Although clowning around is not usually encouraged in an academic atmosphere, Bowdoin's student theater group, Masque and Gown, is giving students an opportunity to goof off.

As a part of their workshop series, Masque and Gown will host Michael Trautman, a renowned performer, who will lead a mime and improvisation for actors workshop on Sunday. The workshop will teach participants physical improvisation, miming and slapstick skills.

Brenna Nicely '10, the artistic director for Masque and Gown, is heading the group's newest project, which plans to feature a variety of theater-related workshops to be led by professionals and open to all Bowdoin students.

"Things the department brings are usually more formal and geared toward performances and lectures," said Nicely. "We just want to bring different disciplines that are not necessarily taught by the department to give theater students and all interested students a chance to experience things they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to at Bowdoin."

The clowning workshop led by Trautman will run from 1 to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

A seasoned performer who has acted with several theater companies, Trautman now directs his own company based in Portland.

For Sunday's class, students will have the option of attending only the first half of the workshop from 1-3:45 p.m. The first half will include an introduction to clowning, during which Trautman will perform a demonstration of what he will teach. Basic physical improvisation and miming skills will be taught during the beginning of the workshop as well.

Students who stay for the afternoon portion of the workshop will learn more in-depth clowning skills, such as methods for achieving good comedic timing and the craft of communicating without words.

According to Nicely, the workshops are designed to give Bowdoin students additional opportunities to get involved in theater, even if they are not taking department classes or are not members of Masque and Gown. Nicely added that Masque and Gown has wanted to offer more than its usual fall and spring show routine.

"This is a way for us to act more like a theater company," Nicely said. "Part of our motivation for this is to bring people and things...that we think should be brought on campus."

Trautman's workshop will be the last of three workshops this semester. Earlier in the semester, Masque and Gown offered a puppeteer workshop, led by former Bowdoin faculty member, Libby Marcus. In this two-day course, students made their own puppets and learned puppetry skills.

Masque and Gown also hosted a small-scale technical workshop for students interested in the technical aspects of theater.

"We got extremely positive feedback to our workshops," Nicely said. "People who went to the puppetry workshop really enjoyed it and people who couldn't make it wished they could have."

Although Masque and Gown does not have its spring workshop dates scheduled, Nicely has an idea of what type of theater disciplines she would like to bring to the Bowdoin community.

"In the spring we are hoping to have a play-writing workshop and an audition skills workshop," she said. "We also have ideas for a possible stage-combat workshop and a dinner theatre 'Who dun it' performance."

For students interested in pursuing theater, Masque and Gown also plans to host a panel meeting in the spring at which professionals working in theater-related careers will give advice and share their experiences.