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!

Clown Me In 2018 Tour Performance We Must Clown

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!