- David Shiner
- Director and clown
What is your approach with the clowns on Cirque du Soleil projects you have taken part in?
I try to find people who are talented, funny, interesting in the way they move, who have interesting faces and I help them develop their potential. I teach them things like 'pointe fixe' , how to develop a character, how to develop a really good sense of rhythm and timing, how to improvise with an audience, etc. I give the clowns I work with a lot of the basic things that I learned over the last 25 years.
People are born clowns usually, it’s not something you can study to learn. You can learn certain techniques, but you’re either funny or not funny. So I always try to find people who have something funny about them. If they’re funny, there’s got to be a way to take that funniness and make it work for them. So I’m not always looking for someone who has great technique or great movement abilities or great slapstick abilities. I’m just looking for someone who’s funny. From there we can start to teach them the techniques.
All the different styles of clowning (Russian, American, European) can work, but we have to make them modern for a modern audience.
What do you find challenging and stimulating about working with clowns from different backgrounds?
Giving them all my knowledge. As a mentor, I’m there to help them learn the stuff fast. If I look back at my career, I wish I'd had a mentor, but I learned on my own.
I help them find a style. What makes you funny? What’s going to make you distinct from another clown? I teach the clowns the importance of using the body, of communicating without language. Because someone who learns how to extend their energy and access their creative core can walk on a stage, do very little and be very interesting to watch.
What is your creative philosophy?
As a director or as a mentor, trying to help people discover their own source of inspiration and creativity. To help them get out of their head, get into their body and get into their breath. To learn to trust themselves, trust their ideas, to believe in themselves, to have confidence. To help them celebrate the joy of performing; the pure sense of joy out of being on a stage and performing for an audience. Respecting yourself, respecting the other performers, learning to give, and give, and give, and to make an audience happy. And most of all, to know who you are: to find out who you are as an artist, what your message is, why you are there. Once you know that, the rest is easy.
What role do you think clowns play in Cirque du Soleil shows?
Principal. Without a clown in a circus, there’s no circus.
How do the art of clowning and Cirque du Soleil mix together?
Cirque has a great tradition of always having good clowns. The place they hold in a show depends on the director. As a director, since I am a clown, the clown has a principal role. He’s the character who’s taking us through the evening.
The clown is the one who has the deepest emotional connection with the audience. All the artists have a deep emotional connection with the audience, but the clown really gives us a sense of our humanity, because he’s a fool, he’s playing the role of a fool. He’s revealing our human weakness and he’s allowing us to laugh at ourselves. Great clowns have always been loved, because they allow us to laugh at those parts of ourselves we’re the most afraid or ashamed of. The clown helps us to accept ourselves, as who we are.