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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Two Clowns Meet in Afghanistan--The Story Behind Air Play

Every year, we attend a children's theater festival. It can be hit and miss. Sometimes, the pieces are extraordinary, luminous, unexpected, wonderful--works that would clearly not be marked "Children" in Europe, but here are stuck in that corral. Sometimes, though, it's commercial crap, but the tickets are five bucks a piece, and we're seeing puppet shows, adventures, often world-class short works from Italy, French Canada, Romania, and all over the U.S. We usually go several days, and see things more than once. 

This year, today, it was just me and my little one. We did arts and crafts and got our faces painted--hers with lovely flowers, mine as a puppy dog, black nose and lolling tongue. Because we got down late, the only work we saw was called Air Play, a wonderful, inventive, thought-provoking and just plain physically beautiful piece of clowning with balloons and silk and wind. There are no programs, so all we learn about the shows are their names and where they're from. 

Dennis LaCombe as a mad conductor on springs
The couple who did the clowning blew me away (pun intended). I had to find out more. And it turns out, they are a married couple, who met while clowning in Afghanistan--which is almost as good as the story I once heard from a woman in New York City who met her ex-husband when she was a clown-groupie (yes, they do exist) for the first Cirque du Soleil clown, Dennis LaCombe. (Yes, when she said her ex-husband was a clown, she meant her ex-husband was a clown. Not only that, she explained, her father really had been a rocket scientist, so she couldn't even say that it didn't take a rocket scientist to tell you not to marry a clown.)

Unless you are a clown. 

Even then, Christina Gelsone (pronounced Gel-son-ee) and Seth Bloom, (pronounced Seth Bloom) were wary about getting romantic. A date may be hard to find, but not as hard as a great clowning partner. 

But, eventually, they gave in and fell in love. They were married in China, with Christina wearing a dress made of small, white balloons. (Anybody know a good heirloom cleaner who can store that for her children?) 

Then, they spent their honeymoon in one of the most remote corners of the world, the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan. (Geography lesson: Now that we know where Afghanistan is, we can learn about what's inside it. And this is the tiny handle the Wakhan corridor, a tiny handle that could never lift the whole country: 

And parts of it look like this: 

Or this: 

Or this: 

Or this: 

Now, I'm not sure if Acrobuffo (the company name of the clowning pair) were at work clowning in Afghanistan during their honeymoon, though it wouldn't surprise me. They are involved in an organization called The Afghan Mobile Mini-circus, which has the goal of developing, together with the Afghan people, circus, art and theater projects that can bring people together culturally rather than dividing them politically, inspiring creativity, resourcefulness and hope for a more peaceful and stable future in an area that has endured decades of civil war.  

Clowning can be a fabulous way to communicate information to children about left-over ordinance safety. 

Or health concerns. 

Wow. Clowning in Afghanistan--building a clown/circus community in Afghanistan, now that is charity I could get behind. 
 No, truth be told, teaching clowning in Afghanistan is probably one of my alternate lives, the ones I would be living if I'd made other choices. 

But for right now, I have to run to the corner market to get something to make for dinner for the kids. Without removing the puppy dog makeup, of course. 

If you're in the Twin Cities Area, hie thee to the Children's Theater Festival and go see Air Play. You do not have to be a child, or a clown to enjoy it. And if you like having clowns clambering over your head, or sitting on you,  sit way up front. 

And--wait. It just occurs to me, if we switch the color schemes of this show to red and blue from red and yellow, 

maybe we could send these clowns to Congress so that there, too, Acrobuffo could "develop circus, art and theater projects that can bring the House and Senate members together culturally rather than dividing them politically, inspiring creativity, resourcefulness and hope for a more peaceful and stable future in an area that has endured decades of civil war." 

A puppy can dream, right? 

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