Camilla and I arrived on Saturday, Very Tired. The warm air was a shock after the bitter cold of New York. Chris greeted us and had already made friends with the Bangladeshi police officers who were working for the UN. We are staying in Haiti Communitaire an amazing eco-community for NGO workers. Blan Pepe and Pe Bon Bout (Pay,-Bonne-Boot), two Haitian Comedians, were already there. After some lunch, we jumped right into a clown jam. They showed us two skits that they had developed, and we all did a little juggling practice.
After a much-needed nap, we were thrilled to attend the Haiti Communitaire holiday party. It was a wonderland of food and floral arrangements. It’s great to meet the other folks who are staying here (a lot of British ex-army, a guy who is developing water filters, another who builds houses). They asked us to do a show, and Chris boldly performed while Camilla and I were still too exhausted. I laughed at all of the jokes on my way to bed.
When we’re working with local artists, some things are just the same, and some things are so different. Our team leader, Chris, is really good at gauging the comfort level of the Haitian artists we are working with and making sure that we’re mindful of making sure their needs are met. The lunch we had together was the first time they had eaten in a few days. Chris does an excellent job making sure they are included and comfortable.
On Saturday Camilla and I woke up feeling shiny and brand new. Oh, sleep, the most beautiful! The team talked through show ideas while eating breakfast – which inevitably led to some breakfast partner-balances, clown games, and a lot of laughter.
With a rough sketch for the day, we set up on the roof for rehearsal and workshop practice with Pepe and Pay-Bon-Bout. Maurella, who we will work with later in the tour, stopped by to teach us a call-and-response song in Kreyole. The song is similar to “The Hokie Pokie” in that the lyrics call for the audience to do different activities (dance, run, jump). It is already a crowd favorite for Haitian children, and we had so much fun using it as the basis of our opening act. The song can be expanded and the lyrics modified to use any activity the singers want to add –imagination is the limit – though in our case, it might be our Kreyol.
Chris had to dip in-and-out throughout the day to continue setting up the rest of the tour. We were both surprised by how much I could communicate in French.
What’s special about our tour is how many different Haitian artists we will work with throughout the tour. Our goal is for the different parts of our show to be interchangeable so that we can always be including the new artists in our bits. It is wonderfully fun – and challenging – to make sure that each act is clear enough to teach and share.
Throughout the day the show evolved. As we got to know each other better, our timing improved. We knew when to stick with an idea to get the timing right, and when to put something aside. Some ideas are scrapped for good, and others we will continue to develop as we get to know each other.
Camilla and I started to practice some acro but did not perform it in our first show. With so much focus on the ensemble work, we didn’t have the kind of acro rehearsal we wanted to feel truly comfortable. Over the tour, as we get to know each other, we will continue to develop the piece.
None of us arrived with an agenda. All showed up with the intention to play, to make the audience have fun, to shine a light on each other. This means total ease in suggesting ideas, stepping forward to lead a skip, stepping back to rest. Every time we say we will take a break, we inevitably start talking about the show, which leads us back to clown shop. This leads to rehearsing in the road, the hallway, and the kitchen. And so, the show is born. We don’t know all of the acts that the Comedus Artists will share, and they haven’t seen all of our routines. Normally, I would feel a little concerned about this, but after such a wonderful day of play, I feel completely at ease. We have learned each other’s rhythms, developed trust for each other, and shared laughter.
Oh, what a difference a day makes.