I had the joy of taking my daughter to see Avner the Eccentric at Lehigh on Saturday night. I had the wonderful opportunity to see Avner way back in the 80’s with Touchstone’s tour of Mexico at a Clown and Mime festival we attended.
He was, and is, simply brilliant, wordless and classic physical comedy, with great pratfalls, movement skills and interpersonal interaction with the audience. It was a joy to hear Rosalie’s loud laughter and to experience my own audible chuckles and guffaws. What a rare and beautiful thing.
I attended a workshop by Avner back then and I still take to heart his philosophy of performance. He said that a clown can fail on stage and the audience is there to pick him up. The clown can than ‘blow away’ the audience with his skill. This back and forth becomes a ‘dance’ with the audience, and both performer and audience become one, and both take the experience beyond what either could do alone.
My friend John Gorka does this to a great degree, with his humility and relative uncomfort on stage. The audience almost finishes his sentences for him; they are leaning in. John then performs his amazing songs, and the audience leans back in awe. Back and forth…. John works this technique quite naturally and it serves him well.
I open myself up to the same dynamic, especially with kids, and it works for me, as well.