In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, struck The Bahamas. The impact included massive power outages, infrastructure destruction and at least 70 deaths. Thousands of Bahamians and migrant Haitian workers continue to live in temporary housing. Meredith Gordon made his CWB – USA debut on this tour. He writes about the clowns’ first week of shows in Nassau.
On Monday we head to the facility where we’ll do our shows and workshops. The staff greet us when we arrive and take us on a tour of the shelter. It’s in a basketball gymnasium next to a bigger athletic facility. The shelter residents stay in the basketball gym and in tents next to the gym. We clown for some of the kids while we’re shown around, and it turns into a “follow the clown” situation as kids play along with me, Leora and Clay.
Clay and I are wearing our clown noses and one of the kids asks to see Clay’s nose. Clay tells the child that he already has a clown nose, pointing out a bottle cap from a water bottle. Eventually, the boy finds a string and manages to tie the bottle cap onto his nose, matching our clown noses. The string is a little tight for his face, but he makes it work.
Later, we practice making juggling balls with balloons and sand. Tomorrow we’ll start our juggling and game workshops.
Today the three of us work on our show in the morning by putting pieces of our different acts into one cohesive structure. We still have some work to do to finish the final show order, but we make significant progress. In the afternoon, we head back to the shelter for a workshop with the kids. We make juggling balls using the sand and balloon method. The kids are enthusiastic, sometimes a little over-excited, and there are lots of smiles when they finish making their balls.
There’s a group of six or seven teenage boys in the workshop. They leave a unique impression on me as they’re mature and calm beyond their years. Even though there were some very enthusiastic young kids at the workshop, the teenagers waited patiently as we managed the younger kids.
In the afternoon, Leora starts some fun activities with the children while Clay and I work on the juggling balls. The sun is setting as Leora leads the kids in a circle for games and dancing. Tomorrow we’ll return for an adult workshop in the morning and another workshop in the afternoon with the kids. Our show is on Thursday.
We finish our week in Nassau Bahamas today. We taught several workshops over the course of the week and ended our time here with a show on Thursday evening.
It takes us a while to find the best show location at the shelter, because our original plan to do it outside the entrance is not going to work. Over the course of the week we were able to get used the shelter’s constant state of change. As we look around for a new spot, we juggle and do hat tricks to get the attention of adults in the area. I toss my juggling hat on my head and then announce that I will throw the hat on someone else’s head. Several of the adults see us and ask for their turn, either tossing the hat or receiving it. It’s so refreshing to see the expression on some of these men and women. Many of them are sitting around, looking bored. To see the smiles on their faces is priceless.
Shortly after that we’re told we can do our show in a tent near the shelter. We start the parade to the show, playing music through the gymnasium. The residents are loving it. I see lots of smiles as we make our way across the gym floor. We also go to several other tents so we can announce the show to as many shelter residents as possible.
The parade gets people’s attention. The more we march around, the more people follow us. One of the men watched us during our hat tricks helps us carry our performance bags. By the time we get to the tent, we have a large group of children with us. Many of these children are familiar because they were in our workshops earlier in the week. But there are many unfamiliar adults too—they also want to see the show.
Clay, Leora, and I do the show we rehearsed…or at least as much of the show as we can. The children are very enthusiastic. We saw this kind of enthusiasm earlier in the workshops, so we’re not surprised. We manage to do every act except the finale juggling act.
After the show is over, we go back into the gymnasium. While we’re there, some of the Americares staff asks us to play music for several of the elderly residents in the shelter. We start to play a song for a Haitian woman in her 80s. However, she quickly takes over and sings a song for us. Later I see Leora dancing with this woman. I start to sing “What a Wonderful World,” by Sam Cooke, and I’m surprised when a 10-year-old boy sings the lyrics with me.
One of the Americares workers says that she’s impressed because the adults got up and came to the show, and laughed along with the kids.
Tomorrow morning we fly to Freeport for a week of more shows!