BY BARRY WARNER
All the world loves a clown and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Clowns R Us troupe loves to make people happy. The 30 members perform shows and skits to bring joy and laughter to school children and people in senior centers, nursing homes, hospitals plus assisted living residences. The training and apprenticeship program provides the highest level of professionalism in ‘clowning.’
Some clowns do slapstick by falling down or act out their skits instead using magic, juggling, telling jokes or using puppets and hand props. Each clown must create his or her very own ‘face’, meaning character or personality. ‘Clowning’ is a traditional and complex art that requires a great deal of practice and discipline to become more expressive, open and communicative.
Ivan Jensen, known as ‘Spats’ said, “I was a clown in the circus years ago and did a juggling act. For the last thirteen years, I have enjoyed performing with the RSVP clown troupe. The shows at the nursing homes make people feel good, cheers them up and it has a positive effect as they forget their problems for a while. I am one of the four members who formed the ‘red-tie’ singers. We perform at various venues and have been well received.”
Terry Wing said, “During a 45-minute session at a hospital, I do a ‘walkaround.’ I go from room to room to do magic tricks and give out stickers to make patients laugh and forget their problems. Also, I use a flower pot that sings and I sing along with the flower pot. For my costume, I wear a referee shirt, bright yellow pants, yellow wig, plaid jacket and red nose. As a volunteer, I get more back than I put into it, plus I have bonded with the people in the clown troupe.”
The clowns are also requested for special occasions, such as Grandparent’s Day at Fountainview Nursing Home, the July Fourth Celebration at Helen Hayes Hospital, The RCC picnic or a MHA walk/run. At the children’s party for the Rockland Sheriff’s Department, the clowns do face-painting, make balloon animals for children and give out stickers.
Irene Fink, known as ‘Flapjack’ said, “I love making people smile and clowning has been an amazing experience. In the nursing homes, people are there for the duration of their lives. I want to make my time meaningful and I feel great when I put a spark in their day.”
Ellie Grossman, known as ‘Fifi’ said, “I joined the RSVP clown class because it looked like fun and it brought me out of my comfort zone. I wanted to give back to the community and serving as a clown makes me feel young and energetic.”
Anybody can volunteer to be a clown. Apprentices first go to shows to see the clowns in action. Then they meet with the clowns who help them with costumes and make-up plus teach them skits, magic tricks, face-painting, juggling, puppetry and storytelling. For further information about the Clowns R Us troupe, contact Susan Ball, Program Assistant, at 845-356-6818.