the yoga of clown

stupbw2-lowOne of my friendships that grew out of the MAKE SURE IT’S ME project is with Whitney Willman, whose professional work has focused lately on yoga instruction for veterans with various forms of trauma, including physical injury, TBI, and PTSD. Our discussions about using various complementary approaches to heal trauma let me to share with her my passion for European-style clowning. Unlike the Barnum & Bailey style which often focuses on the payoff of a funny gag, the clowning I pursue is about seeing the world freshly through the eyes of a pre-socialized creature. The clowns I unleash in classes and workshops have more in common with young dogs, toddlers, and people on the autism spectrum than with birthday party entertainers (or serial killers driving ice cream trucks in our paranoid fantasies).

Studying clown requires the performer to slow down their mind and look at or listen to or feel or smell one thing at a time. I mentioned autism because autistic people often feel sensory overload due to inability to prioritize which stimuli to attend to and which to ignore. A clown is similar: everything is fascinating and new to them and they may value a small piece of debris and a new person onstage in the same degree. They may also need to back off of a stimulus if things become too numerous or intense in their environment. These qualities help us to see the value of people and things in new ways and they also give clown its unique rhythm of notice/examine/share discovery with audience/then react. This is the same rhythm you often see with dogs or small children who might like the box a toy came in better than the toy, and who will also check in with their audience frequently for input on how to react. In clown performances, the audience has the rare delight of being included every few seconds, something that does not happen in fourth wall realism, which has dominated American and European stages (and screens) for the last hundred years or so. And the novelty with which a clown approaches things usually leads to marvelous discoveries: a metal flashlight can be deliciously cold against your cheek; the sounds of the street through the wall are like music and can be listened to for minutes at a time in rapt stillness; a potato masher and a laundry basket can play hide and seek together and the rules of this found game can become surprisingly complex yet completely legible to onlookers. (When teaching I usually leave off the list of sensory interactions “to taste,” not because clowns don’t want to taste things but because it’s wise to discourage students from putting random objects or people in their mouths in the studio, as elsewhere.)

After I described some of this to her, Whitney decided she wanted the chance to learn clown from me. So I’m creating a workshop called Mindfulness through Clown which will emphasize the clown qualities of presence in the moment, curiosity, lack of judgement, and access to joy. I’ll be rolling this out for the first time at Giving Tree Wellness and Yoga in Haverhill, MA, where Suzanne Borgioli will host us.  I’m handling registration, so you may email me at if you’d like to participate. Huge thanks to Suzanne and Whitney for this opportunity! I will report back after the workshop to share what happens.

MSIM wows at the Manchester Vet Center

MSIM15Last Thursday, October 8th, a group of veterans helped me present my traveling version of Kate Wenner’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME at the Manchester Vet Center in Hooksett, NH. With the help of counselor Mearlene Filkins, who joined me in reading the educational material about Traumatic Brain Injury, and the coordination of Team Leader Colleen Moriarty, we presented to a group of about fifty in the Vet Center’s welcoming, well-appointed conference room.

This was my second time using the model of directing a group of volunteer readers nominated by the venue itself. The first time my readers were members of the student veterans’ group at the campus of Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA. This time, Mearlene invited community members who attend the Manchester Vet Center regularly for various kinds of support to step up and share their time and talents by acting in this reading. I was blown away by the intelligence and emotional courage of these readers. These two men and two women, who clearly had put their hearts, minds and bodies on the line in service to their country, were serving again by spreading the word about the effects of TBI on veterans and their families. The audience was extremely responsive to their portrayals of injured veterans and their struggling caregivers. Maybe it was the dueling apple crisps baked by two community members and enjoyed during intermission, but I swear the audience did not want to leave! Many observations and questions were shared during a talkback with Susan Burns, Nina Romano, and Sherry Thrasher, all clinicians from the Manchester VA Medical Center with expertise in treating TBIs. We were even able to connect an audience member on the spot with resources for TBI screening. Thanks again to Colleen, Mearlene and all the staff at the Vet Center for making this event possible.

As always with the MSIM project, I was thrilled and humbled by this experience. There was a lot of support in the room for more MSIM programming, so stay tuned for news as I follow up with my new contacts and continue to spread the word. For more information on the history of the project, or to find resources, visit the MSIM home page.


MSIM coming to the Manchester Vet Center!

I’m delighted to bring the MSIM traveling presentation to the Manchester Vet Center on October 8th at 2 pm! A team of veterans will read the dramatic roles and we’ll have a talkback with clinicians from the VA’s TBI clinic. Thanks to Colleen Moriarty and Mearlene Filkins for bringing me and assembling the team. Admission is free but seating is limited, so RSVP by September 30 to!


the reviews are in!

Whitebottoms 2015Well, the cast and crew of Duck and Cover rocked audiences during opening weekend! In the midst of scorching temperatures and electric fans, Kim, Shawn, David, Jim, Alan and Michael elicited applause, cheers and even some appreciative catcalls and standing ovations. Here’s what the critics had to say:

Seacoast Online review

Portland Phoenix review

Catch the show for the next two weekends, we close on September 20th! Visit for details!

set dressing

This week has been hot hot hot, especially in the Player’s Ring in Portsmouth, which has a huge heart but no air conditioning! As we’ve prepared for tonight’s opening of Mike Kimball’s Duck and Cover, we’ve been working a number of oscillating fans into the theatre experience. We’ve also had to all pitch in to make the set happen. I’m not so effective with carpentry so I was doing set dressing acquisition much of the week, but finally our set feels like a little home. Congrats and thanks to Mike and his carpenter pal Alan, to Joe Dominguez for helping build, and to Brett Reis, our lighting designer, for also playing Mr. Fixit throughout the week. Stage manager extraordinaire Kate Quisumbing also wrangled numerous props, all while learning to navigate an unfamiliar CD player and new computerized light board. Now we’re ready to watch the actors do their thing! See you at the Ring!


my amazing DUCK AND COVER cast

Rehearsals for DUCK AND COVER are a total hoot and the show opens at Players’ Ring on September 4!  Love these talented folks, plus my brilliant playwright Mike Kimball and couldn’t-do-without-her Stage Manager Kate Quisumbing.  Pictured below, clockwise from top left: Shawn Crapo, Jim Manclark, Kim Holliday, Alan White, Michael Stailey and David Sullivan. Photo by Mike Kimball. Visit for reservations.



Whitebottoms 2015

A “Father Knows Best” family, happily sheltered in 1962 suburbia, tries to maintain their innocence during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the arrival of eccentric jazz trumpeter Uncle Bunny and his African-American musical partner.

On September 4th, the Players’ Ring Theatre’s 2015-16 season opens with “Duck and Cover,” an award-winning play by York playwright/novelist Michael Kimball, who received the 2014 John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award (New England Theatre Conference) for the play, which was also named “Best Play” at the 2013 Northern Writes Festival (Bangor, ME) and has just been nominated for 8 Desert Star Theatre Awards in Palm Springs, CA, including “Outstanding Comedy.”

The September production will mark the play’s second appearance in Portsmouth. The play premiered at the West End Theatre in the winter of 2013 to widespread popular and critical acclaim. “A GEM,” raved one audience member. “Light and Dark. Witty, Funny, Heartbreaking. You’ll be so glad if you see it.” Others wre similar in their praise: “Hilarious & touching.” “Totally evokes the early 60s historically and personally!!” “A delicious mix of drama, history and humor,” the Portsmouth Herald wrote. “Smart, witty, heartwarming and incisively written. Truly engaging.”

Seacoast audiences who’ve seen Kimball’s other work (The Secret of ComedyBest EnemiesGhosts of Ocean House, and Santa Come Home,) will recognize the writer’s comedic style, about which the Boston Globe once wrote, “Some of Michael Kimball’s humor is black and some of it is blue, and he shoots it at us at a whiz-bang slapstick pace that leaves us alternately laughing, squirming and gasping for breath.” Stephen King similarly observed that “Kimball is humane enough to capture our hearts and wicked enough to make us laugh our asses off.”

“Duck and Cover,” directed by acclaimed actor/director Leslie Pasternack, features a dynamic ensemble cast of familiar faces from the Portsmouth, Newburyport and Boston stages: Kim Holliday, Shawn Crapo, David Sullivan, Michael Stailey, Alan White, and Jim Manclark.

The show will run from September 4th through the 20th with shows at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays, Sept 6th and 13th; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept 20th. Tickets are $15 general admission, with discounts for members, seniors, and students. For reservations or information, call 603-436-8123 or visit


into the light

Hello, all. I have been lured out of the shadow cast by my mother’s death to take over direction of Michael Kimball’s Duck and Cover at the Player’s Ring, where it will run September 4-20. This marvelous, award-winning show about an American family grappling with wars domestic and foreign on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis was last seen at WEST and I’m honored to be working on it now. Stay tuned for more details, I’ve got homework to do for tomorrow night’s rehearsal!

artwork for ring page -- unbusy

Spotlight 2015 nomination news!

DVphoneI’m giddy to announce that I was nominated for Best Actress by the Seacoast Spotlight Awards committee for my performance as Dorothy Vaughan in Saving Portsmouth.

Even better, my actor Eliot Johnston was nominated for Best Actor for his performances of Bernard One, Bernard Two and Michael Black in A Number! Congratulations to us, and huge thanks to everyone involved in both shows, and to our audiences (and patient loved ones) for all their support.gameofthrone1

I have a feeling we are each dark horses in this race, but it is marvelous to know that the panel thought so highly of our work in 2014. As they say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” I will let you know how it turns out!