Clowns cluster together with their red noses on, to take a selfie

Caring For the Whole Community

CWB – USA embarks on a three-year partnership with Diyar Theatre, a Bethlehem-based dance company. During the first week, CWB clowns Michael O’Neill and Ania Upstill lead workshops for artists interested in developing their clowning skills. 

Ania writes about the incredible camaraderie they’ve witnessed among the Palestinian artists. 

Growth

We’ve already seen so much growth in our Palestinian students, after only four days of teaching. Some of it is due to their talent and some of it comes from experience they bring to the room. But I think a huge part of it is the incredibly supportive environment they’ve created for each other.

From the beginning, the students have been encouraging towards one another. For the first few days, a particular student was hesitant to show anything in front of the class. His fellow studentswould chant his name until he went up, and then clap wildly when he was done. By day four, he volunteered to go first to show what he had been working on—and we still all chanted his name.

That’s just one example, and there are too many instances to count. A real sense of support and camaraderie pervades the rehearsal room in a way that I’ve never witnessed before. There’s no sense of competition, or any sense that the more experienced students feel superior. Instead, everyone legitimately seems to want the group to succeed. It’s really amazing, and so generous of them. I can’t but help attribute it to Palestinian culture. I get the sense that here, you care for the whole community, not just for your own well-being.

Beyond the Rehearsal Room

This goes further than the rehearsal room. While some of the students did know each other before the course started, most of them were strangers—but you would never know it. They were all chatting happily together by lunchtime on the first day. Granted, I have absolutely no idea what they were saying, but it certainly sounded like they were enjoying one another’s company. Similarly, one of the clowns told me and Michael that there are no homeless people in Palestine. People here might not be rich, but they end up pitching in to make sure everyone has a place to live.

Whatever exactly has engendered it, I can’t imagine a more cohesive, positive environment to teach clown. I can only hope to somehow recreate what I’m experiencing in Palestine the next time I teach.

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