Pictured above: Clown sister duo Jasp (left) and Morro and will host a virtual baking performance Saturday, Jan. 23 as part of the Next Stage Community Booster digital event presented by the Toronto Fringe.
Heather Marie Annis is no stranger to clowning around — both in and out of the classroom.
The Dramatic Arts Instructor, who teaches the art of clown at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), loves bringing joy to others.
Annis will do just that this weekend, taking her talents to the virtual stage in support of the local arts community.
Annis (Jasp) is one part of the Dora Award-winning clown duo, Morro and Jasp, along with Amy Lee (Morro). The clown sisters will host a special, one-time show “Bake Your Heart Out with Morro and Jasp” on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8:30 p.m.
The unique blend of live theatre, baking and clown performance is part of the Next Stage Community Booster digital event presented by the Toronto Fringe — a charitable, not-for-profit arts organization based in Toronto — running Thursday, Jan. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 24.
The digital events are being presented via Zoom with ticket sales supporting Toronto Fringe and its programming. While in-person theatre experiences are currently on pause due to the pandemic, the festival aims to boost energy and creativity during this time of isolation for audience members and performers alike.
Annis, who is currently teaching the course DART3P07: Clown at Brock’s MIWSFPA, is thrilled to introduce the engaging performance tradition to Dramatic Arts (DART) students. She believes there are valuable teachings in the art form.
“Each student in the class will get to delve into their own ‘funny’ and explore what brings them unique joy,” she says.
The art of clown, Annis says, acknowledges an individual’s reality and allows performers to interact with any situation in life they may find themselves in.
“Clown helps us to find the humour, lightness, horror and absurdness of it all. In a way, clown helps me navigate life because of that — the good and the bad. I hope that it will help the students do that as well.”
Prior to the pandemic, DART students attended live performances at last year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival run by the Toronto Fringe. This piqued an interest in clowning for several students, introducing them to the thrill of live performance. Under normal circumstances, taking students to see live theatre, whether in Toronto or in Niagara, is an important part of the DART student experience.
Because of these experiences, some students have gone on to pursue further courses in Clown and theatrical performance offered by the DART program, and are considering a career in the field.
In addition to being accomplished clowns, Morro and Jasp are also seasoned gourmands and authors of Eat your Heart Out with Morro and Jasp. They are excited to collaborate with the Toronto Fringe, welcoming the opportunity to connect with a virtual, live audience.
“This show, although we still can’t be in a room together, will at least allow us to interact and play live with an audience. I think it is going to fill all our souls with joy,” Annis says.
Throughout the pandemic, Morro and Jasp have been hard at work creating online presentations and content for themselves and other clown artists. The duo has been focusing on experimenting with new mediums and promoting their craft.
Part of this work includes a new project from Morro and Jasp called Send in the Clowns, an initiative that commissions clowns from across Canada to create digital performances that are then featured on the Morro and Jasp website.
Annis hopes creating new, innovative content will pay off in the long run and shine a light on the art form when in-person theatre can continue.
“Clown is a performance style that celebrates and makes use of the people in the room at that moment in time. I feel that in the future, clown will shine even more for doing this.”