I would like to thank Jan Gee and the Big Foot Alley for their hospitality at the 2009 NW Festival of Clowns.
It was a great convention. One of the things that surprised me was the number of people who reconnected with me there. One woman told me that I taught the first class she had attended on clowning 25 years ago. Another woman said I was an instructor at Fellowship of Christian Magicians regional conference that she attended in 1987. It seemed like I was constantly meeting people I had not seen in a while or meeting people in person for the first time that I had corresponded with.
It was a pleasure talking to many Thought For The Week subscribers at the festival. Thank you for identifying yourself.
Recently I have heard from a few people that they were having trouble with the links in my newsletter. When I tested the links in my copy of the newsletter they worked. The best that I can determine is that some internet service providers are disabling the links. I use links so you can click on them directly from the newsletter instead of having to copy and paste a web site address. Also, one of the feedback tools provided by Constant Contact is a list of which links are used by readers. That helps me determine which sections people are interested in so I can let my newsletter evolve to meet your needs. If you have trouble with the links in any issue of my newsletter, reply to that issue and let me know what web site you are trying to locate. I'll send you that address to paste into your browser.
Randy Christensen and I are team teaching the Next Step Workshop in a few weeks. You can find more information about this in the educational opportunities column. This advanced intensive workshop on clown ministry has a limited enrollment. I know that many of my subscribers are interested in that specialty. I hope to see some of you there.
Thought For The Week
October 19, 2009
By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson
"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance-it is the illusion of knowledge." - Daniel J. Boorstin
At the end of the 2009 Northwest Festival of Clowns somebody told me, "I realize that people like you don't need to come to places like this."
I think they were implying that I know everything that I need to know so I didn't need to attend classes. However, I am still learning.
Over the years I have taken several classes on cartooning for clowns. Trick cartoons are part of my repertoire. I have written a lecture note booklet on that subject, and have taught classes on it in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Angel Contreras taught a cartoon class at the Northwest Festival of Clowns. I could have skipped it thinking I know how to draw cartoons. I'm glad that I attended it. I learned a lot from the class. I learned the reason behind why I have done some things instinctively so that I can now consciously manipulate them to get the result that I want. I also learned some new things. For example, I have very seldom drawn eyelids in my trick cartoons. Angel revealed to me how useful eyelids are in depicting emotion in a drawing. Angel also demonstrated how to make the eyes of a cartoon character seem to focus upon the viewer, which is something I had never heard before. I learned enough from just that class to make attending the festival worthwhile.
Another class that I attended at the Northwest Festival was Magic Mania taught by Terry Ricketts. I had taken this class before and knew that it was a lot of simple bits that are easy to perform. It is basically a beginning magic class. I know a lot about magic, have lectured and written about it extensively, and have created many effects and routines. In fact, Terry taught one of the routines that I originated. I could have dismissed the class as being a topic that I already knew. Again, I was glad that I attended the class. Terry reminded me of some things that I previously knew, but had forgotten. Terry is always working to develop new material and he had some things in the class that I had not seen before. I came away with several new ideas that I am going to use.
I am not the only instructor who attends classes by other instructors. That is something the Clown Camp staff members are known for. Katie Harmke recently wrote to me about Patty Wooten. Katie said, "I only met her once, at Clown Camp this past summer. She was actually seated next to me listening to a class. I stared at her in amazement, since I had seen her perform earlier that day. I'm sure you remember that awe inspiring 8:00 AM performance, too! I wondered how could that AMAZING performer be this 'normal' person sitting here next to me in class. I watched her listen intently to the instructor - smiling - twinkly eyes - fully respecting her fellow clown performer's lecture."
I don't just learn in the official classes. Frank Ward was a participant at the Northwest Festival of Clowns. When I was at my dealer table he asked me a question about a magic effect he knew I perform and sometimes teach. Somebody else had earlier told me they were having problems with that effect and I could not figure out what was causing the difficulty. Frank's question revealed the answer. Now I know a detail that I need to add when I teach that effect and I know how to change the trick so that it creates a slightly different effect.
I didn't attend as many classes this time as I planned because I kept getting into wonderful conversations with people that I didn't want to interrupt to go to class. I learned a lot just from being available to talk and by listening to others. By not thinking I knew it all I was able to learn from them.
You never know when you will make discoveries. At the Northwest Festival of Clowns award banquet the people at my table began playing with things that could be done with cloth napkins. Most of what we came up with were things that I had seen before. However, we made some interesting discoveries that I think might lead to some things that I will use.
What topic do you think you know a lot about? Does that knowledge keep you from taking additional classes in that topic? Where can you take more classes? Where can you get into conversations with other entertainers? Where can you explore and make new discoveries?
New Article by Bruce Johnson
An article that I wrote on the history of clown cars has been published in the October 2009 issue of Clowning Around, published by the World Clown Association. This is part of my WCA Historian column.
Jim and Lola Russell have resigned their position of Clowning Around
editors. An interim editor will soon be appointed, and an ad in the next issue of Clowning Around
will solicit applications for a new editor. The World Clown Association is alwys looking for people to submit articles for Clowning Around
. I suggest that you consider writing one. An article does not have to be very long. My first article in Calliope
in the late 1970's was only two paragraphs long. My first article in Laugh-Makers
magazine was only one paragraph long, but it led directly to my Laugh-Makers
column. If you would like to submit an article for Clowning Around
, send it to the office of the business manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Andy and Jennifer Moler, at CHD Management, will be sure your article is forwarded to the appropriate person.
For more information on the World Clown Association go to:
Theatrical Term -- Hot Spot
Theatrical lighting is not uniform. Sometimes this is intentional so that specific areas of the stage gets more attention from the audience. Sometimes this is unintentional. The center of a pool of light is brighter then the edges. A good lighting director overlaps the pools of light trying to get them to balance out. Frequently the limitations of the available equipment makes this impossible. If you are performing on a stage in a banquet room with existing lighting fixtures there will be a great variety of lighting intensities across the stage. The area where the lighting is the brightest is called a hot spot.
The banquet room at the venue of last week's NW Festival of Clowns had sound baffles built into the ceiling. The lighting fixtures were between these baffles which created some shadows on stage. In directing the worship service at the NW Festival of Clowns, I made sure that each of the performers would be in a hot spot for their routine.
In searching for hot spots do not look for the brightest areas on the floor. That will light up your feet and may leave your face in shadow. You need to be in front of where the hot spot hits the floor. A hot spot is the warmest place on stage so you can locate one by feeling the temperature change on your face. Another method that I sometimes use is to look at the tip of my nose.
While setting my props before a performance I will look up. Generally if I am looking straight into a light I know that it is shinning directly on my face. Then I set my props, for example my magic table, so it is next to a hot spot. Then I know that when I stand beside that table I am in a hot spot.
Theatrical principles are the same no matter what type of venue you are performing in. When I worked at Raging Waters, I often did atmosphere shows entertaining people waiting in line for the rides. Some of the lines were under trees. The shade of a tree is not uniform. There are hot spots in shade. So, I would seek out the hot spots to direct attention where I wanted it. This was particularly useful in doing close up magic. I would find a narrow shaft of light shining through the folliage. Then I would keep the hand that was supposed to be holding something in that shaft of light, and more the hand that was in reality secretly holding that object over into an area of shade. I could tell that made a significant difference in focusing the audience's attention where I wanted it. I could tell that nobody glanced at the other hand.
I used a similar technique when I worked at a Mexican restaraunt one winter. The overall lighting level was romantic dim. There was a light shining down on the center of each table. So I used that light to be sure people saw what I wanted them to and to keep their attention away from what I didn't want them to see. My close up routines got better response there than in other venues with more uniform lighting.
Thank you for being a subscriber. I am always interested in your questions and comments.
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I hope to see you down the road.
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2009 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved.
November 4-8, 2009
Next Step Workshop
This is an advanced workshop for those serious about Gospel Clown Ministry. It is limited to fifteen participants.
April 29 - May 1, 2010
Branson Magic Bonanza
I will be there with a dealer table.
July 9-15, 2010
Clown Camp Singapore
Sixteen hours of classes over three days plus four days of performing in Singapore schools.
I believe in promoting any event I will be lecturing at. If you schedule me for an educational event that you are hosting, I will list it here. My goal is to do what I can to best meet the needs of you and your group.
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