Educational clowning is a new kind of clown care and taking part in this developing arena is oh-so-much-fun.
One recent afternoon, pint-sized people came to try out after-school activities at a local community center in Tel Aviv. There was a movement class and a sorta-ballet class on offer.
These little people were excited and nervous; happy and angry; hot, tired and hungry. The parents shared many of the same feelings, with strain and exhaustion topping their lists.
A fellow therapeutic clown and I were there to greet them. Upon seeing us, the bigger people smiled. Some of the little ones were immediately happy, others needed a few staring bouts to figure out if they liked us or not.
Some of the littles took time to warm up to us. By the end of their visit to the community center – after they had tried the activities – we were the hit of the party.
Kids queued up to have a turn at playing a toy accordion I had brought with me. It used to belong to my now 11-year-old son.
Together with my colleague, we started impromptu dance parties to the uncoordinated sounds of said accordion.
It was extraordinarily hot and stuffy in the community center lobby area. It was also crowded. But there is no doubt that some of the annoyance and tension was alleviated by the presence of two women dressed up as kids with red rubber noses in the middle of their faces.
Kids are naturally curious and they had dozens of questions and things to say to us. There were debates on whether our red rubber noses were real; whether we were big kids or someone dressed up; whether we were really in need of help from them or if we were pretending (but they helped anyway).
The littles wanted to see what I had in my bag – I had a skipping rope (for limbo), a toy horse and cow. Because, as I explained to them in all seriousness, you never know when you’ll need a toy horse or cow in your knapsack.
Medical clowning is already part of today’s jargon.
Party clowns are accepted, too.
Educational or social clowning is the new trend in clown care. It is about taking a situation – any situation – and taking out the “rules” of society, the stress, the tension.
Being a clown affords you to be a kid all over again. It is about seeing the world from a child’s perspective. Seeing the world for the first time.
Being a clown is a wake-up call to your senses. It is a platform to really experience the world we, adults, take for granted.
Being a clown means I can pretend that I’m an idiot, that I don’t understand anything, and asking people around to help me comprehend how things work.
At the community center there was also a library. A pint-sized boy showed me the way. He told me that in the library there were lots of books but that he was going to play computer games. I asked if I could watch him play. He was thrilled. He walked in with confidence, saddled up to a computer and sat to play. His mom had to explain that he chose a broken computer and that the black screen was not a good sign. But I was there to cheer him on. I told him he was amazing at getting in the library and finding a free seat in front of a computer terminal. He did it perfectly. And he was indeed pleased with my interpretation of the situation.
Meanwhile, the librarians got a big kick out of me as well.
Asked why I was there, I said that an educational clown needs to be educated and seeing books on shelves was a surefire way to succeed. They agreed. So, we took photos with books in the backdrop.
So, I can’t juggle or make balloon animals. But I can take a situation and break it down into its most simplistic form and, together with those sharing the circumstances, figure out how to navigate it from zero.
It doesn’t matter how people react -- I respond and compensate their experiences.
There really is no bad situation. Everything can be fodder for the next move. Social clowning is like a chess game with no set rules. You move one-step forward; I may follow or add to your idea.
For the clown, for me, it is a freeing experience within society’s unwritten rules.
We live very stressful lives. Being a clown allows me to disrupt some of this tension.