In this four-part workshop, we’ll trace the art of clowning back to the 1500s, learn the fundamentals of Nouveau clowning, and begin to embody our own clown characters.
In the US, clowns have largely been pigeonholed as red-nosed party entertainment, fast food mascots, or horror movie villains. But the art of clowning is ancient and complex, with a history that spans over 500 years. Long before clowns were only loathed or feared, clowning was a performance art used to offer cultural criticism, political commentary, and more. The clown is a journalist, taking in the world and reflecting our shared humanity through performance. The clown is curious, expressive, and absurd—a source of childlike inspiration, extending an invitation to let our inner playful spirit run wild every now and then.
In this course with performer and educator Rose Carver, we’ll trace the history of the clown, cover the foundations of clowning, and begin gently playing around with the form—ultimately stepping into our own clown personas. You’ll walk away from the course with a richer understanding of the clown and how physical comedy can be used to document and critique the world, as well as the tools you need to begin seriously clowning around.
Syllabus At A Glance
This course includes four total sessions, each lasting for 1.5 hours on four consecutive Mondays beginning on March 18, skipping April 1.
Session 1 (Monday, 3/18, 7:30–9 PM ET) | History of Clowning & The Nouveau Clown Method
We’ll explore the history of clowning dating back to the 1550’s through today, and get an introduction to the Nouveau clown method. We’ll cover the three most important aspects of clowning: listening, observing, and sending a message.
Session 2 (Monday, 3/25, 7:30–9 PM ET) | How to Make a Clown: Creating Character
In this session, we’ll dive into what makes a clown a clown and walk through the different variations of clowns. We’ll practice shifting between the four major clown emotions: joy, fear, anger, and sadness, and move through a few exercises that might help to inspire our clown personas.
Session 3 (Monday, 4/8, 7:30–9 PM ET) | Elements of Clowning & Creating a Clown Number
We’ll look at different examples and exercises that go into creating a clown piece with our clown personas. We’ll explore the Comic Formulas constructed by Jango Edwards, and use them in a group of three to write a short clown number.
Session 4 (Monday, 4/15, 7:30–9 PM ET) | Show Day: Performances and Feedback
In our final session, we’ll rehearse, perform, and receive feedback from the class and instructor. Break a leg!
Outside of class, there will be light and optional homework of a reading and couple questions to ponder after each class. Students will also have the option to work on a solo number between sessions two and three.
Come to class in clothes that you feel comfortable moving in and have a blank sheet of paper and marker/colored pencil accessible to you. Optional materials will be any costume pieces that make you feel extra silly during performance.
In addition to full-price tickets, a limited number of no-pay spots are available for this course. Please note that these tickets are reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course and who expect to attend all sessions. No-pay spots are distributed via a randomized drawing two weeks before each course begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.
Community Guidelines for Students
Please take a moment to review our community guidelines for students, which aim to share our classroom ethos and help set the stage for the best possible learning experience.
Atlas Obscura Online Courses
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Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.
Rose Carver is a clown teacher and performer under the anarchistic style of clowning entitled “Nouveau Clown,” founded by her teacher and mentor, Jango Edwards. Carver is a musician, independent filmmaker, performance artist, and the founder of a Detroit-based clown punk theater collective, where she performs and produces clown shows and immersive musical theater performances. Carver began studying and performing clown in 2017 and has since performed in theaters in Spain, France and the United States. She has learned from numerous clown masters, including Jango Edwards, Slava Polunin, David Shiner, Michelle Matlock, Claudia Cantone, and Jon Davison. In 2022, Carver founded Detroit’s premier clown school, “Fool School,” as an American chapter of Barcelona’s “Nouveau Clown Institute.” She regularly conducts multi-session workshops and produces and directs clown cabarets with her students at the Planet Ant Theater in Detroit.
This is an interactive, small-group seminar that meets over Zoom. Students may be encouraged to participate in discussions, work on assignments outside of class, and workshop projects with their instructor or classmates. Due to the interactive nature of this course, we strongly recommend students attend as many live sessions as possible. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.
Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.
We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.
There are 25 spots available on this experience.
Mon, Mar 18, 20247:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m.$225