The Dramaturgy of a Sketch

An interview with Giora Seeliger

International School of Humour Workshop - February 23rd to 26th

RED NOSES International (RNI) regularly invites renowned experts to the International School of Humour (ISH) to share their expertise with our artists. 

In February, we hosted a different kind of expert. Giora Seeliger, our Founder and Artistic Director, delivered the most recent workshop. Our conversation drifted into topics about trees, misplaced hopes of the 1970’s and his own theatrical experience. Here is a shortened version of our conversation below.

RNI: Finally, we found time to chat. Tell us a little bit about the workshop.

G: The beauty of this workshop was that every clown could take something from it and apply it immediately at home. We concentrated on the dramaturgy of sketches. That means learning a bunch of new drama sketches and the functions they require to be acted.

I do not want to say that we restrict the imaginations of our clowns. They learn about the natural progression of a narrative. Think of it like this - imagine a stable tree trunk. Then, there are the branches that grow off in all directions but all can be connected back to the trunk. The trees grow from the trunk as much as an improvisation does from the original story. 

This is the type of image I teach the clowns. The work of a clown doctor relies on improvisation and many other tools. I believe all of our artists have the potential to perform their best. However, they learned more structures to be able to be able to have a solid understanding for the story and for their partners.

RNI: Fascinating. Is this something that the artists were aware of?

G: Some yes, some no. I remember when I first started acting. It was with a troop called “Theatre de l’espoire” [Theatre of Hope]. Don’t ask about the name, it belonged to the spirit of the time.

When I was a young actor, I would try to change from one role to another to show that I was a skilled actor. I did not much like the rolls I was assigned. I felt that they placed me in a box. 

But, I soon realized that in order to connect with the audience, each character and each element must be fulfilled. Everyone must perform a certain function.  Not only is it important for the audience, it’s also important for those you are performing with.

RNI: So how does this relate to the work in a hospital? Don’t clowns simply improvise?

G: Improvisation plays a key part in what we do, though to say that we only improvise is too simple. A clown is always well-equipped to deal with any situation, relying on tools, tricks and dramaturgy. 

This workshop helps them to be better prepared. There are certain codes of conduct that help and must work in order to perform the best show on earth. 

RNI: What motivates you to continue teaching? 

G: I love it. I taught many workshops and I will continue to teach workshops. For me, it is important to stay connected to all of our clowns. 

In the beginning, I was often the only teacher for the RED NOSES group. It was more simple back then, but I also could stay connected with each clown and see how they developed as artists. Now, the only way I can really get to know each of our 346 clowns is to deliver these workshops. I never want to miss out on this progress.

RNI: What was one of your favourite workshops in recent memory?

G: You’re asking how old I am, aren’t you? I’ll forget you asked that question and answer it a different way. For me, it is moments where I see the progress in my former students that I enjoy most.

RNI: Is this why we continue to train our clowns?

G: Of course! We need to continue to become better clowns. Without training and new input, our artists will become stagnant and not improve. It is not fair to our young audiences. We must connect with them.

What makes the RED NOSES clowns unique is their ability to adapt as artists. Like from a director in a theatre, they receive new inputs through these workshops and are able to immediately apply them in their professional work. Only true artists can do this.

RNI: Enough bragging already. What is one piece of advice to give to our readers?

G: Enjoy every moment.

I know it from my kids. You have this idea that you’re too young, too much to do, too little time. But we always have to remember, everything is temporary. We are never stuck in a problem for the rest of our life. Enjoy these moments. Enjoy what you can! 

Photo credits: Alla Abramova


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