The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts is getting ready to wrap up its summer-long Clown College. Beginning June 5, students who enrolled in the college have been learning the tricks of the trade from mime and juggler extraordinaire, Dr. Doug Egge.
Over the six-week course, which met once a week, students have been learning the history of movement and clowning as it pertains to stage, street and circus performing. Students have had the opportunity to learn hand-on skills such as juggling, balloon animal sculptures, water spitting, pie throwing, improv performance, mime and skit-production. With Egge's instruction, the group of talented boys and girls have learned that imagination is key to clowning. “It is all about teaching them to use their imagination,” said Dr. Egge. “Teaching them to create something out of nothing and to have fun with it. That is what Clown College is all about.”
According to Egge, the clown's function is to make people smile or laugh. He worked to teach the students that clown skills overlap acting, comedy, vaudeville, magic, juggling, psychology and more. Most generally, clowning is an area of theatre.
With a diverse group of about 20 boys and girls of varying ages, The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts' clown college was much like the art of clowning; a representation of non-conformity and sometimes a little mischief.
During Tuesday's class, students perfected their juggling skills and reviewed the steps to take a simple balloon and turn it into a rabbit or dog, or even a windmill. They also gave their one minute long skits one last run through before next Monday's final rehearsal when they will showcase their talents for their friends and families at next Thursday's graduation.
With an emphasis on safety, Egge taught the students the importance of practicing and learning how to perform tasks such as tripping during a skit slowly and safely in order to get it just right. The students’ skits, all performed without talking, rely on the comic relief of clowning tasks such as juggling, facial expressions and imagination. The skits range from a massive fishing expedition to a tug-of-war with the wind while trying to fly a kite. With advice from Egge to guide them, the students either picked a partner or chose to perform a solo act to entertain the audience.
Students have the opportunity to develop their own clown personality fully equipped with a costume and make-up. On Tuesday, students sketched out what they wanted their outfits to look like and on Monday, students will be treated to a visit by the Smoky Mountain Centre for the Performance Arts artistic director Scotty Corbin who will help Egge and his students construct the best clown costumes around.