Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clown Fest Interview - Nick Trotter of Ferdinand the Magnificent!

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Zuzka Sabata

Name: Nick Trotter
Show: Ferdinand the Magnificent!
Relationship to show: Actor/creator
Website: Facebook

Tell me a little bit about Ferdinand the Magnificent!

What is there to say about a guy wandering through the universe in a diaper and a bright pink Spandex body suit? Ferdinand is a very strange fellow, primarily engaged in exploring the world though engaging his senses, and dealing with the odd responses that his body has. And these responses are very, very odd. His encounter with the audience is one of song, wonder and occasionally, excretion. He excretes wonderful songs. Let's leave it at that.

What inspired you to create it?

My paycheck. Actually I'm self-employed, so the balance is zero. Not very inspiring.

What would inspire a guy to put on a diaper and a bright pink body suit? Do you really want the answer to that question?! Seriously, a person's clown is really an exaggerated and comic version of their own self. It's difficult for me to describe how Ferdinand appears to others, because I only experience him from the inside. The show consists only of the character exploring his world, a passage through space and time. Each performance varies with the character(s) of the audience that shows up. The challenge is for me to respond as honestly and comically as I can.

I created the character while studying at the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California. At our school, the study of Clown is a very personal and challenging one--where we receive the command to "be funny!" The trick is that the emphasis has to be on being, not on doing, and it becomes a journey of self-discovery--which is difficult, confusing, and sometimes humiliating. The school also emphasizes ensemble work, and Ferdinand slowly developed as a result of work with other students and dialog with the instructors--finding what made us all laugh in the here-and-now.

Ferdinand has also developed on his own, outside the school, as a solo clown in the show Myths of the Plastic Age which I created and produced with my partner Jerry Lee Wallace in our comedy duo THIRD BASE!

What is your clowning background?

Background: I used to use fall foliage and a blue sky, until grad school when I learned that the cool colors of spring contrast better with pink Spandex.

I started doing clown work with David Leicht, another actor and musician, when we both lived in New York about ten years ago, as a comedy and music duo called Bonejesters. We then developed work on our own and in collaboration with other theatre artists, including Harold Lehman, Lake Simons and Eric Davis. As it became clear that the world of clown, mask and puppetry was really inspiring to me, I moved out to Blue Lake to study at Dell'Arte, and I received my MFA there in 2008. since then I've worked sporadically as a comedy teacher, clown and puppeteer. I tend to specialize in shadow puppets. They bring out my dark side.

What would you tell someone who is afraid of clowns to get them to
come to your show?

I tell them exactly what my mother told me about spiders (which terrify me): Ferdinand is just as afraid of you as you are of him! So we're all in this together. Might as well laugh...

What is next for you after the New York Clown Theatre Festival?

In October, I'm moving back to my hometown of Denver, Colorado, to be closer to my mother (and because Blue Lake has too many spiders). For 2011, THIRD BASE! is planning a winter production of Myths of the Plastic Age and a summer tour, probably at fringe festivals, and I'll be developing a shadow-puppetry adaptation of the Book of Jonah. And Bonejesters may head into the studio to do some recording...

Third Base!
Blue Lake, CA

NY Clown Theatre Festival
The Brick Theatre
575 Metropolitan Ave.

Saturday, September 4th @ 5pm
Saturday, September 11th @ 10pm
Sunday, September 12th @ 5pm

Thursday, September 9th @ 7pm

Monday, September 13th @ 7pm

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