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Teacher Encourages Students to Clown Around

Toni Giannone of Easton likes her students in the University of Bridgeport's IDEAL Program (an accelerated adult completion program) to end each semester with a little clowning around. It's a lighthearted way to bring together everything she has taught them.

“Clowning is the epitome of all things theatrical. Everything is exaggerated,” said Giannone. She teaches theater as part of the university's IDEAL program. Although she wants her students to have fun with the material, she also doesn't want them to take the course too lightly.

The course covers the classics to the modern plays. Giannone has her students critically read and analyze a number of them. They also mock up stage sets and lighting. The course is informative for those interested in working in the production end of theater as well as those more inclined to sit back and appreciate a performance.

Giannone isn't expecting great actors to spring from her introductory courses. But she hopes the students gain an appreciation of the art as well as develop public-speaking confidence and stage presence through the lessons and exercises.

The theater teacher wasn't always in the thespian arts. Giannone's career began in the 1970s as a speech pathologist. Many of the skills she studied translated into the world of acting: breathing, articulation and projection.

Giannone said the course, and the clowning final, force the students to open up in new and exciting ways. “They just figure out a piece of themselves that had been dormant,” she said.

As people grow older, they often let go of their creativity and imagination, she said. But those two attributes can remain important parts of thinking and learning. “So many times as we become adults we stop playing,” she said.

For Giannone, acting runs deeper than just keeping creative skills active. They become an integral part of personal growth as well. “The more acting experience you get, the more you learn about yourself,” she said. “And the more you learn about yourself, the more you learn about acting.”

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