Clowning around is serious business, especially when it is used to channel the power of theatre to empower and change lives. One ‘clowning’ event that we can truly encourage you to support is the Clowns Without Borders South Africa – A Comedy Benefit Showcase that takes place on 21 August 2017 at the gorgeous Fugard Theatre. We asked artistic director Jayne Batzofin to tell us more about Clowns Without Borders South Africa (CWBSA), as well as the event itself.
“Clowning is all about play, laughter, and resiliency”, Batzofin explains. Scary movies and television programmes have created a misconception about clowns as something terrifying and someone to fear, so “people perceive clowning to be the scary full make-up circus clowns, or Pennywise from Stephen King's IT”. But, if you look deeper and appreciate the joy it brings, “clowning is a highly technical, nuanced and poetic art form, that is anything but scary.”
Although adults need the laughs too, Batzofin explains that CWBSA’s work is primarily focussed on empowering “children who have been affected by violence, natural disasters, poverty, and other forms of crisis – it gives them the opportunity to be children again after traumatic experiences”. To gift that hope, “the clown uses humour to play with the full range of human emotion from sorrow to joy. In a way, the clown connects us to our core humanity through being vulnerable, playful, and funny. This is both a tool of healing and empowering our beneficiaries.”
Batzofin’s tells that the CWBSA dreams started in 2004. “South African-born clown and facilitator, Jamie “Banjo” Max Lachman, met Moshe Cohen who was the founder of CWB-USA at a workshop in New York City. He was instantly captivated with the concept of awakening joy and laughter in the hearts of children back in his home country. A year later, Lachman and 3 clowns from the United States and Ireland journeyed to Southern Africa for a 3-week tour. It was an epic trip working with over 15 different organisations and performing over 20 times for more than 3,000 children. The clown bug bit, and Lachman kept on extending his time in the country until he decided in 2007 to move permanently back to SA and founded CWBSA in Durban. He was fortunate at the time to meet some amazing artists and individuals, who eventually became the core founders of CWBSA, such as Sibongile Tsoanyane, Gavin Stockden, Mr Fish and Lulu Ngcobo (who is now our Managing Director)”. Reflecting on Batzofin’s account of how it all started, the word ‘epic’ comes to mind when one thinks of CWB’s South African clowning journey.
"As to my involvement”, she continues, “I first met Jamie Lachman (now the Executive Director) during my studies in Paris in 2008, through a mutual friend (who incidentally became the president of Clowns Without Borders International). We already started speaking of the possibility of collaborating together back then. In 2010, I participated in a 3-day clowning workshop led by Jamie in Cape Town. However, it was only in 2012 that I first had the opportunity to work as a Director for CWBSA. I have been invited back many times as a director since then, and was officially appointed the position of Artistic Director in 2016.”
Batzofin also reveals that the aim of CWBSA is to function as “an artist-led non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the psychosocial condition of children and communities in areas of crisis through laughter and play.” This feeds into her own personal passion: “I am immensely passionate about the work I do, because I have witnessed the power laughter has on people who are living in incredibly difficult situations. I am inspired and motivated as an artist to use theatre as a tool of transformation and social upliftment; and this is the core work of CWBSA, and my role as the Artistic Director.”
To translate their aim into actual impact, CWBSA is always on the go. This year alone they “have led four successful performance tours in the field: KwaZulu-Natal in February and the NorthWest in March (thanks to funding from the National Lotteries Commission) and South Sudan in April”. They have also “just completed a tour in Gauteng, in collaboration with FTH:K, performing to both Deaf and Hearing schools in Johannesburg and Pretoria”.
CWBSA has been running these type of amazing projects for 10 years already, so it is definitely the right time to celebrate the wonderful work and commitment that enriches so many young lives through clowning as a form of theatre. Helping CWBSA to bring such 10th anniversary merriment to stage is a stellar cast of big-hearted comics: Rob van Vuuren, Nik Rabinowitz, Sne Dladla, Shimmy Isaacs, Daniel Mpilo Richards, Yaaseen Barnes and CJ Benson.
By purchasing tickets to see them up the hilarity levels with their special style of comedic shenanigans at the iconic Fugard Theatre on 21 August, you will not only be spoiling yourself with a fun night of top-notch entertainment, but you will also helping CWBSA raise funds for their projects, specifically their Ubuntu Clown Fun(d), a fund which Batzofin explains is “used for bringing laughter to emergency relief situations (independent of organisational funding). By purchasing a ticket for the Showcase, people will be exchanging their laughter to allow for children, from communities in crises, to experience their own laughter.”
How amazing is that?! By just buying a ticket to attend Clowns Without Borders South Africa – A Comedy Benefit Showcase you are not only treating yourself to great laughter therapy on a Monday evening, but you are also helping CWBSA help others. So book your tickets at R150pp at Computicket, and come pledge your support to this amazing organisation, because theatre people care!