Geoff Marsh, aka Gypsy Geoff recently toured to Haiti, along with Kaitlin Kauffman and our very own Development Director, Naomi Shaffer. During this tour, CWB – USA participated in a special partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières-France (MSF-France), leading workshops for hospital staff, in addition to our regular performances for community members. In this blog post, Geoff reflects on the chaos of excited and happy children.
It’s a day full of shows in Gran Goave, and our first show is for toddlers and elementary school students. We pull into a dirt alley by a school, and we enter to see over 200 kids in pink uniforms. They arrange themselves in a “J” shape, filling the small courtyard where we perform and inching closer after each act. Unfortunately, the teacher would threaten to hit the kids if they didn’t move back. It was a little frustrating to see them be threatened and not be able to do anything, but part of CWB – USA’s Code of Ethics is to refrain from imparting a “point of view” onto the populations we serve. Instead of reacting to the teacher’s classroom management, I used my clown persona. I have a gag where I get smacked in the face with a plate and I cry like a baby. For this show, I go immediately to the teacher who was threatening the kids and cry on her shoulder, wiping my imaginary boogers all over her sleeve. The kids roar with delight. After the show I ask if they want to take a picture with us, which is a mistake. The kids swarm us and trample each other to get in the shot. We realize that everyone’s safety is compromised in the ensuing chaos and decide to call it off. We leave in a haze of joy after completing the first show.
The second performance is scheduled for 250 children, but when we arrive there are over 700 kids surrounding a small 10′ x 20′ space. There are kids everywhere: On the balcony, the roofs, and surrounding us from every angle. It is loud. There’s no control for that many kids, it’s just complete and utter chaos. After the show, we discuss tactics to make our performances safer. I scout the next two performance spaces, and to our delight, we see distinct areas for a stage, seating and ample room for kids to enjoy themselves.
For our last show of the day, we walk three-quarters of a mile down a dirt road, past a cock-fighting ring and a few huts. We walk further into the jungle and realize that we’re performing for the kids who live furthest from town, in a rural village. We do a show for 50–60 kids, performing in a banana and mango grove. There’re a few teens and adults helping us with crowd control, and it’s super sweet to see them perform for us before we go on. Our show is a hit, and a really nice way to end the day without chaos.
After dinner I meet a young man who’s juggling rocks and can juggle up to four of them on his own. I was pleasantly surprised and run to grab my juggling balls to teach him a few tricks. He’s a quick learner and soon we’re juggling six balls between the both of us. I give him some new tricks to work on and tell him to come to our next show, where I can spend some more time with him.