Moments of joy from 2020, pt. ii

Continuing the series of posts detailing some of my projects from 2020. Because of the nature of the projects and the Big Shift that happened last year, I wasn’t very advertisey in the moment. While many planned things dropped, I was still able to be part of a bunch of interesting and inspiring projects. Over the next little bit, I’m planning on detailing each and sharing some lessons learned throughout.


Therapeutic Clowning

Our work changed in 2020. All around the world many therapeutic or hospital clowns were not allowed to enter our places of work for a variety of very good reasons. It looked like the whole thing would stop and be deemed non-essential. And it did. It was. For a bit, at least. Therapeutic Clown programs all around the world mobilized quickly and efficiently to find ways of continuing this vital work. As you can imagine, a period of lockdown and social isolation is a most important time for our work as therapeutic clowns. Because of COVID-19, so many people in long term care have been more isolated than ever before.

Eventually, after a bit of a change, the work continued by embracing a couple new formats.


Peachy (Heather Marie Annis) and Cecil (me)

I was about to start an in-person apprenticeship in Elder Clowning with Kathleen Le Roux when the pandemic arrived. This caught many of us off-guard and the apprenticeship had to pivot quite dramatically. With Kathleen and her group throughout the summer, we figured out some ways to adapt in order to still be in person. Some sites (like Union Villa) have large window galleries, accessible to the outside. As Kathleen coordinated with staff indoors, the residents were brought to the window galleries at a specific time. Once there, the residents of all three floors were greeted by a couple fools they knew, and one they didn’t (me!).

Dizzy (Kathleen LeRoux)

These outdoor visits forced us to be larger, more theatrical. They asked us to find things that read across distance. Things that could travel to the upper floors. We also had to remain socially distant from one another: one of us would often be close to the glass while the other would be farther back, interacting with the upper floors. It’s not the same as being in the same room and right beside one another but we were able to find moments of true connection: throwing kisses across the yard and up to the second and third floor; hands pressed against the window glass, touching the same surface but not the same skin; mirroring, leading, following the movements offered by either side.

Peachy and Dizzy cheers their friends
Peachy writes on the glass for the residents inside

The visits with Red Nose Remedy eventually started up again on a virtual platform. After half a year, we were able to visit our friends again in their homes, friends we hadn’t been able to see since March 13th. This time, however, we arrived from screen to screen, or, as we like to call it, from nose to nose.

The RNR team after one of our virtual trainings.

The learning curve here was gigantic. One of our biggest skills as therapeutic clowns is the ability to read the room and adjust/enter/proceed accordingly. One of the most effective ways of being in a duo is having an awareness of our proximity to one another and to complement or contrast accordingly. These two fundamental things completely change when a three-dimensional space all of a sudden becomes a series of rectangles on a screen.

Testing out virtual duoship and music.

In both instances, outside/distanced visits and online/virtual visits, true touch is no longer an option and the nature of playing music changes dramatically (another of our often reliable tools).

The Learning

Like anything and everything that’s happened since this pandemic started, trying to recapture how things were before and insist it remain the same is foolish (and not in a good way). We must adapt, even if that means our service looks and feels only slightly similar to what it looked like before (and what it will look like after). What we are able to offer has taken on its own shape, it’s own structure. And with that, there are so many freedoms and creative inspirations that follow (like the unlimited use of props, or playing with the framing of the camera). Our clients still receive authentic, direct and personal interventions, even if they are across such distances.

All around the world, therapeutic clowns are getting back into their places of work. In some countries, hospital clowns have even been receiving the vaccine because the work is recognized as essential. And it is. I’m sure many people will agree that the social isolation we’ve been required to participate in is difficult and has potential to become unhealthy. People need people. We need connection – connection not through a screen. But if that’s all we have right now, then that’s where we’ll meet you.

With a smile and a song.


For more information about Therapeutic Clowning, check out Red Nose Remedy at www.rednoseremedy.ca and Kathleen Le Roux at www.kathleenleroux.com

Moments of joy from 2020, pt. i

This is the first in a series of posts detailing some of my projects from 2020. Because of the nature of the projects and the Big Shift that happened last year, I wasn’t very advertisey in the moment. While many planned things dropped, I was still able to be part of a bunch of interesting and inspiring projects. Over the next little bit, I’m planning on detailing each and sharing some lessons learned during each.


First up is a project I co-lead with Alice Cavanagh, produced by Frog in Hand in collaboration with Clay and Paper Theatre.

Cyclops

CYCLOPS was a project that manifested as 3 distinct wandering performances roaming neighbourhoods in Port Credit, central Toronto and in the east end of Toronto. These localized parades shared a few elements: they needed something tall (like a banner or large puppet), they needed to be mobile (wheeled methods of transportation highly encouraged), and they needed to include music and ways to make sound. Aside from that, artists had freedom to create what they wanted.

My group, the “Planting Queens” (a play on the Abba song “Dancing Queen” which became our silly anthem) were a wandering quartet of clown gardeners (because everyone took up gardening in 2020) designed to spread joy along the lakefront. Trowel (me), Sprinkle (Drew Berry), Fern (Rohan Dhupar) and Petal (Mackenna Martinez) wandered the streets of Port Credit from the piers of the harbour to the bridge across Cooksville Creek. We sang for, laughed with, cheered on cyclists and runners and greeted people we met on our way.


I did mention there were other Cyclops groups happening around the city at the same time ours was parading around Port Credit. Here’s a quick peek at Alice’s group, Space Force, with the wonderful Clarke Blair and Erin Eldershaw wandering the east end of Toronto:

photo by Tamara Romanchuk

And the wonderfully bizarre group of wild animals caught on the prowl in central Toronto, with their group The Pond. This group included Lizzie Moffatt, Keitlyn Seibold, Zachary Bastille, Jeremy Pearson and Michael Derworiz:

photo by Tamara Romanchuk

The Learning

My only real regret is our scheduling. We scheduled each of these pieces to be wandering at the same time. It was a tricky thing, being our first live performance since the lockdown in mid-March. On the planning end it seemed fine: focusing on our own geographical neighbourhoods and coordinating at a distance would limit travel. Keeping the numbers low would, ideally, minimize the risk of infection. Each group was advised to have all necessary safety measures on-hand (face masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes). But each group member was also performing. We planned to keep these self-contained, and because of this inward-looking focus we didn’t notice the big, person-shaped hole right beside us.

The groups needed a support.

We misplanned the importance of an outside body to accompany the groups: someone whose sole responsibility would be to act as a reminder to clean, to take breaks, to field questions from the audiences and to step in in case anything happened to ensure the safety of the performers.

This should have been myself, or Alice. Our schedule didn’t allow this and so we were both performing, simultaneously, in different cities. I especially didn’t see this need because my group actually had Colleen Snell (director of Frog in Hand) accompany us every day. This meant I didn’t flag it until things were well underway. While we are lucky that nothing drastic happened during these performances there were definitely situations, such as people getting a bit too close, where it would have come in handy to have that extra body.

Issue One Previews

Glass to Glass is a quaranZine intended as a platform for document and share thoughts, feelings, observances and really anything else that’s been happening during this worldwide pandemic. While I make most of the zine, I also reach out for artist submissions (for info on how/what to submit, check here). We can only get through this thing together, even in isolation.

Buy Glass to Glass a coffee over at our ko-fi site. You can get your own print copies in the mail of issue one & two right now! If you do, you’ll get to see the beautiful work by Claudio Ghirardo and Blythe Haynes, maybe a little doodle by me. You’ll also be supporting the artists who contribute :)

-A

Glass to Glass

Everything is changing. Much of my interaction with other people has moved behind glass. The black mirror is now a pixellated-shimmering portal offering fluidity and connection when the wifi is good. My heart is heavy these days and my eyes are strained from constantly staring into the near-distance. But with all this connection I’m finding ways to disconnect, and craft in a finger-pleasing, brain-tinkering kind of way. That way now has a name, a name that is not as obvious as the one before.

GLASS TO GLASS is a (quaran)’zine documenting and serving as response to this global phenomenon we are now facing. And I am accepting submissions.

Anything you have come up with these past weeks, anything that acts as response, some beautiful moment you witnessed, some experience you never thought you’d have, a comic, a poem, a list of all the things you miss, a hyper-detailed recording of everything you’ve sanitized since the quarantine started; whatever you’d like to share, I will accept.

Send submissions to afieldofcrowns@gmail.com with something like ” ‘Zine submission ” in the subject line. For now this is a volunteer thing, created out of interest and desire to make. I’m investigating ways to fund the printing of it, and once this happens that volunteer thing will change into another thing.

Stay safe. Keep moving. Maybe take a moment to scribble out some thoughts. You never know what’ll come out.

– Andrew