jnicholsQ&A with director JANE NICHOLS

Jane Nichols has taught clowning everywhere. Seriously, everywhere: Harvard, Juilliard, Yale, Brown, the University of Washington, you name it. Jane has helped spread the love of laughter and good comedy for over 20 years, and we’re so excited to have her at Intiman this summer. Check out what she has to say about the art of clowning, directing We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, and living in Seattle.

What do you love most about WE WON’T PAY! WE WON’T PAY!? What drew you to this show?

Dario Fo wrote it. I am a huge fan of Dario Fo. He’s a genius comic performer, as well as a relentless, fearless critic of social injustice and hypocrisy. He’s perceptive enough to be outraged by it all, yet he has the wisdom and insight to laugh at it. This show in particular is perfect for these times of economic inequality, and the exploitation and disregard of the working class.

Can you describe your favorite scene (no plot spoilers!)?

I have a feeling the lazzi’s are going to end up being my favorite scenes. But we haven’t finished staging any of those yet so I cant say for sure. At this point I will say that my favorite scene is with the State Trooper. Because the actor playing him affects a Castillian accent that is so idiotic it makes me laugh every time he opens his mouth. My favorite scene right now is the scene with “grandpa”. It’s towards the end of the play, things are unraveling, all the characters are onstage, and grandpa floats into the room to drop the final ‘bomb’ with no more urgency than a sleepy cow smelling a rose. It is the rhythm of the grandfather juxtaposed with the alarm and tension of the other characters that makes for delicious chaos and comedy.

If you could pick just one reason that people should come see this show, what would it be?

To laugh at ‘what fools we mortals be’ in a shared space with other fools laughing at the same thing. It’s always my hope that if people come together to acknowledge their foolishness they will get over themselves and embrace their common humanity. And anyway, laughing feels good.

You have a great background in clowning – teaching it — how does that translate into your work as director for this comedy?

Comedy is all in the timing, as they say. Plus it’s also in the tone. Because of my years of teaching, I’ve been marinating in what’s funny and what makes people laugh for just about half my life. I’ve also been marinating in the genius of the actor’s imagination and intuition. In the rehearsal room I count on the actors to give me their intuitive responses to the text and situations, then I shape them. What you see onstage, hopefully, is not only comically timed out, but organic and credible as well. The trick is to create an atmosphere in the rehearsal room that encourages the same kind of freedom of invention as the atmosphere in a classroom. We start each rehearsal with Tag. Seriously. As well as other ridiculous games that help unleash spontaneity and the courage to play. Acting takes courage. Comedy REALLY takes courage.

You recently moved to Seattle – how come and what do you like most so far?

I moved to be near my two daughters and my beautiful grandchildren. End stop. I love cherish and adore the flowers! The lush green everything. And the mountains on the days they’re out. Plus I love my new house, especially the patio with its azaleas and little blue fountain. And I am amazed, just plain amazed, and deeply grateful at how welcomed I have been by the theatre community here. The clowns at Ear to the Ground, the Ensemble at WET, and EVERYbody at the Intiman. It’s been something quite close to heaven. Like Seattle on a cloudless day.