Going to a workshop can feel exciting as well as a bit daunting, especially if you don’t know the person leading it or it is something far from your comfort zone. The description about the workshop might not be clear enough and you could be wondering if it will be worth it or if it is relevant to what you’re looking for.
In my opinion, if the session has something to do with acting, props making and particularly clowning I am up for it.
The good thing is that you always learn something new and even if you don’t enjoy it, then you have learned that maybe it is not for you or you were not ready for that challenge at that particular time. I try to go to a workshop with an open mind and try my best to stay focus and enjoy it. Most of the workshops I go to are in the evening and I don’t always feel very energetic to really take part in them but I guess that I am often able to discover something different and add it to my baggage of experiences.
That being said, I must say that I had to drop out of a
series of workshops because I was really finding them boring and I felt like I
was not improving at all. There are moments where I regret that decision
because I don’t like to leave tasks unfinished but I am learning that sometimes
it is ok to do so. Sometimes I also found better opportunities after dropping
out of something that was not motivating me, other times not though.
I believe that some decisions felt right for the time being and overthinking them makes me feel like they might have been wrong even if that’s not the case. ‘What if’ has always been a constant of my experiences and, in addition to making me feel anxious, is not very helpful. On one hand, I think that after some moments of unhelpful frustration and anxiety I tell myself that it’s time to move on and think about the present rather than the past. On the other hand, the past teaches that it’s better to try something even though you’re not convinced about it because I don’t want to add a new “what if” to the list.
In conclusion, I believe that sometimes the fear of “what if I don’t try this workshop and miss an opportunity” motivates me to go for more workshops than l normally would but, at the same time, I allow myself to drop out of them if I feel it has become a waste of time. I know it might sound a bit contradictory but I hope it kind of makes sense.
Where do I find my
I found most of the workshops on FB or through friends. I
basically joined as many groups and fb pages as possible and it works quite
well: many companies or private practitioners post their sessions on social
media and sometimes you hear about very interesting opportunities. The down
side is that my notification box is always full and not always with relevant
information. I have to admit I waste a lot of time scrolling my homepage. In
any case I don’t think I will quit FB soon but I might consider it in the
future should the way people advertise training sessions change.
The worst workshop experience.
Some time ago I went to a workshop led by a famous clown teacher. I was really looking forward to it because the feedback from other students was very encouraging. As soon as he arrived he started to mention how long he studied the subject of clowning for and how passionate he was about it. In any case, I felt like he was having a “I know all attitude” but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions yet.
I have to admit I do like people who are confident but not
arrogance or presumption. I believe that one will never be able to know
‘everything’ about any subject no matter for how long he or she studied it. I
do appreciate people who are confident but can stay humble. It was definitely not the case with him.
Later on, when he was asked a question that challenged his point of view he was
quick to make that person feel invisible. I don’t even think he actually
answered that question but went on with several quotes to make sure no one
noticed what she said. I felt he was feeling threatened by her opinion.
All of this annoyed me but that wasn’t the worst part. We
started with an exercise and as soon as I started he asked me to step out of my
rank. He asked my name and I felt he was
a bit frustrated because, of course, I have a foreign name and difficult to
pronounce for English speakers. He then played a game with me that was more a
mockery than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, clowning is playing but
arrogance is not. I tried to do the exercise and really tried my best but
apparently I always did it wrong. He assumed that I wasn’t able to understand
what he was saying because of a “language barrier”. Therefore I was getting it
wrong all the time. I don’t think that was the case. I can’t say my English is
perfect but it was good enough to understand what he was saying. I simply was
not able to do what he wanted me to do. This made feel quite uncomfortable and
at that point I was on the verge of crying. I was not able to speak up and I
was embarrassed. I am indeed a shy person but I can feel confident too if I
don’t feel judged.
The reason why I am writing this, it’s not because I want to complain about that person but it is because I didn’t like my behaviour. It’s not in my nature to be impolite but I think I should have said something. I do understand this might not seem like a big deal for other people but I know exactly why it is for me.
I felt a defenceless child again. It had definitely something to do with my childhood. I used to be shouted every time I did something wrong or worse I was told that I simply couldn’t do it. I was not good enough to do the dishes properly or cook a good meal. This stayed with me for many years and when I feel the most vulnerable it reveals itself under unexpected circumstances.
I understand that the field of acting is tough and people
think than being hard to you, we’ll help you. It’s definitely not the case for
me. Every time I get in touch with this kind of personality, I freeze. I am
assuming I start to feel danger and I am not able to say or do anything
creative. It is a big dilemma for me because I know most of the time these
people don’t do it to attack me as a person but they simply want to push my
The thing is that this method doesn’t seem to work well for
me. It is true that I have some unsolved issues from my past but I am not sure
this can explain everything. I believe that not all the teachers I met where
good for me. Not because they didn’t have enough knowledge but because our
personalities were not compatible.
Finally, some people are just arrogant and I simply cannot
stand them. I am wondering if other people had similar experiences and how they
managed to overcome them. Did you change your behaviour or did you simply avoid
those kind of people? Does a ‘tough’ approach work well for you?
I must say that some people approached me after the workshop
to check if I was ok and I was very grateful for it. It made me feel much
better. They also believed I had not been treated in the right way.
My question is still open though. Even if I can assume that he was not right in doing so, I don’t know what I should have done or said. I just know that my weakness prevents me from getting the best out of some workshops. Who knows, maybe in the future I will improve in this and it won’t be as bad as this time. Let’s see what happens next time. It definitely taught me that I need to work on my confidence and mental strength. Finally, talking to other people about this episode really helped me and at this point, I look forward to going to new workshops.
The best workshop I
attended so far
It was again a clowning workshop I went to a few weeks before the last one I have just described. In this case, I didn’t really have any expectations. The first game consisted of a series of name games. I am not a huge fan of these kinds of games as I always struggle to remember or even understand other people’s names in English. This generates quite a lot of frustration in me and apparently this frustration makes me funny. So this time I just decided that I was going to allow myself to make mistakes and really live in the moment.
The first game was actually quite easy because we simply
needed to say the name of the person from our left instead of our name. Also, I
knew the people that came to the workshop so I have to say I was not feeling
frustrated yet… After a few rounds, the rules changed and I totally lost it
very quickly. I could feel my frustration coming and said to myself that “it
was ok”. It was fine to fail and be ridiculous. Also, it was a lot of fun for
myself included! But why?
The workshop leader made me feel ok with my awkwardness and I think that being with people I knew was a bonus. I am still trying to figure out the rules of that game, it was something to do with saying the name of the person 3 places away from your left and then right. Then at some point the sequence would change but I just couldn’t keep up with it he he.. I realised it was too complicated for me to fully understand and in any case I was funnier every time I didn’t get it right. Getting right or wrong is again very subjective. Also, what does actually mean ‘right’ or or ‘wrong’ in clowning?
Later on we started to do some solo work. I was quite afraid of trying but I was quickly reassured by the thought that “it was ok to fail”. We did the exercise where you need to come out of a curtain and can only move forward if people laugh at you. Not knowing what to do, I just started to do all the things that I can’t do: singing out loud and dancing for example. People started to laugh almost immediately and although I was feeling ridiculous it was extremely fun to do as well.
When I didn’t know what to do or saw that what I was doing didn’t work, I would comment on it saying things like ‘ok’, ‘all right’… with an extreme long pause. Just simple things that would make them giggle and make me move forward. Simple is better, some people say. The workshop was really good because I also learned a lot from other people and it really pushed my limits. I also worked on accepting my fears and using them for my advantage. It definitely had a therapeutic effect on me.
That time when I was a child
I remember that when I was a child me being ridiculous was not seen in a good way. I was not allowed to laugh out loud because that was considered ‘stupid’. I couldn’t use certain childish words or my own dialect (in Italy speaking a dialect is not always considered ‘socially acceptable’ and only to be used in ‘small amounts’ or with friends etc… It’s quite a complex matter but I hope you get the idea). In other words, I basically needed to always refrain myself from being a child. I think that this might have been part of growing up but I don’t think that I should have had so many rules about what I could laugh at and couldn’t.
I guess that this affected my personality a lot. The good news is that I am now able to rationalise it.
I believe that I am the result not only of my past but of my present and of the choices I make for the future.
It took me years to allow myself to be childish again and take things with more sense of humour. As a child, I would express my repression by playing by myself in my room or outside in the farm I used to live in. I would make up endless stories and everything seemed to be possible in my world. I was free and able to explore my creativity. The pressure to be ‘the neutral child that needs to behave like an adult’ was always there but I think I had managed to build a safe place to be me.
I think that making theatre is the place where I am exploring who I want to be and what kind of person I want to become.
It has a positive impact on my daily life and I think I call it my ‘safe escape as an adult’. The difference between now and my childhood is that the only pressure I have is from inside me. It is actually more a motivation to do better and be a better version of myself as an artist and as a person too.
Finally, the thing that really unlocked my clown was not accessing a more rational part of myself that could actually make me figure out the rules to play the game correctly but would not make me a clown. Well, there’s a lot to say about clowning and I think I will write more about it as my idea of it develops in the future.