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Unit information: Clowning Through History in 2021/22

Unit name Clowning Through History
Unit code THTR20014
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Wozniak
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Theatre
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Through a series of seminars and workshops, students on this unit will encounter a range of contemporary and historical performance which include clown roles, in order to explore the changing emphases of clowning in relation to performance practice and specific socio-historic contexts. The unit will draw on a range of acting and clowning theories and practice, both historical and contemporary, which will be explored through critical discussion and critically reflective performance exercises. Students will develop an understanding of how changing conditions and performance practices have affected the role of the clown in theatrical performance through studying specific clowning roles and sequences from commedia dell’arte, through early modern clown roles, to the development of separate performance spaces for clowns in the nineteenth century and subsequently to theatre clown roles in contemporary performance.

Students will develop an understanding of the changing historical relationship between different performance spaces, between author, director and performer and between clown and form. Students will study the role of the clown through exploring a range of historical and contemporary theatrical clowning techniques and by exploring and developing their own clown persona in a short clowning sequence. They will develop a thorough understanding of how historical and contemporary clowning techniques and approaches might be used in performance to entertain and challenge an audience. In doing so they will explore the performance of the following issues and how they might interact both in historical and contemporary performances: performing the self and celebrity; authority in performance; performing the popular; performing the topical; and performing adaptation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1) demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of a range of performance contexts and the ways in which clowns performed within them;

2) demonstrate an understanding of the key theoretical and theatrical concerns in both current and contemporaneous criticism of clown roles;

3) demonstrate knowledge of a range of performance techniques and understanding of their practical application

4) demonstrate the ability to analyse and evaluate a range of performance, both in terms of their own practice and the practice of others;

5) demonstrate the ability to conceptualise and execute a clown performance, and developed their skills in acting and/or dramaturgy and/or directing

6) demonstrate a self-critical and analytical approach to their own learning

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous seminars, workshops, forums and exercises. Some workshops will allow students to explore the development of their own clown practice and persona, whilst others will allow students to practice writing and analytical skills, including through peer review exercises. The seminars will allow students to explore a variety of historical examples of clowning and understand them in relation to the historical context and their own practice and will be conducted online. Practical workshop activities will also be made available online, making it possible to study this unit off-campus. Formative assessments will be used during seminar and workshop activities to develop student work and will include: review/analysis of live (or recorded) clown performances; historical analysis of primary material; documentation and reflexive analysis of development of own clown role.

Assessment Information

Summative assessment (100%): Viva, lasting 30 minutes, comprising a presentation of 20 minutes, and 10 minutes responding to questions. (ILOs 1-6)

The viva presentation will include a selection of: review/analysis of live (or recorded) clown performance; historical analysis of primary material; presentation of individual clowning performance; documentation and reflexive analysis of development of own clown role


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. THTR20014).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.