Craig left me a comment about my experience as a clown. Particularly, he asked me if I told bad puns while I clown. The short answer to his question is no. But since he asked and stirred up the memories, I thought it might be fun to stroll down memory lane a bit.
I joined Acts 29 (my campus’s travelling ministry project that involved puppeteering, clowning, and similar activities) when I was in my sophomore year at Susquehanna. Though I didn’t really get all that involved with the group until my junior year. That’s when the project moved into a house on University Avenue. I shared the one downstairs bedroom with my roommate, Gerry. I immediately got involved in puppeteering and clowning. I enjoyed both, but in some ways, I enjoyed clowning the most.
I inherited one of the four or five clown costumes the project had. My friend Merion had actually used it the year before I became an active member, and it fit me quite well. I also went out and got a rainbow-colored wig to go with it and started working on a design for my facepaint. Unfortunately, I don’t remember everything I included, though I do remember I’d always draw a blue star on my one cheek. I always had such hard time with that, too. I was such a perfectionist, and I’d spend a few minutes trying to get the star “just right” before finally giving up and letting it go with however it looked. Don’t get me wrong, it always looked fine, really. At least no one ever complained or asked “what’s that blue splotch supposed to be?”
Acts 29 almost always did silent clowning. (The only time our clowns spoke was when they performed at the home for developmentally challenged individuals in Selinsgrove. We felt it was necessary to bend our rules of silence for the sake of being better able to get our message accross to our audience in those cases.) Our clowning mainly consisted of small skits with some sort of message. For example, we had this one skit called “Return to Sender.” For this skit, one of the clowns would take a big red heart and tape i to their chest, over where their own heart would be. Then the skit would begin. Through a series of events, each of the other clowns would be mean or thoughtless to her (I say “her” because more often than not, Amanda’s clown character, Rosy would play the part of the clown being hurt). For example, we might not let her join in a game we’re playing. Or we might get mad at her for a mistake she made and push her away. And each time one of these things would happen, she would tear another little piece off her heart. Near the end of the skit, her paper heart would be nothing more than small shreds. At this point, she would be very sad until she got an idea. She would then grab an envelope, put the torn heart into it, and seal it up. Then she would write on the front of the envelope “To God” in big black letters so everyone in the audience to see. Then she’d give it to someone (usually one of the non-clown facilitators that was accompanying the group) to send to God. A bit later, the same person would come back with another sealed envelope. The clown would open it up and find a new, untorn paper heart in it. Of course, all the other clowns would see this and get excited and everyone would hug and make up and play together.
I think that my favorite experience as Bobo (my clown name) was when we decided to write our own Christmas skit. It was a particularly interesting skit because we integrated a number of our ministry forms together. In this skit, we involved clowns, puppets, and at least one “normal person” part. (That part was the poor narrator who had to try to keep the whole thing together. In that skit, Bobo ended up playing the part of Joseph (we were re-enacting the nativity scene after all). And things just weren’t going well. The narrator would tell Rosy (playing the part of of Mary) and I to go to Bethlehem. Well, being two clowns, we immediately pulled out our map and started trying to find out how to get to Bethlehem. We would both sit there running our fingers over the map trying to find it (usually not looking in the same place). Usually, we’d end up turning the map as if we had it upside down for good measure. I loved that gag.
Needless to say, the whole experience didn’t get any better. Not only could Rosy and Bobo not find Bethlehem, but our Shepherd (another clown) couldn’t find her sheep (though she was able to find a cow and a duck, to the annoyance of the narrator), one of the wise men was sick and couldn’t make it, and above all else, we ended up forgetting the baby Jesus. This last put the narrator into absolute hysterics until our lovely Shepherd (played by Amy’s clown character, whose name escapes me at the moment) bring out one of her animals. Rosy immediately falls in love with it and decides it can stand in for the baby Jesus, and we ended the skit with a very sweet — if unusual — nativity scene.
I think the other thing I liked about clowning was the playtime. You see, before any service or event began, the clowns were given free reign. While people would be coming in, we had the honor of running around the place with our variou toys (after all, like any good clown troop, we had a suitcase full of them) playing and being silly. We’d be playing kazoos, blowing bubbles (which the children always loved to pop — and so did the clowns), and finding all kinds of make believe games to be playing with a simple length of rope.
Ah, the memories. I haven’t thought about my days as a clown in a long time. I enjoyed the stroll through the past.