By Laurel Pattenden
Clowning is very rarely thought of as an art. I never thought about it until I signed up for a clowning course many years ago. Yes, clowning schools exist along with conventions, books, websites and workshops. Who knew!
The course ran for ten weeks and each week had a various theme. We learned to identify the clown within us using techniques of body motions and walking. Through these exercises our clown personality emerged. We needed to know our personality because there are different types of clowns and clowning.
The first type of clown is the Auguste clown. This is the silly clown seen at circuses and rodeos. Clowns that bump into things, chase each other and get up to all kinds of antics. They are dressed in bright colours with ruffles around the neck and cuffs. The birthday party kind of clown. Painted with a perpetually smiling face.
The second type of clown is the Tramp clown. The sad clown. The hobo clown. Remember “Freddie the Freeloader” played by Red Skelton? That is a tramp clown. Dressed in old suits and appearing unkept. Black coal dust on his face. Always having handkerchiefs in pockets and a painted neutral straight mouth that could turn sad easily. This is the type of clown that emerged from me.
The third type of clown is the White Face clown. Probably seen more in Europe. Their faces are delicately painted white with sparkles and embellishments. They are usually very skilled at performing exquisite skills of music, juggling and pantomime. Their costumes are very elegant.
As the course proceeded, my tramp clown persona emerged. Taking on a name for her was a challenge. Searching for a name that suited your inside clown takes a lot of introspection. The name must capture your clown’s whole essence.
I passed the course and graduated. “Holy Hannah” entered the world that day. She was so sad! Nothing ever went her way. Her magic tricks would fail, she would lose items for her performances and she grow tired with her day. But none of this discouraged her for long! When she was downcast at her balloons popping or her sparkly, star covered suitcase becoming too heavy to carry, she would always call on God. Her head would tilt skyward, her hands busily pulling a long string of colourful, attached handkerchiefs from her sleeve or bag she would dab at her tearful eyes. She truly was the saddest person you have ever seen! With her hand propped behind her ear she was better prepared to receive her message from God. They were close friends. Holy Hannah never, ever, travelled without God.
The message from God was always an “AHA” moment for Holy Hannah. It would provide a clue to solving her dilemmas. She would listen and become energized and happy. Hannah’s feet would tap quickly with renewed motivation. Her failures were soon converted into success and the audience applauded at her triumph.
As I recall the memories of Holy Hannah during this time, I realize that she called on God a lot more than I do. Her faith was so in the forefront of her life that turning to God was the first step in looking for a solution. Hannah appeared to live her performance, her life, trying to impress people and to fit in. However, she really lived her performance by walking closely with God.
At the end of her show, Hannah would hand out stickers for everyone that said “God loves the clown in you!”. I know that God loves the clown in me. The clown in you. Holy Hannah was holy because she looked to God always. That’s why she was “holy”. That’s why she was “whole”.
I must learn and relearn from her, the sad, but excitable tramp clown. As we all look into our lives at this time search for that sad, tramp clown. Look skyward, with your hankies ready, put your hand behind your ear and listen. Listen with our whole heart. We will be lifted.
Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.