“I’m an evil ringmaster” Sara Tilley claims, as she’s coaching Vanessa Cardoso-Whelan through a rehearsal of her upcoming show, Ole Clown, which happens at the LSPU Hall ,Friday July 21st at 7:30. More like a hippie mom I answer back.

I’m downright charmed by Sara’s attention to detail, correction through encouragement, and rapt joy in the process of Vanessa’s transformation into Fuah, her clown counterpart and a character that has been in progress since she took Sara’s Clown Through Mask workshop 3 years ago.

Ole Clown is a one night only workshop performance for Fuah and her puppet conspirator Matilda as Vanessa refines a very ambitious undertaking: a 30 minute solo clowning and puppetry performance. Sara explains that clowning is generally done in shorter segments, and holding the audiences attention for half an hour is no mean feat.

Vanessa explains Fuah is a word that means messy or wild, like the curly rainbow locks of the clown herself. A native of Brazil, English is her second language so at times Sara helps to explain some of Ole Clown‘s main themes; sibling rivalry, homesickness, and the lack of quality produce in Newfoundland grocery stores.

The puppet Matilda is Fuah’s older sister, more worldly, a bit of a snob and a killer flamenco dancer. Fuah is innocent and clumsy, and at the show’s beginning she is setting about to prepare a flamenco show for her friends. As would be expected, a comedy of errors stands between her and her dream performance, all the while being outdone by Matilda.

The show is intended for all ages, and is likely to be every bit as enjoyable for adults as kids. Fuah is animated and engaging, the plotline is really a series of dots that the exhilarating improvisational nature of Fuah’s clown self will use to structure an experience.

This kind of clowning requires a lot of vulnerability. The connection between Fuah and the audience is palpable. I’ve heard the catch phrase ‘be here now’ a lot but have less often seen it exemplified. This is one of the moments it is alive before my eyes, and soon I’m guffawing unselfconsciously like a child.

I never knew clowning could be this deep or empowering, but the Pochinko Method that Sara teaches focuses on exploring your inner self and being open to expressing whatever comes up honestly and in the moment. This sounds as much like meditation or therapy to me as it does like performance art.

“The clown workshop has changed the way I experience a moment, the way I imagine the shape and texture of the world, what my body is, and how I inhabit it”, says arts professional Bryhanna Greenough .

Ryan Davis agrees, “this work is excellent training for the expression of true voice”. Sara has taught Pochinko Method, or Clown Through Mask, throughout Canada and as far afield as Sicily.

Sara’s next Clown Through Mask workshop will be a 60-hour bootcamp style event running from August 15th to 30th. There will be focus on masks and creating characters to represent different elements and archetypes.

“This is a journey toward discovering your own inner clown – transitioning from working with a full face mask that you create yourself into wearing the red clown nose,” she explains.

”We seek to expose human vulnerability, innocence, and expression through the exploration of red nose clown. This work is a powerful tool for any artist, opening up new avenues of exploration which can be pursued in any medium. Participants do not need to be performers – all that is required is the willingness to experiment, to face yourself honestly, and to move beyond your comfort zone,” Sara finishes.