Lucas passed out red noses at the end of the first day of class. We had just finished a role play between a buffoon, who believes in nothing but belittles everything, and a clown, who by traditional theatrical definition is a gentle, innocent being that is the opposite of the buffoon.
On the second day of class, after a lecture on infection control, I was interested. On day three, after a lecture on clown history, I was hooked.
Lucas was our charismatic teacher. He is an actor, director, and medical doctor who teaches a week-long class on how to be a clown. He is one of the founding members of an effort to help hospitalized kids heal faster through humor and interactive play.
According to Lucas, young patients passively follow doctors orders and wait to get better. However, through the intervention of a clown, he says, they can be brought out of passivity and into active participation in their treatment, which aids in the healing process. I think he’s right.
Lucas is deeply pained by the current portrayal of the clown as a menace, a drunk, and a figure of fear for children. So throughout the week we got history lessons on the clown as well as lessons on the subconscious psychology of the ill or dying patient.
The class culminated on Saturday with nearly 30 new clowns descending on a local shopping mall to practice their skills (I was excused from this part since I didn’t actually plan to volunteer as a clown). Mall security guards, still haunted by memories of the looting in December, panicked and started chatting on their radios. Lucas soothed their fears.
All in all, it was my best week in Bariloche. I also have a newfound respect for actors, especially those that perform live on stage.