Tuesday, July 1, 2014

BEHOLD: The Official NOAH Trailer

The Old Testament story of Noah and his Ark.  As told by clowns.  Opens July 9.  FREE.  Reservations now open. http://bit.ly/4ClownsNoahJonah

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah- Mass Murderer? (Blog Post #6 by Don Colliver)

Incendiary title, I know.  Bear with me.  Four Clowns is getting closer to our opening- just 10 days away!  Our troupe is busily going through the nuts and bolts of putting up a production: learning lines, figuring out blocking, finding props, creating costumes, etc.  

Puppetry on the Beach

I've been reading and rereading and rereading these scripts, particularly Noah, as I'll be playing his character. I can't help but be struck by the way this Bible story deals with the issue of faith, and how the conclusion is just not wrapped up in a nice little bow (like most blockbuster films these days).

Current Noah beard status.  10 days to go!

Noah is a man with faith.  That's a good thing, right?  His God tells him to do something, which he does, unquestioningly.  But, then, he is seemingly complicit in a mass 'cleansing' of humanity, maybe even genocide, depending on how you define the term.  So, where does that leave Noah? Just following orders?  And what about God?  What's his deal, anyway?

So, at what point does faith become a bad thing?  When is it okay to question authority?  When is it okay to trust that which we don't understand? I'm vacillating day-to-day about how I feel about Noah. He'd been told his entire life to obey God, so he does.  And then what?

Lighthearted rehearsal fun

So, in addition to fart jokes and general zany-ness, this production will definitely raise some big questions.  If you figure out the answers, let me (and Noah) know.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah and Jonah (Blog Post #5 by Lis Vizcarra)

Life's A Beach

This is my first ever blog entry.  I'm going to write from the heart and hopefully coherently.  First off, if you haven't yet visited the Annenberg Beach Community House, you must, immediately.  It is an oasis and such a beautiful place to visit and even more welcoming as it is a public beach house.  That is very cool.
I relish the time I've spent rehearsing here.  Nothing beats having the ocean as an audience and as a source of inspiration.  I can literally stare off into the distance whilst trying to remember my line and I imagine it looks as if I am deep in spiritual thought.   To a certain degree I am.
For the past five years, spirituality and a connection to the Great Creator as I like to call it, have been a daily practice for me.  Clowning and the Pacific Ocean are two of the main sources through which I tap into that divine source.  It is so thrilling to have these two entities come together at the Marion Davies Beach House and to be telling such epic tales.
Telling the tales of Noah's Ark and Jonah and the Whale has felt very epic.  Four Clowns and all of its amazing creatives I am blessed to work with ask me to dig deep down into the heart of myself for the funny, the poignant, the human.  I have been mining for these for the past 10 years through my education in theatrical clowning.
Clowning to me is all about bringing to the surface those basic human turmoils and triumphs that penetrate through language and culture and are universally human.  What better material to test this out on than The Old Testament and what better setting than the beach?
I am so looking forward to the next weeks of rehearsal and then 6 performances we have.  I hope to see all of you there and please stop by and watch us rehearse.  It's a hoot and a half. See you at the beach!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #4 by Jamie Ann Hultgren)

Living in LA can be a real goat rodeo. 

Maintaining a (functional) life as a performing artist here means a constant juggle of day jobs and family responsibilities while carving out the time and space in your head/heart to expand instead of holing up in bed after an epic car battle on the 405. I suppose every career and geographic choice poses its challenges, but coming from the MidWest several years ago, I find myself having to work much harder to stay sane and grow.

I’ve been very fortunate to find an artistic home in the Four Clowns company and the associated Clown School (where many of us train). When I first moved to LA I tried a slew of different acting classes and found most of them to be a bunch of networky bull. So almost defiantly, I decided to delve into clown work and found a sanctuary where the work I was first drawn to as a performer (emotional, physical, spiritual, et all) was getting done. The work of the clown is being ever present, ever true- and if you avoid the work, you are slaughtered by the searing wit of an instructor or colleague. So in an effort to not get slaughtered, you prepare and scare yourself silly, making a complete fool of yourself while exposing your vulnerabilities on a regular basis. And at the end of the day, you're relieved because you’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly- you’re no longer carrying it with you.

But Four Clowns has the challenges of any young theater troupe- securing rehearsal space, funding, and selling enough tickets to keep the company alive are near constant concerns. So having the opportunity to be in residence at Annenberg for the summer is a really a dream for us, because the support of the City of Santa Monica and The Annenberg Foundation takes so much of the drudgery out of the equation, allowing us to focus more on the work itself- and not only that, but it is an awesome excuse to get out to the beach everyday.

So many company members keep saying what a relief being at the Beach House is. Exiting off the 10, heading through the tunnel onto the PCH, the ocean comes into view and suddenly my anxieties dissolve and brain expands, the frustrating jungle of LA ceasing to exist, only sun and water now. At last, I am free- to play and be a part of a community. Every care disappears and the creative work just sort of happens.

Both of our shows, Noah & Jonah, obviously have strong water themes, and performing against the facade of the Marion Davies Guest House, I don’t have to imagine all that hard to find myself in the shoes of the characters we play. I just look out on the ocean, already in awe of its beauty, power, and magnitude, swiftly delivered to a frame of mind where reflections on humanity and our place relative to all creation is uniquely available- thoughts that can feel so far from my little head when I’m squeezed into my Corolla on the 101.

Jamie Ann Hultgren
Performer, Noah & Jonah
Company Manager, Four Clowns

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #3 by Courtney Buchan)

Rehearsals for Noah & Jonah are now in full swing! David Bridel has a solid skeleton structure of what the scripts will look like, which means our next step has been to fill in the holes. This past week, we specifically were focusing on how each scene might play out. We know what key elements the scene needs to contain, but we still need to discover who these characters are and what their relationships look like. For example, we know that God put Noah through a test before he was told to build the ark. What we get to fill in and explore through improvisation scenes, is what those tests might look like, Noah's relationship with God, and how successful Noah actually was at completing God's instructions. It's been incredibly fun this past week to explore within our skeleton structure the limitless possibilities we have in telling these stories.

As a director, improvisation has been amazingly helpful for me in this process. The amount of incredible, hysterical ideas our ensemble of 7+ company members have developed, far outshines anything I could have come up with on my own. Creating a piece from the ground up as ensemble, makes for a rich well of ideas to pull from. We spent this past week working on creating substance- improvising scenes that David had roughly structured, and then we'll see which idea gems want to make their way into the final script. By the end of the week we had filled in almost all of the gaps that David had wanted to fill, and we had some amazing comic bits that I hope we can find a way to incorporate in the production.

Now that we've had our week of intense improv, David will go back through all of the videos we've taken, notes we've written, and jokes he couldn't forget if he tried, and start creating dialogue and plugging in ideas. On Tuesday, we'll have a read-thru of the script, and then start working with it. The next step in the process will be to play within the confines of a scripted piece, and see what we can find. It's been such a fun process so far, and the amazing location that we get to work in just adds to everyone's enthusiasm. There's nothing like creating two shows that deal with the ocean, and having the ocean RIGHT THERE. Everyone is exhausted on arriving to rehearsals- exhausted from traffic, from work, receiving a bad haircut, etc. But once everyone has arrived and we take a moment to look at the ocean, breath in the salty air, and play a silly school yard game, we are all ready and exited to work. That's the amazing thing about theatre, by its very nature it brings people together, and forms community instantly. This is good for my soul. I'm excited to get crackin' on this new script David will have! Scripts ahoy!

Courtney Buchan
Co-Director- Noah and Jonah

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #2 by David Bridel)

The process of building our script has well and truly begun.

On Saturday May 17th, our troupe of clowns spent the day at the Annenberg Beach House developing improvisations around the Jonah and the Whale story. I'm not inclined to give too much away, but audiences can expect a delicious contemporary twist on this classic tale of a man and a whale! (Actually, it's a fish that swallows Jonah whole. Not sure when or how the whale pushed her way into it...)

At this stage rehearsals follow a fairly simple pattern. After a warm-up that energizes the group, we choose small sections of our source material - this past rehearsal, I simply read verses aloud from my iPad, an Old Testament King James version app (!) - and then divide the cohort into groups of 3 or 4, who each spend about 15 minutes cooking up scenes that tell the story of that particular section. Our clowns, well-skilled at interpreting texts in uniquely creative ways, then demonstrate what they have come up with to the rest of the group in a kind of "show and tell" moment. Usually I find a way to record these demos - either by filming them or by rapidly scratching down bits of dialogue and action, even while they are happening - and then we briefly discuss the pros and cons of what we have seen, before moving on to the next section. It's often fast, sometimes furious, and always fun.

Later, at home or on an airplane (I just flew long-haul to Shanghai and back), I will mull over the various opportunities that the improvs have created, and start to figure out what works best with what, pulling disparate pieces together and imagining them into a tighter structure. At the time of writing, I have a reasonably organized "skeleton", pieced together from many rehearsals; when we return to rehearsal next week, the improvs will continue, but in a more targeted fashion.

This is my favorite way of working on making plays. It's not conventional authorship, nor is it exactly groupthink - it's a wonderful amalgam of ideas funneled into a rough vision, which I hope is both cohesive and expansive by the time it reaches its creative form.

It sure beats sitting in a room.

David Bridel
Writer, Co-Director, Noah & Jonah
Associate Director, Four Clowns

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Four Clowns: Noah & Jonah (Blog #1 by Jeremy Aluma)

The journey of bringing adaptations of Noah & Jonah with our company Four Clowns to the Annenberg Beach Community House started many years ago. As a young Jewish boy, I was taught the Old Testament as a book of lessons or parables. They were guiding stories of humanity and man's relationship to God. What I appreciated most about them is the same kernel of wisdom scholars love about Shakespeare; no one is purely good or purely evil, and the key to a person's character is their motivation. I've been struck by these types of stories my whole life, stories of good people making hard choices, or stories of what makes us perceive people as evil. 

As a theater director, I've been wanting to work on these stories for over a decade, they've been rolling around in my head waiting to come to fruition. About 6 years ago, I started discussing it with another theater company I founded in Long Beach, but we felt we weren't ready for the undertaking. Then about 2 years ago, one of the members of Four Clowns made the suggestion of doing the stories with our company. I actually hadn't previously thought of them as ripe for clowning, I thought they were too epic and too sacred for the shenanigans of our company.

But when I brought it up with the rest of our company, and specifically David Bridel, we realized what a fantastic creation it could be. What better way to tell the earliest stories of humanity than through the heart of a clown. A clown is in touch with exactly how he is feeling, but is free to share it with the audience. A clown is not bogged down in philosophy, she is reactionary. And a clown can make anything funny.

So about 1.5 years ago, David Bridel and I started working with our company on stories from the Old Testament. About twice a month we would get the company together and just play with the stories. It was some of the funniest and poignant material we ever worked on. We continued to play with it for about a year and then felt ready to start pitching it to programs around the country.

The Annenberg Beach Community House seemed a perfect fit for two of the stories we most enjoyed dabbling in, Noah & Jonah. They both have such a strong relationship to the ocean, and both are such full and vivid tales. This is the first opportunity we have to present our adaptations of the Old Testament but future collaborations include going to Brazil to work on Abraham & Isaac at the Stanislavsky Institute, and we're waiting to hear back from a few more applications.

We couldn't be more proud and excited to offer these first two stories in what will ultimately be a many yeared journey for our company.
- Jeremy Aluma
Four Clowns Artistic Director
Co-Director of Jonah