Supplement to “I’m Joining the Circus”
“Social circus” is a term for a concept where the circus arts are used as an intervention approach. Take an at-risk teen just out of a detention center and teach him a unique circus skill like stilt walking. Then have him teach that skill to someone else. Slowly a confidence is building, social connections are made, and that teen starts to realize a new potential. That’s what social circus is about.
It’s an approach that Paul Miller of Circus Mojo includes as part of his organization’s mission. The social skills needed for learning and teaching circus acts vary widely: interpersonal communication, discipline, physical balance, emotional balance, sound judgment, risk-taking, confidence.
When Miller teaches circus skills like juggling and ball walking, he sees positive changes—physical, emotional, and social—begin to emerge in his trainees. He then uses those same individuals as paid performers in acts that Circus Mojo puts on. With dedication and time, that teen may go from down-and-out to up-and-coming.
“You don’t even realize it, but the circus permeates all these different spaces,” says Miller, who emphasizes that they use the same principles whether they are connecting with adults in wheelchairs or youth in tutoring programs. “I really like the ability to connect with people and offer somebody something new.”
Steve Roenker and his wife, Jean St. John, co-founders of My Nose Turns Red, are vaudeville style clowns. They dress in baggy clothes and bowler hats but do not wear makeup to perform. Their style of performing is rooted in Renaissance comedy.
The major clown organizations such as Clowns of America International and the World Clown Association have varying regulations on types of clowns they recognize for competition, but both agree on these three: Whiteface, Auguste, and Tramp (both also recognize character clowns, but in differing categories of competition).
Outside of the competitive arena, there exist many offshoots and hybrids of traditional clown categories—and it’s surprising how complicated the details of clowning can be, as you can see from the following brief descriptions.
So what kind of clown would you choose to be?
Whiteface: This is the straight man, the top dog, the boss clown. His intention is to do everything right. He pulls tricks on his partners and always tries to get someone else to do his work for him. The Whiteface clown rarely takes a pie in the face. Whiteface clowns cover their skin with makeup or clothing; there are no skin-tone colors showing anywhere.
Auguste: Opposite of the Whiteface, the Auguste clown is the stupid and clumsy character—the “willing idiot” who lives to do other people’s bidding. The Auguste either can’t figure out how to do anything or is the victim of pranks orchestrated by the Whiteface clown. You can recognize Auguste clowns by their brightly colored clothes that are usually too large for them—they are known as “the tailor’s nightmare.” They paint white around their eyes and mouth and cover the rest of their exposed skin with a flesh-colored greasepaint. They typically use a large imitation nose and may paint their lower lip red or black. Auguste clowns often feature huge eyebrows, a colorful wig, or a bald top wig with a fringe of hair around the sides.
Tramp/Hobo: As you might expect, the Tramp dresses in clothes that are patched or tattered. They paint white around their mouths and sometimes near their eyes; their skin is reddened and weathered as if sunburned, especially on the nose and above the eyebrows. A Tramp is the lowest of the low, miserable in his downtrodden state. Emmett Kelly was a well-known and well-loved example of a Tramp clown. The Hobo clown is just fine with his downtrodden state, happy to be alive. Red Skelton (as Freddy the Freeloader) was a good example of a Hobo clown.
Character: The character clown can be a subset of other types of clowns, but you can tell a character clown by this specific requirement: a character clown is always a caricature of a visually recognizable personage or profession—a doctor, police officer, cowboy, etc.
In addition to these types, there other variations, hybrids, and avenues for clowning—mimes that combine clowning with mime, rodeo clowns who protect cowboys during bull riding contests, and caring clowns who visit hospitals and nursing homes.
Bump a Nose
Online site to connect with other clowns
Caring Clowns International (CCI)—USA
They raise money to help fund humanitarian projects through established nonprofit organizations.
P.O. Box 75
Suquamish, WA 98392
As the name implies, this Internet forum allows members to discuss all things clowns and clowning. A good place to ask questions for newbies or wannabe clowns. Requires registration to participate.
Clowns of America International
For clowns of all ability levels, this site has resources to help define and improve the clown character.
P.O. Box 1171
Englewood, FL 34295-1171
Clowns without Borders—USA
Like Doctors and Nurses without Borders, this organization helps those struck by crisis and disaster.
540 Alabama #215
San Francisco, CA 94110
International Shrine Clown Association (ISCA)
Home of the International Shrine Clown Association
315 North Nebraska Street
P.O. Box 102
Marine, Illinois 62061-0102
KIDabra International Inc.
A place for child and family performers to connect, learn, and network.
P.O. Box 1296
Mocksville, NC 27028
Red Nose Response Inc.
They educate the public about disaster preparedness and work in support of the survivors, families of victims, and relief operations following a major natural or man-made catastrophe.
2660 Peachtree Road, NW, Suite 19A
Atlanta, GA 30305
World Clown Association—USA
This membership association promotes the art of clowning by serving the needs of local affiliate clown alleys.
P.O. Box 12215
Merrillville, IN 46411
Circus Mojo’s Jerry Springer June 7 show info
Read more information about the one-night only special show on June 7 in Ludlow —download the poster and news release—Circus Mojo’s with Ringmaster Jerry Springer.
To read the Kentucky Living June 2012 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to I’m Joining the Circus.