Clowns shot from the back, facing an audience seated on a hillside

We’re Strangers, But Not Aliens

Puerto Rico native Arturo Gaskins joins CWB – USA for his second tour, to Colombia’s Department of Cauca. In this blog, he writes about the effort and joy of creating a CWB show, and his desire to find spontaneity within a choreographed performance. 

Arturo Gaskins

Two Days of Creation

We spend two days creating the show. The first day is about bonding and getting all these different clowns together in a playful way. We have a big brainstorm of ideas and use the ideas to create different images, or scenes. The second day, all of a sudden, we feel some stress. Reality hits us, and we think, “Oh no, we have to make a show!”

I spend the night between day one and day two planning a run-through. I want to make sure everyone feels like they’re performing and playing, and I want to make sure we don’t only focus on the big circus acts. At the end of day two, we walk through the show. People add different ideas, and everyone is open and helpful.

It’s not easy to plan a show! When you build a show with a bunch of clowns and no audience, well, it’s a bit crazy. You don’t actually know what’s funny until you have an audience. So, when we put our show in front of our first audience, we all wonder, “Will they laugh?”

You find a rhythm with each audience: The clowns give something. The audience gives something. It’s a dialogo.

Arturo is upside down inside his Cyr Wheel

Our Friends at CaliClown

It’s really nice to work with the artists at CaliClown. There’s something special about creating with a new group and a new audience. I feel like my usual tricks are out of context, but the jokes and skills still land! I think it means that we’re not completely off base. Even when we don’t know each other nor the audience, we can still make a show. We can meet each other through clowning. Fortunately, clowning is an inherently absurd world and it’s all about continuing to try.

On our first day, we talk about goals. Of course, we want to stay on budget and we want to make sure everyone is healthy, emotionally and physically. But I have a big goal: To have a moment in front of the audience, in which we can play without choreography. When we get to a performance location, we never know what to expect. But as we prepare for each show, we’re telling the audience that we’re present and ready. We’re saying, “We’re strangers, but not aliens. We’re here to play with you.”

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