I have been back in town for a week, and finally have a minute or two to write a post about my trip! Many of you know me as the owner of the costume shop here in town. You may not know that I am also a musician/performer/ and aspiring clown! I write original material including skits, bits, alter egos, folk music and more. I don’t perform as much as I used to because I am usually at the shop (which I love btw)! So this summer I took a trip to Wheelock, Vermont to take a week-long “Pochinko Style Clown” workshop from none other than Donna Sellinger.
I met Donna several years ago, when she came through town with her theater troupe called “The Missoula Oblongata”. They perform original plays with loads of historically referenced material turned on its head to make a person rethink how they exist in the world. Their sets are made of mostly recycled randomness, and sometimes reclaimed trash all of which fit into the back of a minivan with its 3-5 actors! It’s a wonder to behold! Once when I booked her for a backyard play, it rained. And we had to move the furniture out of our bedroom so they could build the stage in it and fit 24 audience members! It was pure magic, and the best show I have ever witnessed!
Moving on, she is currently a Baltimore based artist, writer, and performer. Normally she teaches a 6 week baby clown workshop. But, this week-long was just a taste of the full length class.
It was held at Wheelock Farm in Wheelock, Vermont. The grounds were beautiful and there was no signal for data in the mountains. It was an incredible property. There were eleven of us students total. We were from Detroit, NYC, D.C., Philadelphia, Connecticut, North Carolina and more. Many of us were already in the arts or performing music, puppetry, clowning, and theater. So it was a really great group! Donna kept the class affordable at $250, so I was able to justify the gas there. I wish I could have paid her so much more for what she taught us! If you have a chance to learn from her, take it!
Here are a few pics.
This was the tent, where we painted, and practised our clowning exercises and critiques.
Behind the tent was the trail to what we called the “Clowntain”. Most days we made multiple trips up the hill to a gorgeous field to do visualization exercises in.
I set up my tent down at the beautiful stone round house for sleepers. Below the hill was a pond with a beaver dam, and a creek running by. I was visited twice during the week by what we think was a deer or moose, and maybe a coyote or a bear. The second visit had me screaming and clapping to make “it” go away. I was lucky that Becca and Anissa came to rescue me. No more tent sleeping after that. Though I would have been fine surely.
There were so many flowers on the property. Everything was dripping in color, and the air was nice and cool! Every morning brought me to the kitchen door to meet, and eat with my fellow clowns and talk about all manner of things. The kitchen was spacious and easily held all of us. we ended most days there with a group dinner, getting to know one another better, learning songs and singing them, drawing, sharing music…
Plus, they had the best maple syrup ever, made fresh on the farm!!!
One of the days we stopped at mid-day to visit Bread and Puppet Theatre. They have an incredible circus, museum, and more. They are famously known for their work in social justice activism and sociopolitical theatre. I have been wanting to visit for a long time and finally had the opportunity. These are photos from their circus, and museum. You can learn more about them at Bread and Puppet.
We watched a puppet performance of the eclipse, though we did pause from class to watch the real eclipse later. All 12 of us took turns using the one pair of eclipse glasses. I was also privileged to participate in Shape Note Sacred Harp singing at The Paper Mache Cathedral one night, and I went with a fellow clown to see a shadow puppet play in the ballroom, about immigration,on another night.
Finally, towards the end of the week, we earned our clown noses, and chose our costumes for our final “Something Fantastic” scene. Everyone delivered an amazing scene, some of us chose to do it twice. With our costumes and noses they were even more fantastic!
I was really sad to leave, but many of us will stay in touch, and hope to work together in the future. I ended up staying an extra day to help Marie with her broken car. we spent the morning in town and having breakfast at the Hardwick Food Co-op restaurant. we drove around the countryside a bit to drop her at the auto shop, had a coffee and pastry at a theatre there and then I hit the Museum of Everyday Life on my way out of the mountains. The museum was the perfect ending.
Finally my trip was over, except for the 21 hour drive home. But, I took my time on the way home, so it was a lazy 41 hour drive. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
Thanks a million Donna!