Since humans have been on this planet there has always been
performance and storytelling. There has also always been a
person who looks at society with a unique lens…. With
a truthful lens…. A lens which makes the sacred profane
and the profane sacred… someone in our society we currently
call the Clown. This type of person can be found in many different
cultures, traditions and time periods. They may wear different
costumes and tell different stories but they are all able
to laugh at themselves and challenge the conventional way
of being. In China as early as 3000 B.C. there were jesters
and clowns in the courts, by 210 B.C. thousands of clowns
ands acrobats lived at the court. The Native American Clowns
were very powerful teachers.
is a very brief description of the Clowns through other time
periods and cultures:
This divine trickster is known by the Plain Tribes as Heyokah
and Koshari by the Hopi and Pueblo Indians. Heyokah is a sacred
trickster who teaches the people through opposites and laughter.
One is made to think for themselves through the Heyokah laughing
Iktomi comes from the Plains, Southwestern and Western Native
American Groups. Iktomi has Spider-like characteristics.
Coyote originates form the Great Basin, Plains and California.
He is both trickster and culture hero….. witty, clever,
obscene, vulgar and thieving.
The Court Jester is the Kings best advisor while also being
the Kings very own Fool. While others in the society are afraid
to tell the king the truth, the Jester is allowed to point
out the king’s foibles and a reality nobody would dare
reveal. The Jester’s life was constantly at stake. Often
he would be beheaded if the King didn’t think the Jester
Comes from the Latin word ‘foolus; meaning full of laughing.
In the tarot the Fool is portrayed as a man wandering in the
sunshine with a knapsack and a dog and he is about to step
off of a cliff. Yet, he continues to smile. Perhaps he is
smiling because he knows that he will never hit the bottom
or maybe he sees everything as an illusion. The Fool is the
only unnumbered card in the deck…. He is beyond boundaries.
Clowns and burlesques appear in almost all of Shakespeare’s
plays: even in the midst of somber scenes he often has unexpected
slapstick humor. Falstaff, who appears in four Shakespeare
plays, is up to all sorts of debauchery. In King Lear the
Fool tells the King he is the Fool and the Fool is smart.
16th Century Italy gave birth to the Commedia Dell’Arte,
a very physically based theater that used stock characters,
masks and improvisation rather than scripted scenarios. Commedia
developed out of street performance which was very popular
in the middle ages.
The clown as we know it originated in England in 1768 when
a man named Philip Astley retired from the Calvary. He began
putting on shows centered on horsemanship and trick riding
skills. One of his performers, Billie Button, had incredible
skill but also clumsy awkwardness that delighted audiences.
Button’s popularity grew and Astley enlarged his show
and the English word Clown was born as we currently know it.
‘Circus’ means circle and was first used by Charles
Hughes, a former member of Astley’s troupe, who formed
his own show called the Royal Circus, in 1782.
One of my main passions is the transformative nature of theater.
I incorporate this into almost all of my work including clowning,
teaching and acting. In ancient Greece theatre was started
in 536-532 B.C. by a man named Thespis. He was first a poet
but eventually became Greeks first actor. The open air theatre
structures in Greece were usually built next to temples. Theatre
was used not only as entertainment but also as a type of medicine.
Many cultures understood the transformative power of a play.
The journey that one goes on internally while witnessing a
tragedy or comedy can be quite powerful. Often, these plays
were accompanied by ritual.
I traveled throughout Greece researching the ancient Greek
theaters. I intuitively knew there was wisdom to the tragedies
and comedies of ancient Greece that I didn’t yet understand.
I knew that entertainment, God and catharsis were all connected
and I wanted to find out more.
the following 14 theaters on five different islands and the
mainland of Greece. I saw a few different productions at the
theatres during its annual summer Hellenistic Festival.
Theatre at Delphi
The Greek God of healing
is known as the Greek God of Healing. There have been over
320 Asklepion healing sanctuaries found by archeologists throughout
the Mediterranian world. The principal sanctuary of Asclepios
is located at Epidavors. I spent a few weeks researching this
incredibly powerful ancient site.
main healing was through dream healing. Asclepios would come
to the sick in their dreams in the form of a snake, a dog
or a man and the patients would awake with knowledge of how
to heal themselves. The theatre at Epidavros is extraordinary.
Seating 14,000 spectators a whisper on the stage could be
heard in the back row. I saw a production of The Frogs by
Aristophenes while I was there.
The Myth of Asclepios
Asclepios is the son of Apollo and a mortal woman named Koronis.
When Koronis was pregnant with Asclepios she had an affair
with a mortal man. A crow found this out and told Apollo.
Apollo in a fit of rage turned the crow from white to black.
This is why the crow is now black. Apollo had his sister Artemis
kill Koronis. While Koronis was burning in the funeral pyre
Apollo was stricken with regret so he pulled Asclepios out
of the womb of his burning mother. Apollo tucked Asclepios
into his thigh and brought him to Chiron, also known as the
wounded healer, to be raised. Chiron taught Asclepios his
knowledge of healing herbs and waters. Apollo passed on his
gifts of diagnosis, healing and visionary insight to Asclepios.
Athena also gave Asclepios a healing gift. She gave him two
vials of blood taken from Medusa. The blood taken from the
right side of her body healed, while the blood from the left
side of her body slew. Asclepios eventually became the greatest
healer in the Mediterranean world. Zeus finally killed Asclepios
after he revived someone who had died. After Asclepios’s
death his temples and healing sanctuaries grew. Eventually
he was made “the God of healing” and brought to