Funafuti international Airport serves as the airstrips for the weekly flights from Fiji and also provides a space for sporting and other cultural activities. It's an evening social hub.
Two yachts had slipped into the atoll, it got a bit of attention because they weren't your pacific vagabonding usuals. These were charters from Ritzycharters, the Orion 90, $55 000 a week all inclusive, crew of 4. 8 Guests. Well kinda guests, plans were afoot. They were corporate and minimum impact audio visual techs, and the 'Rose of Jericho' $60 000 a week plus expenses.
The whole project was initially underwritten by Japanese dept store giant Marui, the retail chain turns over between 2 and 3 billion a year and caters to woman 25-35.
It was decided these women would identify with a feel good story emotionally invest, increase their brand loyalty. Increase revenue.
The fact was retail was dying, it would take years but the public commons internationally was morphing into a cross between an amusement park and a cultural musuem in order to engender brand loyalty. The Japanese led the way, they marketed feelings with the retail disguised as bi-product.
What was about to happen in this tiny Pacific community amounted to a selection of the worlds best street performers crashing a runway of a sleepy pacific nation and doing a group show for the locals. Because they wanted to and getting what they wanted was a game and because the authenticity involved was a valuable asset.
Sara Salsa Anthony Livingspace and Hilby the Skinny German Juggleboy were there at the request of Lurk, Martin Ewen, the 11ft disgruntled pantomime., because he had made it happen.
Martin had had a run in with cancer that focused his pondering to the degree he scared people who didn't know him and amused those who did. He had been a clowns clown for 30 years.
He'd worked out that authenticity was the rarest asset and in a culture of plastic try hards who stole templates those who went blind into the public eye prepared to fail until they learned something genuine were the most valuable of people with the most valuable of ideas. Theatrically Blueman had stolen this and Cirque du Soleil had literally stolen and fabricated it to the tune of billions.
No matter, it took years to form but it was a self perpetuating rare quality and an extremely limited resource and Martin had worked out how to broker it from within it's community or tribe..
It wasn't all socially pretentious marketing theory akin to William Gibson shamelessly spending two pages on a Tshirt however.
The retail giant was underwriting but there were a raft of other schemes in play. A team of admins dedicated to grants and cultural exchange programs, pacific rim infrastructural improvements, united nations Millennium Development Goals had all been dotting I's and crossing T's in the background so that when this week was over the local populations would all be potentially giddy and galvanised. As it was only the bare minimum of need to know local authorities had advance notice and they had been ludicriously bribed and thus blackmailed into silence in advance.
The stage was set.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Saga



I don't suppose all sagas start off as sagas. I expect some of them begin

“This morning I woke up and proceeded to struggle with my trousers.”
and end up 200,000 words later with the protagonist in a large pot being danced around by cannibals and you put the book down and sigh because you're only two thirds of the way through and you mutter, “Saga”

So it it with me, cept it's doctors not cannibals.
I went home for a night as an experiment over a week ago and returned to the hospital the next day confident I'd probably be discharged the following morning.
A doctor visited and breezily informed me that the latest blood test had showed an uptick in my white cells and they were just going to keep an eye on that over the next 24 hours.
I was casual. After all was I not just an exceptional healing unit overall?
Then the fever hit and the exhaustion rolled in and I spent the next week in bed as doctors tried to find the source of infection and I went back to nil by mouth in case food had leaked into my chest cavity via inadequate stitching in the children's' purse I now call a stomach.

So a week and a bit later I'm sitting up in bed writing this and my surgeon walks in and asks me to give him a smile. He has no way of knowing. I stare at him blankly and state. 'That's not my bag man.”

He proceeds to tell me of teams of radiologists and himself pouring over the CT scan I'd had done this morning looking for a leak in the minutest forensic detail and where there was once one half of them say there now isn't and half of them say there's the faintest whisper of one left.

I mumble something about schroeder's esophagus and he doesn't double over with laughter so it's obvious I'm still very unwell.

But feel better that I have for the previous week, which was sick and tired and a little depressed with the whole isolated, uncomfortable, mammoth physical restructuring exercise.

However certain clouds have parted and that's as far as I'll go with that.
The world still owes me a living.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

third week recovery from misdiagnosed terminal cancer

I'm doing unnaturally well. Today is 3 weeks of recovery. First two weeks were a shellshocked pain pocked post operational ketamine fueled multiverse of painful solitude punctuated by nurses and tasks and family visits. An omniplex which can be defined as a realm of simultaneous chaos and understanding.

Ketamine is useful in that it dismantles not only the highways between your pain source and your brain but dismantles your perception of your bedrock reality such that you have to improvisation-ally rebuild it. It's like having to construct a street show in real time on the fly after being hit by a truck or some mythical thing with a powerful tail.

There were times where I had a stoic belief that I was not entirely housed in a hospital but a hybrid of a hospital and a south east asian village built on a mat of quartered macadamia nuts nurtured by elders and I was aware of the byzantine social and cultural intricacies by which the community was both stable and evolving and in some part actually fueling the hospital. I'd overhear the villagers talking and make my conclusions. Sometimes they talked about me. They mentioned at one point I'd make a good prospect for the south African market. I felt special.

At night when I pushed the buzzer because of pain or some other need it would appear that the nurses dutifully but with the barest sense of reluctance would appear from a spiral staircase under a trapdoor in the floor at the base of my bed and that I wasn't in a room but more a hallway between these two integrated worlds. It all made a lot of sense at the time.
That was then this is now.

After day 12 things picked up, my core reasserted itself, I could sit up by myself and a few days later could lie down unaided and within a couple of days I gained a lot of physical strength and mobility. The doc had always been dour, in intensive care the day after he was all, "Five major things can go wrong in the first five days. " after 5 days it was "Not out of the woods yet." but by day 15ish he came in and told me the histology [cellular analysis of whatever they've removed from you] was that he'd taken 35 lymph nodes from around the site and none of them had shown any indications of cancer and also the tumour had not gone through the wall of my esophagus and was just sitting on it so the likelihood of it having travelled anywhere were essentially nil. Additionally my recovery and lack of major complications, [I'd had a short lung infection in the lung they collapsed for the op but that healed with antibiotics within days] has so far had me the fastest healing and most positive prognosis out of any patient he's done this operation on. So there's that. Still nil by mouth though. Eating starts in 3 days and I'm being fed 16 hours a day by tube.

But fuck it I had 2 pieces of hard caramel candy, 3 sips of sugared latte and a cig yesterday when they unhooked me and gave me the afternoon off, cos Iyam what Iyam
I have a huge learning curve ahead

Resets and relearns and vit b injections every couple of months. Will go home next week if tomorrows scan is progressive as all before have been, and be fed 8 hours overnight and experiment with what my body will deal with during the days. So it will be reduced but essentially what I've been experimenting with my whole life.
I'm fed for 16 hours via tube about 2300 cals overnight from 6pm til 10am.
Today they let me have sugared black coffee, they said no milk but I bumped into a cow and one thing led to another and I spent 3 hours drinking a small strong latte so there.
I get a final scan through the big donut downstairs tomorrow I had one this last monday and they are trying new methods out on me. They get me to drink the indicator minutes before the scan which is a new procedure and on monday they asked if I could spin round one revolution on the hydraulic feeding stretcher that glides you through the CT Scanner so the fluid could coat what they wanted to look at and perhaps walk around a little also.

Given that a week earlier I had to be helped on and off my bed and onto the thing and this week they were asking for gymnastics I gave them a wry glance and mentioned I'd worked in circus but even so were they aware of what they were asking? Negotiated that yes if they lowered the narrow thing I'd give it a shot then I did rotate from back to side to hands and knees then back to back again. I then got to my feet walked the length of the scanning room did a full 360 pirouette on the ball of one foot, returned, lay down and said 'Lets do this thing.'
Bottom line I'm as good as cancer free before even the next poss stage of clean-up chemo and healing well but life will not be the same.
Hoping to write more and make a name for reviewing street fests from the bottom up so to speak being one of the tribe but that's future days.
Grateful for all the wellwishing and support you've all lent. It means everything.