Hospital Clowning has experienced a boom here in Argentina. Perhaps all over the world. It is easy to see why. As far as I am concerned, it is the best job in the world, so I am not surprised that so many people want to do it.
For organisations who take pride in the quality and consistency of the work they deliver, where the art of clowning is absolutely central, and where their artists are paid as professionals, the rise of organisations where training is minimal or non-existent is a concern. We know that we have our fragile place in the hospital hierarchy, that we are clowns walking the tightrope into an environment that isn't meant for us, and if we do it badly, well, we'll fall off. And hurt somebody, probably. In a building full of vulnerable people...
The perception of the work amongst healthcare staff and the public as a profession that requires training, and specific skill is a vital part of our integration into healthcare units.
As far as Alegria Intensiva are concerned, they know that they cannot be the first, or the largest hospital clown ONG in Buenos Aires, but they are trying to have an impact on the quality of work being done, on peoples perceptions of what they do and what is necessary to do it.
This year they started a training course. A beginners course for people with no performance background who are interested in the work, and another more advanced class for professional performers. Neither course is in any way an audition to work with Alegria Intensiva.
They were generous enough to let me attend both workshops. Thursday evenings are run by Artistic Directors' Silvina and Irene. I was a bit intimidated at first and had thought that I might just watch and take notes, but I couldn't resist joining in - Irene and Silvina, and the rest of the class, were so welcoming.
Saturday mornings is for beginners, and run by Alegria Intensiva member, Romina Amato. What a sweet group! I had forgotten the tenderness and vulnerability of a beginners clown workshop, and it brought it all back to me. Who would have thought that my first workshop with Caroline Dream and Alex Navarro all those years ago would lead to this amazing journey?
Participants make a donation to Alegria Intensiva to attend, and they commit to a 10 month weekly workshop. I think this is a really interesting way of spreading the word of what they do - sending a strong message out that this work requires training.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and reflection on clowning as an (therapeutic) art form.