“So, I want you to make a play for the Outside the Box Festival,” says the producer.
Clown embraces empathy. It explores the innermost part of being human.
“We can do that,” I say.
“It’s going to play outside, on the grass on the Boston Common.”
“Got it.” (No idea what I’m doing.)
“No mics, no lights, no stage.”
“Family-friendly. Anyone can be walking by. It’s gotta be kid-friendly.”
“Totally. We do kid-friendly.” (We’ve NEVER done kid-friendly.)
“Great, here’s some money.”
“Super. I’ll have the show in three weeks.”
And thus began development of what became Yellow Bird Chase, our family-friendly Clown and Puppet adventure that’s been touring since 2015 – and which we are about to bring to the Edinburgh Fringe.
Since we couldn’t guarantee that anyone could hear us outside, we decided to create Yellow Bird Chase with physical theatre. And to stay focused, we decided we’d only speak gibberish. That way, if you can hear us or not - or if you don’t speak English - it doesn’t matter. We’re all on the same page.
And while we’re at it, let’s think about deaf audiences. So we developed a gibberish sign-language to go along with our gibberish spoken language. We wanted to make the show as inclusive as possible. Whoever you are, you can follow and fully enjoy the play. That’s one of the beautiful things about physical theatre. Telling the story through the bodies in space (instead of words) opens the door to many more people.
Ok, we have three weeks. Get your Clown on. So I throw stuff into the middle of the room and we start playing. Soon the ensemble discovers how to transform buckets, gloves, rope, a tarp, and a feather duster, into a car, a helicopter, a camel, a pirate king, the ocean, and a sea monster. Clown releases their playful inner children. It unlocks the imagination to embrace “pretend”.
But more deeply, Clown embraces empathy. It explores the innermost part of being human. Beyond the silliness, the antics, and even beyond the playful imagination, Clown allows us to connect to our basic human selves. It allows us to reach across language, culture, age, and experience to touch something universal. As we’ve toured Yellow Bird Chase to many communities, that’s what we’ve found. Clown not only reveals the actor's inner child, it does the same for audiences. Now that’s beautiful.