Benjamin Domask is many things. He is a clown, a juggler, a mime, a musician, a director, a teacher and a person who spreads love and cheer. Domask is magic.
He’s come to Fergus Falls for three weeks, planning a few workshops during his stay as part of his Hinge Arts Residency. This afternoon, Domask will be teaching participants how to create a character and an introduction to mime at A Center for the Arts at 1 p.m. By Monday, he’ll be hosting a teen juggling workshop at 4 p.m. at the Fergus Falls Public Library.
Domask’s path to his current profession began with a magic trick. When he was 4 years old, his brother showed him a trick in which he put a coin in his mouth and pulled it out of his ear.
Domask thought he could do better. His plan was to transform a penny in his mouth into a piece of clay getting pulled out of his ear. The trick ended three months later with a trip to the hospital, getting the ear clay professionally removed. Still, he was determined to be a magician. Until he actually met a few magicians.
“They all seemed to share these certain traits that I didn’t identify with, so I thought, ‘I don’t think I want to be a magician. I think I want to be magic,’” Domask said.
Domask’s father taught him to juggle, and he brought that skill to college, starting a juggling club at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
A psychology major, Domask intended to go to grad school after earning his undergrad and becoming a professor. He earned his undergrad, but he never went to grad school. It was an audition and an acceptance into an improv troupe that would bring him on his next journey.
He and two others from the group travelled to the Renaissance Festival here in Minnesota to perform.
“The audience is quick to tell you if you’re good or not, they can just walk away, and that’s what they did to us,” Domask said. “I tried to make up for it, and I still feel like I’m trying to make up for that first awful performance sometimes.”
After some time, a person Domask holds in esteem called him a clown. He saw himself as a juggler, not a clown, but if this person thought he was, what did that mean?
So, Domask did his research.
“I learned the actual history and the art and the philosophy of clowns. It’s this idea of approaching the world through love and seeing the boundaries that people set up for themselves and for society and pushing on them,” Domask said.
To Domask, the clown can be seen as almost a scapegoat for society. The clown also doesn’t need to always be happy, but rather a way for people to see feeling reflected, understood and validated.
Once he became a clown, he came across a quote saying that a great clown is an even greater mime. So, naturally, Domask was going to become a mime.
Before he could get into mime school, though, he’d have to wait a year. A year in which he made friends with a ballet instructor and studied classical ballet for a year.
After ballet, he went to mime school, and added another skill to his toolbox.
Still, he had that passion for teaching.
“I love to teach, I love to share, I love to go into classrooms,” Domask said. He loves to teach people to follow their wants, to follow their curiosity, whether that be a future in academics or something else.
“I’m a teaching artist. It’s always a little interesting teaching. How do you teach to push on those boundaries but also allow them to stay within those lines and not push them until they’re ready,” Domask said.
Since the end of December, Domask has been teaching pretty much nonstop. Prior to that, 2017 was the year of theater, in which Domask wanted to explore what it meant to be an actor. He was in a show called “Nature,” which explores the friendship between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Domask was performing straight through July to December. After being immersed in performance and teaching, Domask is using his time in Fergus Falls to revitalize himself.
“This comes at the perfect time where I’m broken down and drained of performing and teaching, the two things I love the most. It’s like, well, what do I do now?” Domask said.
While here, he hopes to replenish, rediscover, possibly try to write a show, practice, research and maybe get involved in some playful mischief around town. He hopes to bring some fun to the kids through the workshops and bring some joy to those he’ll meet.
He’s followed his own curiosity around the world and back – making memories, gaining friends, figuring out how to be a clown in love and generally trying to figure out what it means to just exist as himself and as this performer in so many capacities.
“The curiosity of the clown, of the mime, of the artist, of the juggler, of the person who thinks they’re magic is both wonderful and burdensome,” Domask said.