Two clowns perform outside, in front of an audience gathered in the shade of a tree.

Returning to In-Person Program Programming

I have made the hard decision to cancel individual performances, and even complete tours, during my time at CWB. I cancelled a CWB performance in Haiti an hour before it was supposed to start. The team was standing at the venue when we realized we couldn’t carry through with the performances.

Performers often say, “The show must go on,” but choosing when to cancel is a balancing act. At CWB, we make every effort to produce an incredible performance under improbable circumstances. We travel to communities by boat, horse, and foot. We wade through rivers and ride motorcycles up steep, mountainous tracks. We travel to communities because they have experienced political unrest, violence, or a natural disaster…and sometimes those same situations force us to retreat (as we did following the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey) or change our itinerary (which we do on almost every tour!).

COVID-19 has only made us better at quick-changes. I cancelled our March, 2020 tour shortly before the clowns departed for Colombia. Last week, CWB wrapped a tour to Chihuahua, Mexico. We cancelled a show because a new COVID-19 case was reported in a town where we were scheduled to perform. Last night I made the final call to continue our upcoming tour in Ecuador.

Our team spent weeks going back and forth with our project partners. We asked ourselves, “Is it safe? Is it responsible? What about the Delta variant?” We have public health experts on our Board of Directors who advised the decision-making process. For now, the show will go on until our team decides that it’s unsafe to continue. Going ahead with the tour means that I will ask every day: “Is it still safe?”

In many ways, these are the same questions I asked pre-COVID-19. I continue to follow the main pillars of CWB: We trust our  partners. We go where invited. The audience comes first. We’re just keeping our quick-change a little closer at hand.

How We’re Making Decisions:

We trust our partners.

We are working with HIAS, UNHCR, JRS, and FUDELA. Our partners are all committed to the health protocols we have agreed on, including limited audiences, outside performances, and no physical audience/performer interactions.

We go where we’re invited.

We trust our partner Corporaci0n Humor y Vida, and the NGOS who have invited us to perform within their communities. We planned and imagined versions of this tour with an Ecuadorian-only team of clowns, and ultimately decided to continue with the international team based on feedback from our partners and the clowns.

The audience comes first.

Audience safety is paramount. Clowns Without Borders’ artists have unique privileges that the audience might not have: The ability to leave a crisis situation. A passport. Access to medical care or, in this case, a vaccine. We know that it is our responsibility to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 to vulnerable populations. That’s why this tour includes a daily artist’s health check, and daily evaluation of whether the show will continue.


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