NHS alum returns to lead workshop at Centre
by Celia Shortt
Newnan High School alumnus Mike Funt is back in Newnan this week, instructing students on the art of clowning and preparing for a public performance of one of his plays Saturday at the Centre.
After graduating from NHS in 2000, Funt went to Valdosta State University and majored in theater. After that, he worked all over the country and fine-tuned his craft.
Funt, now based in Los Angeles, is touring director for Four Clowns and also works with its sister organization, The Clown School. The Four Clowns is a theater company with shows “for all audiences.”
“Clown is such a fun way to perform and connect with the audience,” said Funt. “You … react to the audience. Because of that, every show is different.”
Funt’s return to Newnan has several different elements. One is a workshop he is holding this week for Coweta area students at the Coweta School System’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts on Lower Fayetteville Road.
Students in Coweta County were able to come to the Centre and learn from Funt and from another Four Clowns company member, Julia Davis, about the art of clowning and what it’s like to perform.
Funt and Davis will be presenting “The Day They Hung the Elephant” at the Centre on Saturday.
“Our vision of clowning is broad physical comedy … there is something universally funny about it,” said Davis. “With humor, everyone has different tastes. With this type of humor, everyone can laugh at it.”
Funt said when many people think of clowns, they predominately think of the clowns with heavy makeup and baggy clothing. Those, however, are just one small part of the whole craft.
“There is so much clowning in everything, and people don’t realize that,” Davis said.
“It’s like assuming all of art is sculpture,” Funt added.
Clowning is physical comedy, like in “I Love Lucy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” or almost any other sitcom, according to Funt.
In addition to the physical aspect of it, clowning is about emotion and connecting with the audience.
“Laughter and humor is such a gateway to feeling other emotions,” said Davis. “It helps you get through tough times … I like that everyone can come together and be human … there is just something so human about laughter. You’re able to feel every emotion after opening your heart to laughter.”
“For the performer, the clown leaves everything out in the open in that way,” added Funt. “It’s so freeing and fun to open yourself up to the audience that way.”
That connection with every audience is the main reason why both Funt and Davis are a part of clowning.
“In a world where I can watch Netflix on my phone, this experience isn’t something you can stream or download,” said Funt. “Every audience gets their own show. It’s something you can only experience – as it should be – live in the space for the performers.”
Tonight, Funt is also giving a talk at the McRitchie-Hollis Museum on Jackson Street about the history of circuses and what they meant to small southern towns. His talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be held at the gazebo and courtyard behind the museum. Admission is free for members of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, and five dollars for non-members. Admission for children and senior citizens is two dollars.
His show, “The Day They Hung the Elephant,” will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. Tickets are $10.