Friday, January 15, 2016

Five Questions for Director Jeremy Aluma

Bringing Pinocchio to Life: Meet Four Clowns

With this production of Pinocchio, South Coast Repertory is pleased to welcome back the Los Angeles-based Four Clowns.

Four Clowns, a nationally and internationally touring clown troupe formed in 2010, is dedicated to entertaining audiences and shining a light on humanity. Four Clowns combines physical theatre,   text, music and dance in all of its performances—and the use of audience interaction invigorates its productions in fun and surprising ways.

Although Four Clowns is only in its sixth season, it has already earned many accolades—including top nods at the Los Angeles, Minnesota and San Francisco fringe festivals—and performed at a number of notable venues, including La MaMa in New York and the Stanislavsky Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In 2012, Four Clowns began Four Clowns Jr., which allowed the company to expand its family friendly entertainment initiative as a complement to its programming for adult audiences.

SCR first presented the work of Four Clowns (with the aptly titled production Four Clowns) in April 2012, as a part of the Studio SCR Series. And in November 2012, SCR collaborated with Four Clowns on the Theatre for Young Audiences production of Greg Banks’ adaptation of Robin Hood.  

Jeremy Aluma, Pinocchio’s director, is Four Clowns’ founder and artistic director and returns to SCR after directing Robin Hood in 2012. Aluma took some time to answer a few questions about clowning as an art form, Pinocchio and Four Clowns’ rehearsal process.

What is clowning?
For me and my company, Four Clowns and Four Clowns Jr., clowning is serious business! Our style of clowning is highly physical, aims to create humor from honest emotions, embraces absurd characters and interacts with the audience. Our clown actors have toured shows all over the United States and across the globe. We all trained at The Clown School where we developed our skills. We use choreography, comedic language, improv, mime and acrobatics in our productions. We believe bringing the audience into the action of the play is crucial to the storytelling.

Jeremy Aluma
What aspects of the art form excite you most?
I am most excited by continually experimenting with how our shows can interact with our audience. Theatre is the easiest performance art in which to pull the audience into the process. In this digital age, I believe the role of theatre is more important than ever for the public. We encourage our audience to share how they feel and play along with our actors.

What drew you to the story of Pinocchio?
I was immediately struck by the rich and epic world of the story. Pinocchio has many built-in lessons about life and how our choices have consequences. It’s not a traditional children’s story with a good guy and a bad guy. Although characters do trick Pinocchio, ultimately his fate is in his own hands. It’s a perfect metaphor for our own lives and the choices that we make.

What goes on in rehearsals for a show like Pinocchio? How do you and the ensemble bring the physicality, text and music together to tell a story?
The cast (Tyler Bremer, Jennifer Carroll, Dave Honigman, Kevin Klein and Joe DeSoto) and I work together collaboratively to bring the show to life. We start by interpreting the text and then do research on the time period and situations. After that, we discuss the motivations of the characters in depth, trying to understand why each character makes the choices that he or she does.

I begin there with a basic physicality in mind. Typically, I will have a sense of the style of each moment and scene and we work together to pick the best jokes and refine them. The music is developed separately. Similar to the physical aspects, I start with an idea of tone and genre and then the actors play music according to those prompts. From there, we hone and solidify. The process takes a lot of work, but hearing the audience laugh is the reward.

What do you hope audiences will take away from Pinocchio?
The most important thing for us is to make our audience laugh throughout the story and feel included in the play itself. We hope the audience leaves feeling aches in their sides from laughing so hard—and as if they were a part of the journey that Pinocchio goes through.

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