At my first audition for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit in 2014, I was surrounded by professional acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and magicians. I was wondering why they allowed me to audition. Up until then, I had done professional, community, improvisational and children’s theatre and I was a beginner in tap dance and Middle Eastern dance forms. That’s all. I really had nothing but a comedic monologue to offer. Thankfully it was a group audition, so I got to see all the professionals perform. I thought “if they reject me, at least I got a free circus show”!
To my relief, not only did they laugh during my monologue, but the remainder of the audition consisted of improv theatre games, my specialty! At my “callback” I got to go onto a unit with a couple of supervisors; one of my fellow trainees was also “just an actor”. We both got hired and the extensive training and probationary period began. We had a week-long orientation which included hospital hygiene, tours and codes, immunizations, safety, partnering, classic clowning, improv, sensitivity, costuming, makeup and skills. We even had tapings with two local news channels because our hospital had acquired six new clowns!
As I’ve stated in previous entries, my day job situation changed and I had to return to nursing, which forced me to leave the clowns after three awesome years. I missed it so much that I offered my services to a children’s hospital close to my home, but it had to be on a volunteer basis. I went through their volunteer orientation and I even had another local news taping for being that hospital’s first resident clown! Unfortunately, some paid clowns currently regard me as “just a volunteer”, which implies lack of training and sub-standard clowning.
When I began volunteering, the hospital’s volunteer division was new to the concept of a professional hospital clown. I was fortunate that my Child Life representative had worked in my former hospital and was very familiar with hospital clowning, but I prepared a small presentation for the Volunteer Services department in order to ease their minds about the discipline and preparation that I would bring.
As a volunteer I now have a bit more scheduling flexibility and performing alone brings new challenges, but other than that, I provide the same polished, professional fun for my little patients that I had previously done. In addition, I have the privilege of sharing my experiences with those of you who are willing put up with my writing! Thank you!
Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002 and an improv performer since 2003. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program in 2014. She is now Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds