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Sonia Norris, JHI-Mellon Graduate Fellow in Theatre, 2017-2018

Sonia Norris, JHI-Mellon Graduate Fellow in Theatre, 2017-2018

Project Description: My research interrogates the practice of clown within different cultures, investigating clown as a performance style especially relevant within communities experiencing marginalization and trauma. My focus explores clown as an important act of survivance, offering courage through joy and laughter while revealing the extraordinary resiliency and fragility of humanity. Clown offers the opportunity for us to shift perspective on tragic stories without obscuring the truth of these realities. I am interested in how we choose to remember what is ugly at the same time as reclaim what is beautiful in ourselves and our world. I explore these issues working with Indigenous communities impacted by historical discrimination and isolation. I am specifically interested in the development of female clowning within a globalized world, investigating how women use laughter and humour within their societies, potentially revealing alternate possibilities of identity and positioning within their different communities. In South Africa I hope to explore how these ideas intersect with concepts of an aesthetic education, specifically around the question of how do we re-incorporate beauty into a person or community where it has been purposefully removed, and is clown an effective creative tool for such a process of rejuvenation? I will be investigating these questions through workshops offering a creative collision of cultural traditions and aesthetic practices around clown, mask and puppet theatre. I am interested in connecting with people associated with the Barrydale Parade who work in this community offering performance related workshops. As my research is performance related, I would like to offer clown and mask workshops and work on the Parade if possible, collaborating with South African artists from Handspring Puppet Company, UNIMA, Ukwanda and Net vir Pret as well as the scholars from UWC and the artists from the Factory for the Arts who are involved in this project.

Slideshows of Sonia's work: the first two are projects in Zimbabwe, and the next three are workshops and productions she has directed in North America.

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