Taking a break from hospital clowning and starting a new year (or new decade!) is an ideal time to reevaluate your skills and persona. Hopefully when you began you took the time to find a clown character that flows out of you naturally, in much the same way as you apply your makeup for hospital clowning-you use what you already have and create something around it. You’ve chosen a costume that pulls it all together and you’ve developed at least one skill you can confidently perform. Now may be a good time to change things around a bit.
You don’t necessarily have to create something new, but it’s good to add some specificity to any vagueness in your presentation. By this I mean that you now want to find something that makes you stand out from the crowd. You may be part of a group of clowns or a group of other performers. What you want is to find something that makes you memorable; almost like a “brand”.
By the time I left the Big Apple CCU, our unit consisted of twelve clowns; men, women, young, old, black, white and hispanic. However when I began, I was one of only two female clowns and everyone around the hospital found it refreshing-not because the men weren’t great, but because it was unusual for them and we brought a different energy.
Your change can be a specific magic trick with a prop that you created or defines you, or you can use a part of your costume as a conversation piece, or you can have a unique way of leaving a room.
Following are specific examples of each of these:
* a prop that you created or defines you- Our clown named Dr. Bananafish was a professional magician and he would do a trick where a sponge banana would multiply over and over again.
* use a part of your costume as a conversation piece- Our Dr. Bill had a flat, felt rabbit hanging upside down from the bottom rear of his lab coat and when people commented on it, he’d act like they were hallucinating bunnies.
* have a unique way of leaving a room- If we didn’t have a great way to leave a room for some reason, I would pull out a mini pail and say “Well, we’d better leave because you’re looking a little pale...get it? A little pail!” and I’d crack up like it was the funniest thing in the world while my partner would apologize and pull me out of the room in the middle of my laughter. (This sounds corny, but it always got a laugh!)
It’s always great to work on perfecting skills like juggling, or cultivating some new ones like balancing something on your head, but don’t underestimate the difference a small change can make.
Lucy E. Nunez is an LPN and has been a theatrical performer since 2002. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in 2014. She was a resident clown there and at Baptist Children's Hospital. For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds