Saturday, April 23, 2011
Breaking the Rules. Backstage
OK First the setup.
Mitch (Jonathan) Freddes (above/center) is a classic oldschool ex Ringling Clown traditionalist. He uses a prop in his show that's over a hundred years old. He worked for Ringling for decades, then ran off and went away to live on a reservation for close to ten years, no-one knew where he'd gone. When he was done with that he came back to Ringling and was invited to check out the new generation which he did before pronouncing in front of them all that they were full of crap. He then rejoined their slightly less happy family awhile.
He's a gem. I search the world for true individuals and Mitch is true. He's cantankerous for the greater good. He's generous of spirit and playful and has that rare form of hardfought dignity few clowns evoke.
Mitch has rules and I tried to get him to lay them out, like commandments. He didn't. I'm figuring showing clowns backstage is one of his cardinals. One of the first tier of sins. I'm known in Clown circles and beyond as a maverick and in conventional terms I guess it's part of my spiritual journey to be forgiven as often as I can. Giving mortal men and woman the opportunity to extend me grace. It's not an easy job pissing people off, let me tell you it can be lonely being as selflessly annoying as I can be but it helps people grow so I believe it's worth it.
Alan Balanger is an ex Ringling clown much younger than Mitch but with certain qualities that make him a very good clown but interestingly those qualities make him ill qualified for lesser things.
An example is Alan runs almost exclusively on body or muscle memory. He learns things and then disappears entirely into them while engaged. I'm not being facetious or sarcastic here. Alan has done many other things and successfully but nothing as successful as simply being totally in the moment in his own kinda clown bulldozer style.
Mitch offered to teach Alan this Classic big-top Boxing skit and to perform it with him. Alan, during these rehearsals is almost incandescent with joy, something new to commit to memory and to perform with Mitch is somewhat of an honor. It was funny watching this because the structure was new to Alan but the joy of it was immediate and immense and he found concentration hard to maintain but as you see here he prevailed.
I love the moment at the end where I say , "It's a beautiful thang" and Mitch adjusts his hat wearing his boxing gloves and Bob says "exquisite" while Alan claps his gloves together like a joyful Seal.