"Memory is the library of the mind." - Franacis Fauvel- Gourand
Last week I went out to dinner with my wife Carole. I began sharing some of my childhood memories with her. They were things she had not heard me talk about before. Some of them were things I had not thought about in a long time. She wanted to know what inspired me to talk about that specific topic. I thought back to something I had heard that day that triggered it. It really seemed like I had opened a book containing all of those related memories.
I often reread a favorite book like The Man Who Was Magic by Paul Gallico. It brings me fresh enjoyment each time I read it. Reliving my memories also brings be fresh enjoyment. Some are of places that I will probably never revisit. Some are of friends who are no longer living. But opening the appropriate volume from my memory lets me experience those previous times all over again.
As entertainers we can prompt others to open volumes of their memories. When you perform a classic routine you remind audience members of when they saw previous performances of that routine. For example, every time that I see a performance of the Miser's Dream coin production I remember seeing a magician perform the Miser's Dream at my elementary school when I was in second grade. It was that performance that inspired me to become a magician.
Being able to open memories makes knowledge of entertainment history valuable for variety artists visiting nursing homes. Just before Christmas Carole and I were visiting a nursing home as Santa and Mrs. Claus. One of the residents quietly told me, "I grew up with your father." I was wondering how she recognized me and would have known my Dad. She continued, "I grew up with Father Christmas."
I thought she was speaking with a slight accent, so I asked, "Did you come from across the pond?" (That is a phrase my British friends use.)
"Oh, yes, I'm from London." From my study of clown history I know about the traditional Christmas Pantomimes performed in England. I asked her if she had attended them. Her face lit up as she exclaimed, "Oh, My! My brother and I loved them! Puss and Boots, Cinderella, they were all wonderful!" Then she continued to share with me more memories of Christmas celebrations when she was a child. Her voice was louder and she was more animated as she relived the joys of childhood.
You should stock your library with more than just history. Jim Howle once commented that the way to become a great clown was to get lots of performance experience and remember what worked and what didn't. You don't forget the mistakes because sometimes they are better than what you had originally planned. Then you watch other entertainers. You see your friends in live performances and you study recorded performances of great entertainers. Eventually when you encounter a new situation you know how to react because you can pull the appropriate book from your mental library. Jim said sometimes you wait years for the opportunity to use something in your memory, but when you have the chance you seem like a genius.
Your library doesn't have to be limited to your own experiences. During the 1990 World Clown Association Convention we knew that Mark Anthony's life was nearing the end because he was in a hospital being treated for cancer. One evening at the convention Leon McBryde sat down and for two hours shared his memories of spending time with Mark. Now Leon's memories of Mark are part of my library. I share those memories with others when I teach about clowning.
What is in your library of memories? How can you enjoy its contents? How can you use them when you perform? How can you help others open their own volumes? What do you need to add to the stock of your library? How can you do that?