Notes from Students & Colleagues
Ronlin Foreman is a nearly mythological figure. He has taught a countless number of students and the stories that are passed around about his teachings and other students’ encounters with him are endless. I have heard that in time gone by he was much more fierce than he is now. I have heard that he was kicked out of some teaching positions for slapping his students in the face. I have been slapped by him in the face. There was the story of the man who had a 10 foot pole with a medicine ball on it duct taped to his head by Ronlin, and the woman who quit after he threw his shoes at her head. He is notorious for his enigmatic and profound diatribe, always confusing and perplexing but surely words of truth that many hours of conversation are spent unwinding. He is known for crying in the midst of recounting a story, reading a quote, or relating a personal memory. His tumultuous and colored past creeps into the edges of the tales he tells his students, alluding to institutionalization, abuse, and miles of self-torture. He is a giant, a seer, a clown, an asshole, a provocateur.
I spent three years under the tutelage of Ronlin, and was witness to much of his madness. I saw students who couldn’t even stand on stage blossom into forces of nature under his watchful eye. I saw students driven to the edge of dangerous madness under his provocative pushing. I felt myself driven by his passion and ferocious belief in the work of the clown to believe in the impossible. I loathed and loved and longed for more of Ronlin.
I have been out of Dell’Arte (where he taught me) for two years now, and I am just beginning to understand how deep the roots of the seeds are that Ronlin planted in me. I recently returned home to Canada after being asked by my high school drama teacher to teach a clown workshop to his acting students. Not only did I reach back to the tools and exercises that Ronlin used in our clown classes, and not only was I teaching through a lens colored by his vision, but I could observe my friends and family (who hadn’t seen me for years) witnessing me as a changed being whose entire drive in life has been altered by the teachings of Ronlin Foreman.
It is the reaching beyond what one knows into the unknowable. It is the belief in the quest for the unattainable. It is about the embracing of the whole self and yet the constant knowledge that I must work harder, grasp more, drive myself to embody more greatness. It is the insight into the line between madness and brilliance. It is the fire that burns inside of me that keeps me on my path as an artist, as a clown, and as a human being who must live in this world and who must both suffer and delight. It is the voice of Ronlin that reminds me of all of this as I struggle daily with what the hell I am doing with my life. And the remembrance of staring into his eyes and believing something more, something different, that maintains my faith in the power of theatre.
Ronlin is not a saint, nor is he always a model of his own testament. But what he does for his students lasts. And whether he sends them into rage or love, Ronlin moves people. That is the bottom line. Ronlin has the power to move us all.
Ronlin taught me one of the most important things I have learned as a performer and, in many ways, as a person: To allow what is happening around me to happen and to respond to it, rather than attempting to strangle it and bend it to my will.