In the early morning mist of Chiapas
we slowly drive down Huitepec Mountain
passing wood fire smoke and indigenous women in file leading their goats to town.
We are 2 & 1/2 clowns preparing for the first of 15 performances in Chiapas Mexico.
Upon our arrival we are shown to the basketball court where we will perform.
My partner Lisa Da Boit and my 4 year old daughter Luna Maya ready themselves by
applying fake mustaches and dark eye brows. I load my pockets with balloons, confetti
and my thumb tip. We are dressing in a dark storage room with no windows or mirrors.
This scene will replicate itself wherever we perform complete with dusty brooms and
toilet cleaning supplies. Outside on the playground 400 plus students swarm about like drunken wasps. The school bell rings and the children disappear into the many identical classrooms that populate the school. Our audience today is predominantly displaced indigenous children who have found themselves in the inner city of Tuxtla Gutirrez, the capital city of half a million people. They have left the highlands in search of work with their families. More than a quarter of the children work on the streets selling everything from hand made artisan crafts to cigarettes and chicklets bubble gum. They often divide their day by working in the morning and going to school in the afternoon, or vice versa. It is only now that they are allowed to behave as children; laughing, screaming and joking about. Our show begins with me carrying a medium sized suitcase onto the basketball court. I put the suitcase down and begin to read my newspaper (yes! we still do the newspaper routine). Suddenly the suitcase opens up by itself and a chicken’s head appears and begins to animate. When i look inside the suitcase my hat disappears. Finally out comes a very small clown with my hat and a little fake mustache. The children howl as the little clown abuses me and makes mischief of one kind or another. Our little act takes 7 minutes to perform but disarms our audience immediately. We will have no problem getting audience volunteers later in the show. When the performance resumes I am again interrupted by another clown. This one too has a fake mustache and acts as the provocateur. We blur the lines of clown theater and dance theater; creating a show that often times defies description. Yet the outcome is always the same: happy children who hunger for more! 45 minutes later we take our bows and sublimely leave the basketball court carrying all of our suitcases and holding a magical umbrella that drips real rain water. It is now that we are mobbed by the throngs of delirious children. Someone invariably asks for an autograph and we spend the next half hour signing small pieces of paper and old notebook covers. And of course there will always be the child who asks how i made disappear a small scrap of red cloth. And so begins the un-official workshop of teaching children how to be children again. Of how to use their imaginations and make the impossible possible. We are heroes and movie stars for this short time until we disappear down the road again, the red rouge still smeared on our cheeks. We collectively catch our breaths, tuck in our shirts, re-load our pockets and prepare for the next show. The only thing that will change is the name of the school, the name of the road, the name of the town. Life goes on… The world turns, the day turns into night and night into day. The next morning these same children will wear the same clothes and eat the same breakfast of beans, tortillas and cafe con leche, and trudge to school as poor as the day before. The only difference is that they are practicing their slight of hand trick of making a stone disappear from their hand. And for sure there will be a small girl with a fake mustache smiling as she skips her way to school.
In the early morning mist of Chiapas