Comic Relief Tour
April to June
In these tours, supported by Payasos Sin Fronteras, we performed 50 shows between April 13 and 25th, and from May 5th to June 14th reaching an audience of over 3000 persons. These tours were a continuation of the Comic Relief tour that started in 2020 after the Beirut explosion that happened in August.
After long months of isolation and lockdowns due to the rising numbers of positive Covid-19 cases, we picked up rehearsals again by March 2021.
We made use of our time in isolation by meeting online, discussing ideas for our new show and even rehearsing from a distance. Our first actual in-person rehearsals took place on March 11th and we couldn’t be more excited to see one another’s faces again and be in the same space, even with masks.
After tireless days of rehearsals, our show was ready to hit the streets. The scenes included important themes like friendship, love, fear, mental health, pollution, and recycling among others. It also included our usual magical not-so-magic tricks, miming, gymnastics, singing, music, and hula hooping with a focus on audience interaction. And of course some live music.
We also divided the clowns into two groups to give a margin and replacement in case any of us were subjected to the virus. And for that, we followed up daily with our public health expert Sally Souraya. We also made sure with our partners on the ground to divide the children into smaller groups to avoid overcrowding the performance space.
Stories from the shows
Sirine, a girl living in a Syrian refugee camp across from the school we were performing at, felt responsible for saving Sabouny (Sabine’s clown) during the 2nd scene where she mimes being pulled by strong wind through her umbrella. She would come up on stage and hold Sabouny’s hand to keep her from being blown away. Ever since that day, Sirine never missed a show when we performed in the school near where she lives. She made it her duty to save Sabouny every single time that when we moved to a different location, all the clowns expected Sirine to show up and lend a helping hand. That actually made us ask for the audience to help in every single show, and this little action from Sirine toured with us in all the shows.
In Majdel Anjar, we met a 60 year old Syrian refugee who watched our show four consecutive times with his children. He is a clock smith and everyone knows him in the village.
He said: “With all the difficulties we’re facing everyday, one should never miss a chance to laugh”
And we can’t agree more!
On May 5th, 2021 at the largest public green space of the city, Horsh Beirut. The kids were waiting for us and as soon as they saw us walking with our props they welcomed us with claps and shouts.
The show was filled with pleasant surprises, like Sarah, a girl with down syndrome, who was invited to one of the scenes by Saher (Samer) to participate in a musical rhythms scene and she directed the scene as if she had rehearsed it with us. Sarah confidently cheered up everyone and started inviting everyone to join in with her: “Yalla! Get up! Dance! Yalla!”
Her energy was infectious.
On May 7th, we performed in Ouzai, one of the poorest slums of the southern suburbs of Beirut. The vibrantly painted walls and graffiti matched the audience’s energy. We ran a musical parade around the area and during the interactions before the show, a woman stood up from the crowd and asked us to approach the kid in the wheelchair next to her. Mohammad had terminal cancer and had missed his chemotherapy session that day just to watch the clowns and laugh.
On the last day of this tour, May 22, and while we were setting up the space for the performance, the facilitators of Movement de la Jeunesse in Nabaa asked us to leave the space because the kids had prepared a surprise for us.
We obliged and left the space but we felt their giggles and whispers. When we came back, they surprised us with the biggest smiles on their faces and bright red noses on their cute faces. One of them even shouted “ We are clowns too, in fact WE ARE ALL CLOWNS!”
On May 27th in The Golf club – Ghobeiry in the southern suburbs of Beirut, one girl, Andrea, came to the stage before the show and stood next to us. She told Sabine all she wanted to do was be with the clowns even if she doesn’t have a red nose. Her confidence and determination made Sabine agree and she spent the whole performance next to us and played along with excitement.
After the show, Andrea stuck around her favorite clown, Sabine, and told us that she decided to change her nickname from Bissi (arabic for cat) to Sabine’s clown name Sabouny (arabic for soap)
In the last two days in the Beqaa, children were happy to see and play with us, before, after, or even during the show. But what usually grabs us the most is when adults let go of their serious adult masks they are forced to wear every day and interact with us. During one of the shows, we invited an old man to one of the scenes. He played like a child, smiling and giggling and having fun. This is what we love the most, to remind people to laugh and play, even in the toughest time, especially during this tough time people in Lebanon are going through. It is fascinating how a little laughter can help people change their mood and perception of things, and how clowning can be an ageless and limitless source of joy.
Comic Relief Tour
October to December
Even after all what Lebanon was going through, 2021 still packed one disaster after the other. In August, barely 10 days after the first memorial of the Beirut explosion, Akkar (north Lebanon) suffered through a gas explosion killing many men and left children and women orphaned and widowed. In October, Beirut had a day of shootings in one of its busiest places (Tayyouneh) where there were so many schools. Children were hiding in the hallway, crying and traumatized.
Supported by Clowns Without Borders – Sweden (CUG) we were able to provide more relief performances to those in distress. We had 21 performances in 11 days to an audience of 2924 persons.
In one of the schools in Beirut that was close to the shootings of Tayyouneh in October, one of the children saw the closed black umbrella we use as a prop in the hands of one of the clowns. He shouted: “Please don’t shoot me!”
The clown opened the umbrella to start the scene and it automatically became a magical object that transposed the boy and the audience into a world of dreams and playfulness.
When there’s play, there is no place for trauma!
Mona al Hallab, the principal of the Santa Maria school in Chiah, was watching the performance from a balcony in her office. Each time someone came to her, she would attend to them then rush back to continue watching the rest of the scenes.
After the performance, she told us: “You brought joy to these kids. Watching them hide in our corridors broke our hearts. Thank you!”
And after our Tripoli shows, we heard many heartwarming comments :
“Bilal”, a member of the Tripoli municipality. He said, “I feel the Lebanese people forgot about Tripoli.
Our neighborhoods are extremely poor and we have always been in conflict.
No activity was held for our children all year. Our kids weren’t able to be part of any event and this is not fair for them. Please come back and perform more. We really need you here!”
“Please don’t go. We could arrange a house for all of you here (in Tripoli) so we could watch your show everyday.”
“When you were moving together in the first scene, you reminded me of everyone who was trying to migrate by sea. It is difficult how much pain they go through. And some of them don’t even make it alive. My brother was one of them. I lost him.”
We could feel the impact of our work when we hear stories from the partners we work with. Parents told them that they noticed their children playing similar games to ones they’ve seen the clowns do, or rehearsing scenes they’ve watched in the show from memory. A lot of them took photos and videos during and after the show, to keep for memory or to share with others. Some parents with their children have found us on social media and sent us messages telling us how happy they were, or making a comment when they see a photo from a show that we performed in their area.
Each story and incident brings back a little bit of magic to both of us
Payasos Sin Fronteras (Clowns Without Borders – Spain) had been supporting Clown Me In to perform around Lebanon for the past months. It was time for them now to join for an on-ground collaboration. After more than a year of travel restrictions, Moi de Tiana and Albert Denguito landed in Lebanon to spread more laughter and joy with Sabine and Ghalya from Clown Me In, in neighborhoods in Saida, south of Lebanon.
Over 7 days in December 2021, the teams performed 15 shows in public squares, schools, refugee camps, and nursing homes. Our shows have always catered to children from age zero and beyond. And this was no exception.
The tour was able to reach the hearts of more than 2100 individuals who enthusiastically applauded during and at the end of every performance. The Spanish team was able to witness and understand the reality of people living in Lebanon firsthand. We both have gratitude for being able to do this and we have received so much love from those we have been in contact with throughout the tour.
“Lebanon suffers and resists, there it continues to advance in an endless economic crisis and armed conflicts always on the verge of breaking out, but we have received hospitality, gratitude and kindness.
We felt safe and loved. We return with full satisfaction, with negative PCR and intact nose, brighter, prettier and happier!
A thousand thanks to Magda, Marta, Car, Moises, Sabine, Ghalya, Amar, Abdul, Rita, Yahia, Clown Me In and all the members of PSF who allow us to continue dreaming of a world without borders!”