Richard Pochinko

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Pochinko 1980
Richard Pochinko 1980

Richard Pochinko (1946 – 1989) was a notable Canadian clown trainer who developed a new style of mask/Clown performance training, known as the "Pochinko technique".


Pochinko was born and raised in Canada. He was a blue baby requiring immediate blood transfusions to survive. His father died of a heart attack while waking one night to attend his baby son, for which Richard forever blamed himself. As a child, he would build miniature stages and circuses. He got so excited about loving his baby chicks that he innocently crushed them in his arms. As a teenager he left the farm and moved to Selkirk because of antagonism with his new stepfather. There he lived with his sister Christine, and often with the family of his friend Doreen Cooper. "I met Rick when we were 15, 9th grade, when the kids who had attended country schools were all sent to junior high school in Selkirk. That's when Rick moved in with Chris to get away from his stepfather as well as to be close to school and not have to take the school bus every day. After he graduated from high school, where he was Social Co-ordinator and President of the Drama Club, he worked at Burn's meatpacking plant while he apprenticed at Manitoba Theatre School in Winnipeg in the evening and weekends. He and Victor met at MTS." His early family difficulties set him on a lifelong quest for a "real family" to belong to.

Richard left Selkirk/Winnipeg in 1965. With his friend Victor Colonval he escaped the small town and took off to Toronto in the early 1960s to experience big city street life. He tried being a hustler at the Ford Hotel on Bay and Dundas, but didn't have the heart to accept payment. He worked at various jobs including being an orderly at St. Joseph's Hospital, where he comforted dying patients, a youth worker in Riverdale for the Toronto Parks and Recreation, and a systems analyst for Eaton's Dept. Store. The young people he worked with loved him so much, they asked him what he would love to have. Richard replied, "a canoe", and they promptly set off for Eaton's, picked up a canoe on display on the fourth floor and carried it out of the store no problem. Richard was delighted but aghast and took them back to the store, ironically they got caught trying to return the canoe. It was also at this time that Richard met the first love of his life in Donna. They were engaged to be married, but sadly she succumbed to polio shortly after. His early life experiences gave Richard a compassion and understanding of the human condition that was so much a part of this "charismatic man". He would do anything for anyone, share all he had with those that needed it.

A couple of years later he moved to Montreal and began to gather his "family", Diedre J. and Ken M., as well as Alan Merovitz, Rhona Gold, Sharon Nelson, Freda Perel, and Ellen Gautschi. Ellen was in the Theatre program at George Williams University and worked with Richard to produce her Commedia dell'arte play "Cuckold", as well as a production of Emmlyn Williams "Night Must Fall", featuring Alan M. In 1967 Richard was hired to be one of 10 Stage Managers at the Montreal World Fair, Expo 67. One of his jobs was to drive the performers, including Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier, out to the stage. Chevalier said to him one night "You know, smiley, i've been doing this for 60 years and i still get nervous every time i go on stage."

Space Ship Dreams

It was during that summer of Expo '67 that Ellen G. brought a young man, [1] Ian A.Wallace newly arrived from Alberta, to meet Richard at the apt. on Rue. St. Urbain. This was to be the start of a lifelong friendship and creative partnership.

Nion,Ian Wallace
Iroquois Creation Legend

Richard and Ken M. were hired at Neptune Theatre that fall in Halifax to be stage manager and designer, respectively. Richard also worked with the Tritons, young company, and acted in Llanford Wilson's play "Home Free", directed by Jan Henderson, a theatre student at Dalhousie. Deidre and Rhona came out from Montreal, Ian returned from a trip to Europe and North Africa, and all lived together with Richard on Woodill St. Richard was juggling 3 love relationships and Ian was becoming his close friend and confidant. It was during one of the few nights that Richard actually stayed in the apartment that he asked Ian to come and cuddle with him.

This was a recurring experience that continued in Halifax, later in Toronto, and culminated in an amazing series of "channelled talks" in Paris. Diedre, Rhona and Ian all worked at Neptune as well, and eventually Richard and Ian became partners. They moved to Indian Point, on the Atlantic near Mahone Bay shortly afterwards, Richard was called to come back to Toronto to work as assistant stage manager on the revolutionary new musical HAIR to be presented at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Ian joined Richard in Toronto where they stayed with Walter Cavalieri until they found their first apartment on Bay St. across from the Greyhound Bus Depot and next to the infamous Ford Hotel which was at Bay and Dundas St. It was during rehearsals for the show that Richard began to recognize people that he had seen in the "space-ship" including Michael Rudder, Judy Marshak, Denis Simpson, Amber Wendelborg, and Jan Kudelka. He had told Ian in Halifax the previous year, that "there were a lot of people on the ship, some we already know, others we have yet to meet."

Some months later they moved to a house at 749 Manning Ave. where Ian, Richard, Judy and Rhona experimented with a Ouija board, encountering some very strong presences which mostly talked to Richard and Rhona, however one night a very gentle energy came on the board and asked to speak to ian. She called herself the "Vudu Kween" and said that she was his lady forever. She described herself as "i am purple". This gave Ian shivers down his spine, because out on the back fence was his painting of 3 Atlantean goddesses, which he had cut out from the linoleum in the Bay St. Apt. The central figure was purple. These "grape ladies" as he called them had started to appear as doodles on his psych. notes at the University of Alberta, and continued with a circular painting in Halifax. Now she identified herself as his muse and inspired the creation of a series of batik paintings [2], most of which were sold to the cast of HAIR, enabling Ian to accompany Richard on his theatre tour of Europe, "to seek Grotowski, who they travelled to Warsaw, Poland, to find, and to experience theatre and art all over Europe, then attend the Jacques Le Coq mask school in Paris.-

In Paris they bought a car and headed off to the south of France on a 3 month adventure through Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, at which point the car started to have problems, so they split up, Richard taking a bus to Brindisi with Athens his destination, and Ian drove the car north to Venice and down the Dalmatian Coast to wait for Richard and have the car attended to. They corresponded via the American Express Office, Ian describing the billboards on the road beside the olive grove he was camped in. After spending time with the National Greek Theatre learning chorus technique, Richard started north by bus to Dubrovnik and eventually met up with Ian at the olive grove on the coast just outside Zadar. It was a joyful reunion with many stories to share over a quantity of plum brandy. It was here that Ian had purchased the "oil lamp" which became an icon for what was to occur later in Paris. The trip continued north to Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, all the while camping along the way. "In Warsaw people were offering to buy our jeans." In Warsaw we found out that Growtowski was in Holstbro, Denmark working on "The Passion of St. Matthew" with Eugenio Barba. The shortest route would have been North, through the East Zone to the Baltic sea, but instead they would only allow us to cross the East Zone Berlin. This was 1970 and Berlin was a divided island in a heavily armed communist dictatorship. "We encountered tanks and machine guns at the border crossing where we were searched and cross-examined by two imposing women for several hours, eventually being forced to exchange a certain amount of dollars into east german marks, and to purchase with dollars a travel insurance policy and given strict orders not to leave the auto-bahn until we arrived in Berlin."

pochinko & friends
paris 1970
pochinko & friends
photo by ian

Paris 1970

After an adventure filled whirl-wind tour of Europe they arrived back in Paris and just off Place de la Republique, in a tiny hotel room on Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud an amazing thing happened. Daily Richard would attend classes at the school while Ian worked on set designs for the plays they were to produce with Ellen G. on return to Canada, as well he continued to create his batik paintings. One night after return from class Richard lay down to have a nap while Ian cooked dinner. Soon after lying down, Ian noticed that Richard was stroking his fore-head as before in the "space-ship dreams", only this time Richard sat bolt upright on the bed, looked around the room with wild eyes and said to Ian in a childlike voice "don't be afraid, my name is I,ME,RICHARD,HE and when you tell Richard about this he won't believe you" then he giggled. He asked Ian to "adjust the oil-lamp because it was too bright." He said that "this was being allowed to happen because of your love for each other." after about 20 minutes of describing and explaining the nature of reality, planes of existence, and where he was coming from, he started to have a dry mouth. Ian asked him if he wanted some water, which he did. "and move slowly because your're shifting the energy in the room" As Ian presented the glass of water he abruptly shifted back to Richard again, who said "what are you doing?" "i'm bringing the water you asked for" ian replied. "what do you mean, i've been sleeping" richard said. "oh, richard, i have something to tell you" and ian proceeded to relate what had just happened, the stroking of the forehead, the 20 minute talk, richard said "stop, i don't want to hear this, I don't believe you!" "that's what you told me you would say" "No! don't say any more!" and that was that. The "Paris Talks"[3] continued every night at the same time, around 5 p.m., for three weeks, approximately 20–30 minutes at a time.

Speaking as I,ME,RICHARD,HE (IMRH) he spoke of the creation of a school which would be ahead of its time, would last for a year, disband, and then re-emerge some years later. (The Theatre Resource Centre, Ottawa) He said that Ian would be a well-known clown [4] to which Ian thought inside "I don't think so". During one of the talks IMRH scanned the room, noting the Lautrec prints, he said that everything was perfect, that those prints were to inspire one of our future creations, (it became the lighting for Nion in the Kabaret de la Vita, Montreal, 1983) and that together they would evolve a new clown figure, from European and Amerindian roots, not re-creating the past, but reviving the traditional role of the trixtr' societies of America in a new form for NOW. One night, to show Ian the "energy" he was seeing, Richard took the brush and paints to paper making tiny dots of colored light, but it wasn't the same so he got frustrated and crushed his drawing. Immediately he said "oh my God, i've just done something really wrong and they're telling me to lie down. They're opening up a huge jewelled book called the Secrets of the Universe and they're showing me the precious gift of creativity and how i went against the nature of the universe by destroying my creation." As he experienced this admonishment, Ian could literally see the pain and anguish ripple through his body, as well as becoming aware of the entity referred to as "they", there was now a triangle of linked communication. For Ian this was a tremendous experience to witness and be a part of, because during the day he was reading books that Richard had chosen in New York to bring on the trip. They were Vera Stanley Alder's "the Finding of the Third Eye", and the "Initiations of the World". What Ian was reading in the afternoon was manifesting with Richard in the evening in that room in Paris on the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud.

photo by Ian A. Wallace
Richard Pochinko with Yanina Jessek, Paris 1970

Although the Lecoq Program normally lasts two years, Jacques Lecoq himself dismissed Pochinko after only a few months. The truth is that Le Coq recognized Richard's grasp of the European mask work immediately and told him to return to Canada to create his own form of mask/trixter.


Jah-smih instilled in Richard the fundamentals for a new, North American approach to Clown through mask "Soon after our return to Canada," says Ian, "jah-smih, or jonsmith, appeared to Richard at the foot of our bed as a nine foot tall man who wore a cape covered with moons and stars. Richard awoke with a start and trembling with fear, said to me, 'do you see him?' I said no." In his pursuit of mask/clown training Richard journeyed to Seattle to work with Bari Rolfe, former Le Coq student. It was while he was there that he again encountered "Jah-smih", Shaman presence or spirit guide, at the Seattle Museum of West Coast Masks and Native Culture. Jah-smit told him to sit on the wharf and look out to the horizon until he was able to see himself. It was from this encounter that Richard came up with the idea of "facing yourself in each of the 6 directions", and subsequently sculpting a mask energy form for each with the eyes closed. By surrendering to the color and form rhythms of the masks and journeying into the innocence and experience of each, the students discovers a way into their creativity in which the 6 direction elements become expressed in the birth of a trickster also called heyoka, fool, mischief maker, clown, contrary, messenger of the gods, coyote. This is the archetypal figure that appears in every ancient culture and is revered by the people as an intermediary between the community and Creator. The function of the trixt'r is to toss convention into the air. If he/she felt that the chief was talking bullshit it was perfectly acceptable to shit on the chief's head. We find such trixt'r societies in amerindian communities particularly in the south-west, most notably among the Hopi and Zuni, and in Canada, Ian A. Wallace Template:Disambiguation needed has created a registry of new clowns trained in Pochinko technique called the Richard Pochinko False Face Society Jah-smih guided Pochinko to create a mask technique which would rebirth this trixt'r figure in America for the future, he also said that these clowns will begin to appear as conditions worsen in the state of the world, that they will provide the healing power of laughter to help communities deal with the collapse of the patriarchy and teach respect for Gaia our Mother.

First Creations

Upon his return to Toronto he began to experiment with this idea with 10 actors, and director Marigold Charlesworth, in preparation for the first clown show, Iroquois Creation Legend, for the Theatre Hour Company, directed by Pochinko with actors Judy Marshak, Jan Henderson, Rhona Gold, Tauve, Michael Rudder and Ian Wallace, and for the Hexagon Co directed by Marigold Charlesworth with actors Richard Partington, Robert Moore, Jan Kudelka, Robin Cameron and Mary Swinton. Both companies performed and presented workshops in High Schools for 6 months all over Ontario in 1972. The second show So Runs the World Away was created in 1973, all text was from Shakespeare, gathered and compiled by Jan Henderson and Robert Moore, and again performed on a 6 month tour of Ontario for the same two companies.

The Geometry of the masks is to see oneself in the six directions of one's 'Artistic playground', the idea came from jonsmith's advice "to look out at the horizon until he could see himself". Each of the directions became a heightened concept, North became North of North, South became South of south, Above became Above Above, Below became Below Below, West became West of West, and East became East of East. Added to this, was a seventh direction, the Red Nose which was capable of working at each of the 6 directions, anywhere in between, or all of them at once.

mask+clown class
Richard with students Patricia & Andre, Ottawa 1975

In the Technique that developed, which Pochinko called The Canadian Clowning Technique (although, to date, most Canadian Clowns are still trained in European techniques, it is commonly referred to as the Pochinko Clowning Technique), a mask is made for each direction, and the seventh mask is the clown. Variations include a three-mask technique (based on the three polarities) and a six-in-one mask technique evolved by Ian Wallace with Raoul Papadans in Vancouver 2005. To the Pochinko Clown, Clowning is about allowing all honest emotions and impulses to occur, and then structuring that creative licence to build a performance. By contrast, other techniques teach structure before freedom.

As foretold in the "Paris Talks", a school was created (Theatre Resource Centre, Ottawa 1975), teachers continue to be trained and the work is becoming a part of the education system, teaching creativity from the inside-out, rather than facts and linear thinking from the outside-in. This teaching takes place at several colleges and Universities in Canada.. Recognized teachers of Pochinko Mask/Clown Technique include Jan Henderson and Mike Kennard, at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Penelope Stella, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, David MacMurray Smith, Fantastic Space in Vancouver, John Turner, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Sue Morrison, Institute of Canadian Clowning, Toronto, Sara Tilley, 6 in 1 technique, She Said She Said theatre co., St. John's Newfoundland, Cheryl Cashman, and Ian Wallace, Vancouver. Anne Skinner took the mask work into the realm of Voice training with the creation of Vowel Masks and a performance piece in Toronto entitled The Ninth Wave.

Richard founded the Theatre Resource Centre with Anne Skinner, in Ottawa, July 4, 1975. The company produced a 3 cast version of Lord Byron's Cain, and after a year disbanded. Some years later, Ian re-birthed the TRC and was re-joined by Richard to produce a number of seminal works, including Nion - Birth of a Clown, Pythagoras - a Mystery, Dario Fo's Elizabeth, Almost by Chance a Woman, Alfred Jarry's Supermale, Asylum, Passages, Extra Terrestrial Walk-Ins seeded by Amber Wendelborg, The Beavers featuring Nion and Gloria Eshkibok in collaboration with Cree writer Thompson Highway and Native Earth Theatre. The T.R.C still operates as a clown training school under the direction of Pochinko's former apprentice, Sue Morrison.

manitoulin trix'tr mask workshop
justine in trix'tr mask workshop
lake huron, Ontario, trix'tr workshop
mask trix'tr participant
wikwemikong, ont.
greg in da-bog-a-ma-jig trix'tr mask
wikwemikong, trix'tr workshop

See also

External links