CWB – USA’s final tour of 2017 wraps up in St. Maarten. For this tour, a group of international Clowns Without Borders members, from the USA, UK and Brazil, came together to perform for the people of the island of St. Maarten, which was hit by Hurricane Irma earlier in 2017. Gabi Winter, one of our colleagues from Palhaços Sem Fronteiras describes what it’s like to see the devastation on the island.
A Balanced Team
We can’t exactly understand what’s going on here. Almost three months have passed since Hurricane Irma, and the island is almost rebuilt. But in this paradise, we still see houses without roofs, boats that flew away and cars piled on top of others. There’s little performing art here, so everything we do is powerful and new. A song on the guitar or playing with balls is like magic.
Our host, Albina, created a perfect situation for us. The logistics are working out so well. We’re in a very nice house, even though it has some water problems. There’s a restaurant called Pineapple Pete’s which is giving us food this week.
We do check-ins and fill out paperwork together, so we’re always discussing show details and our feelings about it. We’ve noticed that it’s important for Albina to talk to us about her experience of Hurricane Irma. She wants to tell us stories about it because we weren’t here. Our team is working well and generously together, and we have our first show where everyone participates in each other’s acts. Each time, it’s better. The team is balanced, as each of our moods are different. Everybody is so open-hearted, listening to each other and “putting their cards on the table” when we check in. We share everything, so as the team leader I don’t feel that I’m doing anything more than the rest of the group. They make it easy for me.
Destruction in Paradise
Today we have our first true contact with the community. We walk around a poor neighborhood, with a lot of damaged houses, and we meet many people who’re glad we’ve arrived. We hear stories about how St. Maarten residents are rebuilding their lives. It’s so difficult because the island’s economy was devastated by the hurricane. Restaurants and tourism are gone, for now.
A Few Shows In
We’ve performed six shows so far, and the feedback is great. A lot of schools were concerned about what we were going to do, in terms of our acts. They’re very rigid here, with a lot of religious schools, but when they see how kids react, they change their minds and are thankful. I hope that our presence will help Albina, who is has started a community theater program. Our performances show that professional performers have credibility. After each show, we talk to the kids. They have questions about our skills, our makeup—everything! We explain the importance of laughing and as they ask questions I start to believe that this is the way you develop young artists.