CWB – USA board member Kolleen Kintz reflects on what it means to wear a red nose.
When I put on my red nose, the world gets brighter. It’s like the static frequency of the radio tunes in a bit more clearly, and suddenly…there’s music. There’s something about donning the nose that sharpens the senses. I experience a heightened level of awareness and a deep feeling of connectivity with the people around me. More than anything, my desire to play is awakened.
The red nose itself is an invitation to play. A friend and mentor of mine, Dody Disanto, will say in her workshops, “Ok, time to get your FUN out of the shoebox under the bed!” We all long to play, and some of us have let a little more dust settle on our shoebox than others. I believe it’s the role of the clown to invite play. That sense of joy and wonder, and the nose, are tools by which to do this. I put on my nose and I’m ready to be an ambassador of fun.
When volunteering for Clowns Without Borders, the communities we interact with are often recovering from natural disasters or living somewhere like a refugee camp. Children are the first people to lose their rights in situations like this. They lose the right to be a child. A clown performance might offer an hour of escapism for a four-year-old living in fear, and remind her of her capacity to experience joy. The same experience can have a profound effect on the parent of this child, getting to see their little one laugh again. I have witnessed this incredible transformation while spending time looking at the world through my red nose.
While the nose is a mask, the smallest mask in fact, it is all about amplifying the natural facial features and expressions of the person wearing it. The human being does not get lost behind the clown nose—rather, their humanity is amplified because of it. I often feel in touch with my truest self while wearing a red nose.
For me, so much of being a clown is about building relationships. Even if these relationships might be short, spanning the length of a performance, or an afternoon, they are deep. When I’m wearing my nose, I feel like people are more willing to let me into their world. This might mean sharing a meaningful glance with a child during a performance, offering my hand to a teenager as they climb onto their friend’s shoulders in an acrobatics workshop, or it could be as simple as listening to someone who needs to share their story. I feel it’s ultimately the red nose, and my open heart, that helps foster the trust for these relationships to exist.