The Clown within the System

A conversation with Sharon Usher

In this interview, organizational consultant, group facilitator, community-builder, clown and constellator, Sharon Usher talks about her experience of bringing
together two bodies of work – Improvisational Clown Theatre and Systemic
Constellations. She shares some of the learning from a collaborative training with
Judith Hemming in October 2010 called ‘Clowning Constellations and Community’,
which they ran in a spirit of exploration. Sharon also observes the way that both
disciplines work with the knowing field and how it influences her way of working.


Interviewer: Can you say a little about the traditional role of the clown in a social and organisational setting for the benefit of our constellations community?

The clown is a dweller on the edge. She has a unique relationship to ‘the rules’ in a social/organizational setting and hence it follows, it seems to me, to the formation of conscience and loyalty. The options for most of us are to go along with or to break the rules, however the clown has the option to play with them. And in playing with them they are brought to light in an accepting way that challenges at the same time and so may also undermine some of their ‘subconscious stickiness’ (my term :O).

We explore extensively in our work what it means to transgress i.e. to surface and play with the obvious and the less obvious rules, habits and values of a system. As a visual cue that serves as a metaphor here, we use a rope in our work to delineate the boundary between the stage and the audience. The clown can play with that boundary, approaching it, seeing how we in the audience react, putting a toe over, looking at us again, even leaping over it (then leaping back and apologizing to an extraordinary degree). However it is only pleasurable to transgress in this way, for the clown and the audience, if we all know that the clown knows that they are transgressing a boundary, and they play and replay that fact. For some reason everyone finds that a real pleasure!

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