Tim’s Journal: Days 1 & 2

Its the second day of performances in the Grand Goave area; we’ve been working with a group of 20 kids and their trainers for about 4 days, playing games and building a show.  The kids have developed a “hat dance” to the tune of “5 foot 2, Eyes of Blue” in addition to juggling, broom balancing and acrobatic bits.  Yesterday the kids had two great performances with us as we toured to two tent camps supported by Terre des Hommes.

Its a new experience for me to perform in the camp setting here in Haiti and although we’ve been warmly welcomed and told after the shows that folks really like the clowns, the vibe in these communities has felt solemn.  In the few camps that we have performed so far, the children feel more distant and reserved than other children we’ve worked with that are not living in the camps.

But we still play… Jan still gets roaring cheers for his double diabalo tricks, our juggling and acrobatics are also consistent crowd pleasers.  We had one show this morning in a camp called Colbert.  The show went really well and we were treated afterward by a solo story telling piece by a local performer.  He told a story of the rural culture in Haiti and the importance of the oral tradition.  In his show he handed out pieces of paper and as he told his story of rural history he taught the audience to fold the paper into a hat, then a boat and finally unfolded the paper into a t-shirt.  His story was one of transformation of his culture and he ended the piece with a ritual of pouring out some homemade liquor and sharing it with elders in the community.  He was kind enough to give me a try as well.  It was very sweet, not too strong and quite refreshing after having done our performance.

img_1494We took the kids we are performing with back to Papet for food and rest before the second show.  But, as usual, we did not rest.  We ate together and then all ran out and swam and played in the sea.  The children have just learned how to do two-highs so they all wanted to jump on our shoulders, stand up on them and then fall into the ocean.

Around 2:30 we got out of the water, dried off quickly and loaded the tap-taps to drive to Sable, the local outdoor market in Grand Goave for our final show of the day.  This is an open air market that is not directly associated with a tent camp and as soon as we arrived, the vibe was more upbeat and it seemed the children not living in a camp setting were more forward and playful with us.  We started the show early because ominous clouds were rapidly rolling our way and shortly after the opening bit of us marching in with all of the children, some slapstick with a 15 foot bench and then Jan balancing it on his chin, the rain started coming down.  We kept going a bit, but then the sprinkle turned into a shower.  Our audience retreated under a large tarp and some of the market stands.  With the kids under a shelter, Jan snagged a bicycle from a child and began to ride it around chaotically acting like he did not know how to stop, the audience egging him on to go faster.  I tried to lasso him in with a long red rope, but ended up getting pulled along for the ride.  The rain let up a bit and the audience charged out of the tarp and market stand shelters wanting more.  So Anna, Jan and I found ourselves surrounded by different groups of kids looking for some entertainment.  We did small solo bits in various parts of this market square.  The laughter would bounce from group to group as the crowds grew larger.  Our bits culminated with some juggling and we played, soaking wet until everything was slippery, muddy and soaked.

Sadly we had to leave without finishing our whole show, but we enjoyed the chance of rain induced improvisation and went home exhausted from a weekend of shows following a week of teacher training, show creation with our kids from Papet and tons of play!

September 12, 2010

First day of workshops in La Delma, a community right outside of Les Cayes, whose few roads are just barely the width of a car.  The dirt roads and paths are lined with small cacti, delineating the residents’ property.  The community is flanked by a multicolored river, that collects trash, dirt, soap, human and animal waste and delivers it into the sea nearby.  We work in a community center deep in this community that is surrounded by high block walls and razor wire.  One might call this a prison yard, and yet it is a magical space.

We opened our workshop for the 20 kids with whom we’ll be creating a show by first performing our show.

The audience was the best we’ve had yet, laughing loudly and frequently enraptured by what we were doing on stage.  The show was not perfect, but perfectly received.

And then rain, a torrent fell down on us just as we finished the show.

We had a large concrete and wood shelter over all of us so we could stay dry, but the sound of the rain overhead and thunder bellowing drowned out any voices.  We warmed up with the kids without making a sound, just listening to the sound of the rain.  Then, the warm up started to get funny.  All you could hear was heavy rain, interrupted by waves of laughter, then back to rain again.  No voices, no talking.  A new ensemble of children playing together, laughing and moving in the middle of the storm.


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