Reporter learns the ropes with Mump and Smoot co-creator
John Turner said intuition is five times faster than the brain and three times more intelligent.
I'm fairly confident he made these stats up, but I let myself believe it, if only to get the most out of my debut clowning experience.
Before bringing his show Mump and Smoot to Sudbury Theatre Centre, the co-creator of the long-running horror clown show took some time from his schedule to delve into the art of clowning with Northern Life. He said he usually chases cameras away from his workshops, but felt compelled to take a chance this time around. I was beyond flattered.
Up until two months ago, I had never really given much thought to curly wigs and big red noses. However, a series of recent events changed this. It seemed too many elements had fallen into place — the universe wanted me to experience clowning.
About two months ago, local photographer Chuck Swinden called to tell me he had been asked to shoot photos to accompany the staging of Mump and Smoot. He wanted to dabble into the weird and wonderful, and thought my might-as-well-be-sister Amy Lou (Hill) and I were fitting candidates.
Three tubes of white face paint later, the results were absolutely bizarre and perhaps even nightmarish. You can see for yourself if you venture to the STC lobby between now and Jan. 19.
Following this cool photo experience, my editor asked if we could do an instructional clown video for you — the lovely readers of Northern Life. I said I'd ask. Lo and behold, Turner agreed. Something about liking the wacky photos.
Yet another tube of face paint later, Amy and I were on stage, inviting the red ball of clown energy, filled with love and magic, to fill our bodies. It started in our right thighs, and travelled down to the tips of our toes.
Before long, the energy was capped off in the form of a bright red nose. In an hour, we ran through elements of the Baby Clown workshop Turner teaches at his Clown Farm on Manitoulin Island.
In his workshops, Turner pulls from methods taught by the famed Richard Pochinko. The late performer developed a style of clowning that is often referenced as the Canadian Clowning Technique.
To the Pochinko Clown, Clowning is about allowing all honest emotions and impulses to occur, and then structuring that creative licence to build a performance.
This is exactly what Smoot, aka Turner, taught us. He insisted we think with our bodies, instead of our brains. If my body felt like taking a “form,” I had to let it. I couldn't stop my right arm and leg from jetting out, or my feet from climbing a wall while my hands supported me.
My favourite part of my clown training was when Turner described scenes for us to feel. We were a warm, sunny afternoon in the woods. Then we were stranded in a blizzard. Then our clothes caught fire. Then we were napping on a beach. Then, he told us to fall asleep, and dream.
I thought “What the hell am I going to dream about? I'm in a fully conscious awake state.”
But, like clockwork, my imagination wondered, and my brain didn't try to stop it. Before I knew what was happening, my impulses had me riding an elephant across the ocean. When Turner's voice slowly asked me to wake up, I found myself cozily cuddled up in a fully-imaginary hut made from twigs and mud.
Being a semi-legit grown-up, I rarely have the chance to let my body be completely at liberty to do what it wants. I imagine there would be some funny looks if I listened to my impulses while walking down the street — especially when they tell me to do cartwheels or hop on one foot.
For the sake of normalcy, I probably will avoid letting my impulses get the final say; However, the opportunity to let them rule for an hour in a safe setting was a being-alterting experience.
To check out the macabre magic of Mump and Smoot, call the STC to reserve tickets. The duo takes the stage Jan. 17-19, with nightly curtains at 8 p.m.
Tickets cost $35. For more information, visit www.mumpandsmoot.com.