We found ourselves at lunchtime at a large school in Tokio a barrio near Pereira, notorious for its extremely high numbers of internally displaced families and violence. The concrete walls of the school were not far different from walls we’ve seen in prisons and the security guards gently reminded us that we were not in the safest of neighborhoods. Nonetheless, we were greeted warmly by a handful of theatre students at the school of 1,500 who escorted us to our performance space—a massive gymnasium/auditorium—which was soon to be filled with 500 of the youngest students at the school. By the time we had cleared the chairs in the space so that everyone would have space to see us, the hoards of children began to run in. Their teachers were present, but knowing it was a clown show and perhaps a bit exhausted from the unusually hot day today, they directed the children with a laissez-faire attitude. Everyone was ready for the unknown.
We hid in a boy’s bathroom while the children settled in, but as soon as we busted through the door with our road map in front of us the children went wild. The acoustics of the gymnasium were thunderous, so we had to slow everything down a bit so nothing would get lost. As the laughter echoed and gestures reverberated, we noticed the kids gradually inching towards us. One child in particular had to keep being pulled back by his teacher, as he would leap with joy towards us.
We had a large chase scene “persecution,” in Spanish, and I had the chance to charge the audience with my musical saw—we thought this might be enough to keep the audience at bay.
We thought wrong.
Towards the end of the 45-minute show, as my clown was left alone on stage—the other clowns were collectively hiding behind our equipment trunk, in full view of the audience, but not mine— he began to cry. The tears brought laughs and then a wave. A tidal wave of smiling children rushed the stage with teachers in close pursuit. The teachers could do nothing to control the kids as they laughed with us, chanting “Eso Si” unprovoked by us.
The four of us clowns were swamped and did our best to protect our gear and instruments while still playing with the kids. It was by far the best ending to our show yet!