Clowning Through the Revolution!

What a time to be a clown! We’ve been trying really hard to keep up with our politicians since October 17th, but they’re really proving to be the ultimate competition. 

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Photo by Nadim Kamel during the Clown Walk

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Photo by Jocelyn Daoud

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Due to the circumstances, we took a short break between October and November to be on the streets with everyone else, marching in the protests and performing for people in the streets (it’s what we do best, after all!), as well as helping keep the human chain in line! 

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We also gave a free workshop, led by Giovanni Fusetti, which was open to any caring citizen wishing to explore the connection between the theatre and political, social and environmental action, both on an intellectual level and in an experimental, playful way. The workshop was a great success, and the number of people wanting to sign up made us realise how much we can do to help, in our own way! We’ll be utilising our new space over the course of the new year to host free, monthly, open workshops and other sessions to help people deal with the stress of the current situation, so keep an eye out on our social media channels to find out when they’ll be happening!

 

House of Peace: Art of Being Workshop

This year (2019), we had the pleasure of collaborating with House of Peace (Dar el Salam) on a project called Art of Being, in which 20 men and women of different backgrounds and nationalities from around Lebanon went through a year-long arts-based training program relating to children’s rights. The participants got to decide what three mediums or approach they wanted to focus on to receive more in-depth training to create awareness campaigns and initiatives around different themes that interest them. 

And that’s where we come in! Those who wanted to learn more about the art of clowning received training with none other than our Clown-In-Chief, Sabine Choucairwith some of our other clowns jumping in too– to learn how to use clowning to communicate important issues.

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Nine of the twenty participants began their training to find their inner clowns, as well as proposing the themes they wanted to tackle. They worked to conceptualize and create a half-hour show around the themes of education, hygiene, and bullying. This show toured in five different locations: Padova in Sin El Fil, Madraset Dammeh in Ghazze, Dar el Aytam and in the village of Bodai in Baalbak. 

Besides learning to communicate these topics in a new way, our new-found clowns also learned a lot about themselves and how to overcome many of their own personal obstacles. A lot of them expressed how they learned to feel comfortable in their own skin, especially in front of a crowd. Fears or anxieties about speaking in front of an audience, letting loose, and even putting on the red nose slowly melted away as the new clowns came to terms with their insecurities and actually used them to their advantage.

The Art of Being clowns were happy and surprised to learn that it wasn’t just kids who enjoyed their performances. Residents of Bodai told them that they had only ever seen clowns on TV, so they were absolutely thrilled when they found out that they were getting a live performance in their town.

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Some of the clowns enjoyed the experience so much that they’re still performing as clowns for children on their own, and even giving beginner workshops for the youth. That’s one of the things we love most about what we do: instilling the same love for this art in people, who in turn pass it on to others! It’s kind of like a virus, really. Symptoms may include uncontrollable laughter and extreme silliness. 

 

Let’s Laugh Workshop FEB 2019

Because we want to spread clown culture as far and wide as possible, we sometimes give short workshops for anyone interested in discovering and bringing their inner clown to life. We had 12 participants sign up for our intensive, five-day Let’s Laugh workshop in February with Sabine Choucair, where they learned how to build their clown characters and personalities through different games and activities. 

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This is what Monif, one of the participants, had to say about the experience:

Joining the workshop with Clown Me In has opened many doors for me, both perceptually and personally. I have begun exploring a new side of myself, a side which initially resisted the idea of letting out my inner child. That resistance fell away as I confronted myself, and one small clown step at a time, we all began to define our clowns’ characters, and saw the team’s true colors flourish. 

We had daily routines as part of the workshop, playing games like Mr. Hit, the impersonated Simon-Says game: “Jacques a dit”, and sometimes just a little of a very loud round of Screaming Tag. These games always helped get us into character so that, day by day, we could build on the previous steps. We were always ecstatic to discover what we would have coming up, as we were not only building our clown-selves for those moments, but are actually using that process until today. I feel like my personality fused with the teachings of the workshop to produce a new version of myself. This has kept me wanting to clown outside of the workshop, so I now look for every opportunity I can get!

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Our New Location

One of our biggest achievements this year is acquiring our own location: CLOWN ME IN THE HOUSE!

In the past year and a half, we changed 3 different locations, each time packing and unpacking and reorganize all our clown gear. Not going through the details of the past 12 years 🙂
Can you imagine how much clown gear we have? All our fun props, hoops, costumes, kazoos and crazy stuff that you might find  in a clown’s bag? 😂

But finally, WE MADE IT.

The new space is serving as our Clown Me In rehearsals space used for Clown shows, The Caravan Project, and of course as the very very serious classroom for the students and teachers of IIVVSS

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The new location is supported by SintraCo who offered us the space,
and Fondation SESAM and DROSOS who partially funded the furnishing of the interior.

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Cleaning and setting up the space in September by the clowns

Clown Me In 2018 Tour Performance We Must Clown

Clown Tour 2018

Our Clown Tour for 2018 was a huge success, with 24 clowns reaching over 4,600 people through 25 performances in 10 days all over Lebanon. That’s a fancy way of saying that it was absolutely incredible!

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Photo from the last show by Diego Ibarra Sanchez

This tour usually comes after our We Must Clown workshop, a program aimed at giving free workshops to young people from different backgrounds and give them the opportunity to express themselves through clowning, then join the regulars of Clown Me In as part of the yearly tour.

All 24 clowns went on tour from October 24 to November 4, in Choueifat, Tannourine, Akkar, Tripoli, Barr Elias, Tyre, Saida, Aley, Deir El Qamar, suburbs of Beirut, and several areas around Lebanon (check the full schedule for location details). We performed in refugee camps, schools and public spaces, spreading happiness and laughter to kids and adults of all ages.

Since we’re all about getting new people involved, we were happy to have not only new clowns, but also a guest trainer, Stephen Sobal, from the All In Theatre in London. Sabine and Stephan worked together, supervising and training the clowns, building on improvised scenes – bit by bit – to create the performance and link the ideas together, based on themes that are important to the clowns that we wanted to share with the communities we would be visiting. Recycling, hygiene and the environment were the main topics we tackled. Language barriers didn’t stop anyone from laughing and having fun. Clowning is, after all, a universal language of its own.

“Laughter is important because people sometimes forget to be happy”
الضحك مهم لأنو الإنسان بينسى مرات يكون مبسوط”
Man from Deir el Ahmar after watching the show

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The experience was in itself great for everyone involved and they came away having learned something new about themselves and others. This really showed through in the performances, where us clowns were challenged by audience interaction, having to listen and engage with them as well as helping, supporting and communicating with one another, all in the spirit of teamwork.

Everyday on tour was a road trip, with us together in 2 or 3 big cars, singing songs and playing Souk Oqqaz and improv games as we drove all over Lebanon. We even got stuck in mud on the way to some of the refugee camps that were sometimes difficult to reach. Good thing some clowns are professional (not really) off-road drivers, too. The fact that these places are sometimes so difficult to reach remind us that it’s really important to take the time to get there, because the kids are so excited to see us and so happy to watch the show. They also asked us over and over if we could come back more. Some kids we surveyed at the end said they’d want to see a clown show EVERY DAY if they could!

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The excitement level from the kids never dropped, even in schools that get regular access to artistic and cultural events (Yes, we do have tools for measuring these things scientifically, in case you were wondering). The kids were always focused and immersed in the experience, even in the places we had already visited before on different tours.

Dahr El Moghr, in Tripoli, is a village built on a hill that can be reached by climbing a whooooole lot of stairs. Our visit wasn’t expected, so we started calling out for people to gather. The kids who saw us coming up the stairs were so excited that they were actually the ones who got everyone gathered in the square within ten minutes, filling up not only the square but also the roads all around it with people watching all around from their balconies! Some of the kids even remembered which of us clowns were there last time, down to the details of what we were wearing!

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It’s these moments that mean a lot to us, and that keep us doing what we do. Kids who remember you even if they’ve seen you only once before, who are receptive to stories and messages that you’re trying to communicate, and who are sad to see you go. A lot of them always ask when the clowns are coming back, and the feedback we receive when we ask what they think of the shows is (no joke) overwhelmingly positive. The only kid who was actually unhappy with something was upset because he saw Sabine (the co-founder and clown) sitting on the side with her broken leg and felt bad for her!

“حبيت أصبح في المستقبل مثلهم”
“I’d like to be like them in the future”
Wasayef Muhammad, 10 years old, Arqa camp

The tour may be over (at least for this year 😉 ), but check out some of the highlights in this short video!

We’ll also be sharing a few short videos that were done as part of the We Must Clown workshop soon, so stay tuned!

 

The Tenth Performing the World (PTW)

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Sabine recently participated in the tenth Performing the World (PTW) conference that was held in New York City from the 21st till the 23rd of September, 2018.

Sabine gave a clowning workshop to more than 35 therapists and theatre practitioners. They talked and experimented on how to use different forms of art and theatre as therapeutic tools and forms of activism.

Performing the World is a platform that has a developmental attitude towards life by exploring and celebrating performance as a catalyst for human and community development and culture chance. The conference addresses the need to develop performance activism as an essential tool in developing the world: “We have to perform the world again because – and we’re all involved in this – this one stinks”, said co-founder Newman in 2008.

Sabine met some very inspiring people who led incredible initiatives all around the world, of which was Patch Adams, the comedian, activist, clown and author.

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Healthcare Clowning International Meeting

400 clowns from 50 different countries and 150 healthcare clown organisations gathered in Vienna for the very first Healthcare Clowning International Meeting hosted by Red Noses, and Sabine was one of them!

She was invited to give a workshop passing on methods she has used in Lebanon and elsewhere when working with refugees and disadvantaged communities. She led her workshop ‘We must clown: different artistic formats to engage with refugees’ on the first day of the conference for a group of 20.

Together they had a lot fun, playing games and engaging in focused exercises but they also talked about the use of clowning in crisis zones. They listened to stories recorded from children during The Caravan projects to help to contextualise the work that we do at Clown Me In and discussed the techniques we use.

“The conference was an incredible experience, all these awesome clowns gathered together in one space in a frenzy of silliness, laughter and practical jokes all in the context of a huge learning experience. It was fantastic to hear from so many very accomplished clowns working in healthcare clowning, leading fascinating and eye opening conversations about our form of art and performance, it’s techniques and effects.” – Sabine

Upon her return Sabine exclaimed that it was definitely one of the most fun conferences she had ever been to, and honestly who can blame her? An auditorium full of 400 clowns? Who wouldn’t want to be there!

Clown Protest

As clowns we tend not to be too dramatic about things, so when we cry or make a fuss you KNOW it’s for a good reason. Back in February we joined a protest (I know, I know, February was a long time ago – but we’ve been in mourning!) to express our extreme distress at the government’s solution to our ongoing trash crisis: to build an incinerator for Beirut! Apparently it’s not enough that our sea is drowning in trash, that our landscape is littered with plastic, that our food has become poisonous and that the air is filled with the exhausts of a million cars. Apparently now we must inhale the fumes of all the trash piled up and burning in our very own incinerator!

So we joined the demonstration, protesting in the only way we know to be effective: with a good dose of humour. We arrived with a goal and determination to break the Guinness World Record for the longest noose of trash. On our shoulders we bore an incinerator and around our neck was tied a noose. We hugged each other and sobbed loudly –

We were received with surprise and encouragement from the many people gathered on the streets of Beirut that day. A couple even asked us to include their infant in our procession which we did gladly, giving him a bright red clown nose and carrying him whilst we set up our Guinness World Record breaking noose of trash. The crowd was keen to take part, we placed the noose around one of our necks and with the help of enthusiastic (and sometimes weary) volunteers we held it up with a broomstick and started piling on the trash.

Our attendance at the demonstration is part of our long term clown commitment to living in a cleaner and healthier environment. You may remember us from the last protest we attended where we were interviewed by the press:

After everyone had packed up and gone home, we received a message from one of the organiser’s of the event who thanked us for our participation and intervention because we had transformed the protest from a dramatic and heavy on the heart event into something a little more enjoyable. It is always important to stand up for our rights. See you very soon on the streets, where we will be standing up for social justice with a little side of clown humour!

Clown Tour 2017!

We have just finished our 2017 Clown Tour of Lebanon and whilst we clowns recover from the 10 days of back to back performances we would like to take a minute to thank everybody who supported us through our generosity campaign and fundraisers and helped make this tour a reality. We went up and down the country, travelling hundreds of kilometres per day to perform in refugee camps, schools and public spaces spreading laughter and and love where it is most needed.

This tour was very different to our usual tour, along with our regular Clown Me In members (who you can find out more about here) we were joined by new clowns from We Must Clown, the project we launched this summer in collaboration with the Qattan foundation (click here to find out more) and also by Leah and Hannah from Clowns Without Borders USA. The entire show was devised in one week through intensive rehearsal sessions with all the clowns on board.
We included our favourite scenes from our old show but added new scenes tackling issues such as trash, honking, plastic surgery and hygiene.

We travelled up and down the country in and around Akkar, the Bekaa, Tripoli, Beirut, Sour, Saida and managed to perform for over 4600 children, teenagers and adults. The response we got was so positive and we really had to tear ourselves away from the kids at the end of each show, neither of us wanted to part ways!

For us the most important part of the tour is reaching kids who don’t usually have access to this kind of entertainment or activities. This is why before and after each show we spent as much time as we could walking around the camps and playing, dancing, clowning around and laughing with the kids and adults alike.

This tour was also different to our usual tours as we had brand new clowns with us every step of the way, and a slightly different team every day. We took the risk of having a less prepared and polished show in order to include new members of Clown Me In and what a difference that made! We were able to travel to and perform for their communities which created a bond between us, the performers, and the audience that you could never ordinarily achieve. For the audience, seeing someone they know and love arriving with the clown troupe makes the show extra special and meaningful; for the performer, bringing all these clowns to their community is a moment of pride and creates a bigger commitment to the show. And for the tour as a whole? It enables a series of really special moments unique to those specific shows and gives everyone that extra little boost when energy is running low.

Click here to find out more about We Must Clown.
Click here to find out more about our work with Clowns Without Borders.