Finding the spirit of clowning, in confinement

BEIRUT: Usually busy bringing joy to marginalized communities through clowning and theatrical performances, Clown Me In has been rethinking ways to bring smiles to people’s faces, from home.

With their colorful, socially adjacent projects postponed, the team has started running a ‘Happy Half-Hour’ workshop through Zoom and social media outlets, with the aim of keeping active and merry through lockdown.

“They’re very short, 30-minute workshops I’m giving online every Friday for people to just have fun, play together and be silly,” Clown Me In co-founder Sabine Choucair told The Daily Star. “We just give a Zoom link for people to join in and decide if they want to show their faces or just watch along and play with us from their homes.

“It’s not clowning workshops or exercises just for clowns,” she added. “It’s just fun things that are inspired by the spirit of clowning – playfulness, being silly and accepting the [miserable] situation we’re in. It’s for people of all ages who can join anytime, to do five minutes or the whole thing, people can join with their kids or other family members.”

The first session Friday included some warm-up exercises, exploring movement and dancing to various types of music.

“We did some laughter exercises, which is laughing on purpose and then it becomes organic and naturally after,” Choucair said. “People just went for it. We got really nice feedback after ... saying to keep doing it and that people had a lot of fun. Some people dressed up. One girl from the U.S. came with her whole clown outfit.

“Next week we’re going to do some things with yoga and laughter,” she added. “Each time will be different. It’s important for myself too. I feel so full of energy and looking at life in a more positive way, than just sitting on the couch and not really connecting with people.”

Clown Me In has also been trying to keep some of their other activities going. Last September they launched the International Institute for Very Very Serious Studies, a school dedicated to the art of clowning.

The first course was supposed to be entering its final stages in March, where groups of students would work with marginalized communities to create a performance.

“We’d just finished classes before lockdown and were going to start working with the communities,” Choucair. “Three of the artists had started already with a community in Tabarja so they’ve continued online, but the other two groups haven’t started so they’re on hold.

“The students are continuing their sessions online every Monday, to do the theoretical sessions, and we’ll see,” she added. “With the type of work we do, it’s very hard for us to be only online. It’s very physical and present, so it’s hard.”

Choucair hopes that, despite the vast amount of time people are spending online right now, in Zoom meetings for work or school, the online workshops for both the public and the institute students will be a more cathartic and enjoyable online experience.

“The Happy Half-Hour” will take place every Friday at 6 p.m. on Clown Me In’s Facebook page:





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