Written by Hannah Gaff, updated by Maggie Cunha
So, you want to be a bit more clown? Valentine’s Day is a great day to practice your skills with the children (and adults!) in your life.
In the following post, Hannah Gaff, a seasoned CWB artist, recounts how a courageous girl from Lebanon introduces a delightful game. You’ll love hearing how Hannah responded.
Read to the end for downloadable “I Love You” game tips. (Happy V-Day from CWB!)
Keeping Watch is Key to Clowning
When I clown in the hospital or on the streets, I listen for the game — the gateway to making a vibrant connection with other humans.
I offer myself as an object of play and look to them to see what brings a spark to their eye, a change in their breath, or a giggle.
Sometimes we communicate with words, conversation, stories, or witty jokes. But often the play is non-verbal and we communicate simply through body language, emotion, and eye contact.
Being a Clown Can Start with a Game of Copycat
One day in Northern Lebanon (2018), fellow CWB artists and I performed three shows in the Akkar District near the Syrian border.
It stormed all morning, resulting in an impromptu performance at a school where kids could take a dry seat.
After the show, as we began packing up our props, one bold little girl ran up to me and threw her arms around my waist, squeezing tightly. I knelt and squeezed back. When I stood back up, she grabbed onto my arm and dragged me to the schoolyard.
Suddenly three more girls materialized, and we started a game of copycat: I performed a silly movement, and they repeated it.
The bold girl stayed with her arms wrapped around my waist, smiling and laughing up at me. Soon, ten more girls and a few boys gathered. We came up with a little song and dance, full of laughter and play.
“I Love You”: A Game to Change the World
My teammates had finished packing and loading the van and it was time to go. I told the kids goodbye and thank you in Arabic, but the little girl kept holding on.
When I knelt to give her a hug, she kissed me on the cheek and said, in clear English, “I love you!”
Her words surprised me.
Before I could respond, she said it again, more emphatically, “I. Love. You!” and squeezed me even tighter.
I responded, “I love you,” and blew her a kiss.
She repeated her words — and this time the kiss she threw was so powerful it knocked me backward!
Soon, the other kids joined in on the game.
I’d say, “I love you!” and blow a kiss that they’d all catch. Then they’d all yell, “I LOVE YOU!” and blow kisses that would knock me backward.
This continued until they cornered me against the van. Sensing the need to say goodbye, my little friend grabbed my arm, pulled me down, and gave me one last hug and kiss on the cheek.
I got in the van and waved from the window. I said, “I love you,” and blew one last kiss, which she caught and held to her cheek.
As the van pulled away, the group of kids chased us down the street, blowing kisses and laughing.
This one tiny heart came up with a game that could change the world: The I LOVE YOU game.
Your Turn to Be a Clown: Play the Game!
So you want to incorporate more play in your days, not just Valentine’s Day? Download these game tips, (which can serve as your cell phone wallpaper) for a gentle clown-ish nudge each day.
Just click on the image, download it to your phone, and then update your wallpaper!