When I was in college, I remember reading a description of the Swiss clown Grock living in a world where objects refused to cooperate. I don’t play a musical instrument, but I could see myself in a world where objects obstruct my progress. Surrounded by ordinary objects, the clown struggles with the simplest of tasks, at times challenged by objects that seem consciously oppositional.
This past week I discovered a difference relationship to props – not through any specific activity, but by letting my mind muse. I took dedicated one of the workshop slots to working in the prop tent. Our whoopee cushion symphony demanded a lot of props, so I had not had the time to create my kazoo horn. About a month prior to registering for clown camp, I sketched a horn reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, and I needed about 90 minutes to put it together.
While assembling it, I realized my props tend to go one of two ways: the very ordinary (folding chair, broom, rags) and the absurd (like this kazoo horn, the whoopee cushion xylophone, and for that matter oversized juggling clubs). The ordinary seem to perplex Max, while these absurd props to him seem ordinary. My clown walks between confusion with the everyday and acceptance from the extraordinary – and it is his relationship to objects that demonstrates this.
I have also been intentional with colors in my presentation. Max’s wardrobe is charcoal, marron, and ivory representing from dust and clay our flesh and bones are made. My props tend toward wood grains and metallic, decorated with earth tones. But some of my props – especially those related to the extraordinary – are many-hued, and often rainbow-themed. My juggling balls are red, yellow, blue, green; clubs are shiny yellow; I’ve attached rainbow streamers to my poi. Out of my wood-stained square circle come multitudinous rainbow silks. It is a s though the mysterious transcendent world breaks into Max’s earthen reality with grace and color.
Realizing this allows me to be more intentional about my relationship to objects, to develop the look of the props, and to develop the visual storytelling themes and patterns that will become my new show.