From the moment I read Brené Brown’s Women & Shame and saw her classic TedTalk speech, I was thrilled that someone else was talking about vulnerability. Finally. And on a very public stage.
I’ve spent the past 25+ years obsessed with the same vulnerability phenomenon and its inherent superpowers, only I’ve researched through a different avenue (albeit like Brown’s interest in storytelling). My method was theater. More specifically, the theatrical form of Clown. Yes, Clown. If theater reflects society for society’s sake, then Clown technique pierces straight to every individual heart in the audience. There’s a reason it’s known in theatrical pedagogy as Personal Clown. The trouble is – and my frustration boils because – U.S. popular culture believes that “Clowns are scary.”
Don’t laugh: I’m creating a podcast series around the question “Why are people afraid of clowns?” I ask counter-questions aplenty; I interview experts and laypeople alike. I tug at the threads of vulnerability, failure and fear, humor and beauty, to see how all connect in the tapestry of human experience. There’s a wealth of insight to be mined – a lot to unpack from theatrical clown technique, plus its vast cultural and historical evolution tracing back to early civilization’s shaman. This unique art form showcases and reflects our inherent wisdom, flaws, innocence, and medicinal magic. Maybe a shift in the public’s perspective will inspire collective courage.
My investment stems from a preschool-age moment where a delighted stranger’s laughter caused a lightning-fast, harmful ripple effect of embarrassed behavior, confused desperation, and unhealthy relationship patterns – all of which I’ve been sub- and consciously unraveling from my being as I age. I wonder if people are afraid of their own vulnerability (i.e. their Personal Clown), perhaps afraid of the power in embodying their wholeness. Brown’s research seems to support this theory, among others I’ve pondered. I wonder if this obsessive curiosity, to piece together the source and logic* of laughter, is my inner child’s lifelong quest. What conclusion will I uncover that might provide a satisfying peace of mind?
I feel vulnerable in advertising this work-in-progress. I’m still learning how to share as a vessel of abundant, potent ideas rather than guard them as precious and exclusive. Who knows, maybe all my years of notes, inquiry, practice, observation, Clown Labs, continued education, and gameplay would be fun and useful in a new collaboration. If so, I trust that you’ll communicate with me!
*The topic of “Clown Logic” is an entire department unto itself.