The Zoom Room

Zoom used to be a word I used exclusively with the toddler in my life. We zoomed in the stroller. We zoomed as we animated a spoonful of peas into an airplane. We shrieked, “Zoom zoom!” while racing to put on our shoes. We solemnly observed trains, planes, and motorcycles, and agreed that they were zooming.

We zoomed, whooshed, zapped, bammed, and tra-la-lad our way through most activities.

I now say “ZOOM” more frequently and with much less delight.

Zoom is the place I am stuck while dreaming of the places I want to be.

Zoom is the place I am stuck while dreaming of the places I want to be.

I never expected Clowns Without Borders to have online programming. For me, the core of what we do is physical and in-person. Our shows transform spaces, inviting joy, community, and connection into places defined by pain, strife, and isolation.

Can we do the same with Zoom?

I’ve spent much of the past four months grieving. Each time I logged onto Zoom, even after Clowns Without Borders started online programming, I thought about what was missing. I planned to spend June in Lebanon and Palestine, participating in CWB’s partnerships with Clown Me In and Diyar Theatre. When Rami and I started talking about how we could continue our scheduled training for Palestinian clowns, we both lamented that it would be another year before we met in person. We did what so many producers are doing, and transitioned the program online.

I expected the workshops to be tinged with sadness. To my astonishment, they are full of delight.

 

I expected the workshops to be tinged with sadness. To my astonishment, they are full of delight.

Mondays are a time when ZOOM is a place of transformation.

On Mondays, Mike Funt and I join clowns from Lebanon and Palestine. Soon we will be joined by clowns from Jordan and Syria. Zoom might be the only room, in the whole world, where we can all gather.

Why? Here’s a gross oversimplification: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria border each other. Palestinians hold Palestinian Authority Passports, though Palestine is not recognized as a nation. Travel within, and between, all of these countries (territories) is restricted.

Lebanon prohibits entry from anyone with Israeli stamps in their passport. Israel classifies Lebanon as an enemy state and Lebanese passport holders may only enter Israel with a pre-arranged visa and special permission, which prohibits entry to Palestinian territories. The workshop could not happen in Israel, Palestine, or Lebanon.

Israel and Syria do not have diplomatic relations, making travel between the two countries almost impossible. The workshop could not happen in Syria.

Theoretically, the workshop could happen in Jordan, but only with an exceptional number of visas, and the participants putting themselves at personal risk. Palestinians’ travel is restricted within Israel. For a Palestinian Authority passport holder to get to Jordan, she needs both an exit visa from Israel and an entrance visa from Jordan.

I’m ashamed to admit that inviting other artistic partners didn’t occur to me until after the first two workshops with the Palestinian clowns. I was so focused on what I was missing—eye contact, standing in a circle, meeting Rami’s baby—that I didn’t think about the opportunity be truly without borders.

It hadn’t occurred to me that ZOOM has no checkpoints, no visas, no border crossings. Geopolitical boundaries are so ingrained into how I think.

It hadn’t occurred to me that ZOOM has no checkpoints, no visas, no border crossings.

We say we’re “Clowns Without Borders” but really, we’re clowns negotiating borders. COVID reminded me that the borders are also in our minds. It hadn’t occurred to me to have a training for Lebanese and Palestinian clowns in the same workshop. I had accepted that it wouldn’t be possible. I reinforced the border.

In its own way, the Zoom Room has become a place of play. It has also become a place of resistance. A place of resilience. And space for transformation.

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3 thoughts on “The Zoom Room

  1. this is inspiring and now i’m smiling. your passion is motivational and what you aim to do is admirable. “you nice, keep going.”

  2. Hi,

    Hi,
    I am working on writing a book about clowns and throughout my research I stumbled on the beautiful website. I am so excited about what you’re doing and can’t wait to learn more.

    1. Hi Yhohannah, thanks so much for your comment! We’d love to hear more about your book. Feel free to reach out at info[at]clownswithoutborders[dot]org

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