We began today with a mini show for the IRC staff, to say we have been impressed by them, is the LARGEST understatement I’ve made in a long, long time. The staff of the IRC – International Re – are amazing, kind, compassionate, and hard working. Living among them is to feel a bit like a slacker. They seem to be working every hour of every day, away from home, and friends, and family, and they still have the time to say hello to us clowns, to make sure we are included, and that we have all we need. So, it was more than our pleasure to give a mini performance for them during their morning meeting.
Our show involves quite a bit of audience participation, and since we know the staff, we had “targets” in mind. One, a shy fellow, who is also our house mate here, was a hit, and a surprise to his co-workers, because he is never the outrageous one. But today, he clowned, and his co-workers cheered him on. Later, we found out he really had extra need for laughter – his wife had miscarried just the day before.
From there it was on to Delmas Camp. This is the first camp we had been to without a tent for children’s activities, so during our show we played in a rocky lot, which also held garbage, and several men constructing a small metal tinned roofed building near by. Once again, the spirit of the Haitian people , and their love for their children overcame the physical surroundings, as they laughed, danced, clapped, and stomped along with us. As always, when I brought up a man to dance with me, the crowd goes WILD!!!!
Because that spot was in direct sunlight, our workshop today was in an alley way, where the littlest ones could stay shaded, and the older ones could at least be in partial shade. Our “human statue” game, where one child shapes the other was a big hit today, as child after child was eager to make “art”. My heart broke as one little girl asked Jay as we were leaving if we’d be back later. He shook his head. “A demain??” she asked, tomorrow??? Again, all Jay could do was shake his head.
Today’s workshop was magical – it was what workshops should be. We were not the stars, but the facilitators, able to turn over the reins to the AMAZING people who live in the Camps, who, though they themselves have little, have so much to give.
The day did not begin with promise, as a powerful storm had ripped through the area the night before, and had left the place designated for the workshop (already muddy from the previous night’s storm) unsafe for the children to be in. But while Gwen and I performed magic and danced with the kids, Jay, made a phone call to our IRC contact, and somehow true magic happened, we were given a shaded space, with a cement floor. Children of all ages flocked in, followed, not just by their parents, and “les animateurs”(the teachers/child care) of the camps, but by two magical creatures, whom we quickly named Michael Jackson and Rihanna. She was a young woman with a smile like a movie star, and he a natural clown dressed in a long, red and green plaid coat IMMEDIATELY jumped into the games, and helped organized the children. We have a Michael Jackson bit in the show that he – real name William, imitated, claiming he was the TRUE MJ. And, the woman that from here forward I will call Rihana, right from meeting us by the car began to dance and clap, and captivate the audience as well as us!!!!
We began our workshop with a HUGE circle of children – somewhere around 80, and then we invited in first Rihana, then Michael, and from then on, they were driving the car, and we were put the guides. What was amazing is that even before we proposed the game we had been playing with the kids “Human Statue” – they did it!!! And, an even better version than we had in store. They helped us make three groups of the kids, helped interpret for us, all the while shinning like the stars who’s names they had taken for the day. We ended with one big song and dance, and we clowns were able to slip away, knowing that our job was done – not because we had come to town, entertained and left, but because we had ignited the spark of fun, handed it off, and seen it begin to blaze like a bonfire of joy in the hands of two members of the community, who can continue the joy and laughter long after we are gone.
After such an amazing morning, it’s hard to think that the afternoon show could top it – but it did. This playing space was only a lot of rubble, with a big trash pile in the middle, but moments after we met the “animateurs” (the child care at the camps) we could feel that it would be, yet again, a theatre more magnificent than any on Broadway!! The crowd started small, but laughter pulls people in, so in a short while we had a crowd. This show, I’d like to call “The Butt Show” – with Gwen’s big butt (a costume – not an insult to Gwen) as the guiding force, the butt shaking, swaying, chasing, and pinching began. Older women in the audience came right up, and pinched Gwen’s posterior, and the kids went WILD!!!! One little boy, who was right up front the entire time, dancing and swaying, was the perfect choice for our pyramid at the end of the show, and one of the “animateurs” was a WILD dance partner for me at the beginning of the show. This show was special to me because all the ages of that audience – from the shy little girls who waved at us from behind their mothers legs, to the older sassy women, who shook their grove things to our music – all ages, joined in, and the feeling of community was real and full. And that is my experience of Haiti on this trip. Buildings fall, food is short, water hard to come by, but the real things of life – love, friendship, and LAUGHTER, still are the core of a community, and it is a privilege to be the troubadours, the wandering minstrels that come to town, and perform for, but also WITH the people of the village called Haiti!