Friday, December 18, 2015

A special thanks to Bread & Roses for this Essence Story written by Larry & Noreen Brewster about our most recent outreach show.

Childhood innocence and pure joy were on full display as the young children watched and interacted with Circus of Smiles clowns, Tyler and Paula, a husband and wife team. The thirty children ranging in age from 5 to 8 chose to wait outside on a brisk December afternoon while Tyler and Paula set up. As one little girl said with great anticipation, “we don’t want to ruin the surprise!”

The children could not have been more excited and willing to interact with the clowns. They would, for example, shout warnings to Tyler when Paula was about to pull the chair out from under him. Or, they would encourage Paula to sneak up on Tyler while he juggled. There was constant laughter, and the energy and enthusiasm of the children was infectious. Tyler and Paula involved the children from the very beginning to the end of their show. When they asked for volunteers, almost every hand went up every time. One trick involved two of the staff and two children, resulting in building a human pyramid.

The clowns cleverly and subtly shared life lessons with the children through their routines. For example, they taught the importance of teamwork, and that violence never solves problems. Their ability to be funny, interactive with the audience, and impart valuable life lessons truly make Tyler and Paula very special performers.

The children were treated to dancing, singing, juggling, acrobatics, and even karate. There was lots of laughter, applause and shout-outs from the children as they eagerly and quickly became part of the act. The laughter wasn’t limited to the children. The staff enjoyed themselves almost as much as the children. Toward the end of the show, a few parents arrived to take their children home. After some pleading, they agreed to let them stay to the end, and it wasn’t long before the parents were laughing too. After the performance, all of the little girls came to Paula and asked questions about her costume, and how she was able to do the things she did. Some even shared their favorite tricks.

There is no doubt that Tyler and Paula—Circus of Smiles—in their brightly colored costumes, and through their antics, transported the children and adults to a magical place. It could have been in a big circus tent anywhere!

Beautiful Photos by Peter Merts

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our community partner: Bread & Roses

An excerpt from the Bread & Roses blog:

We are making a special effort to bring more interactive programs to audiences across the board, especially to children and youth. Many talented performers excel at putting music and stories together in an interactive way with magic, movement, puppets, juggling and other performance art. Recent efforts include a wonderful clown workshop with much audience participation by Circus of Smiles at 24-Hour Childcare in Oakland.

Host Barb Withers reports: “At first, the 30 young children quietly sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor with anticipation in front of the two clowns - Paula Greenspan and Tyler Parks - who are known as Circus of Smiles.

They began their show with a hysterical juggling act with Tyler wearing a fake mustache [Paula Edit: While we appreciate the compliment, I have to point out that his mustache is real.] He and Paula tried to "wake" each other up, each time unsuccessful, and were met with peals of laughter from the children. Tyler noted while juggling that it was tickling his mustache and the kids giggled along. Juggling, tumbling and physical comedy reigned in the room, much to the delight of the children and their teachers. Giggling, bashful volunteers loved being part of the act and many eager hands shot up when the call for volunteers went out.

The show was a seamless fest of smiles and at the end Circus of Smiles admonished all the kids to "give yourselves a pat on the back." They gave each other pats on the back that cause the kids to dissolve into further laughter. The show caused 30 kids to stop for 45 minutes and just enjoy being light-hearted. Circus of Smiles provided the best medicine for all of us attending this fun show!”

The children at this daycare center for low-income families in Oakland would not have access to this kind of positive interaction without the generosity of Bread & Roses volunteers and supporters.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Juggling lesson in Lujan, Argentina

Something a little bit fun today!

We just received some incredibly nice words from Cydney, our partner in Lujan, Argentina.

"Circus of Smiles is truly amazing. Paula and Tyler came to Lujan, Argentina last year, where I had the pleasure of helping them coordinate shows all over the municipality. They brought joy and love to some of the most underserved populations in the province of Buenos Aires. These two amazing clowns traveled to and from Lujan for a month, extending their energy and joy to every child and adult they came in contact with. They happened to be in the area during some extreme flooding that left many communities devastated. Instead of staying away, safe and sound in the capital city, these two packed their scarves and juggling balls, took a bus to Lujan and headed for the relief shelter where about 400 people were staying. They provided the comic relief so necessary in moments of such distress, giving the children an evening of play, pure joy and an opportunity to be children again. It was beautiful. The word spread fast and before we knew it, school principals and organizers were calling to see if they could have these two beautiful clowns visit. In total, we visited around 10 different establishments. This was a truly inspirational experience and I will never forget it. They are so talented... but most importantly, it all comes from their hearts."

Thank you Cydney! And to celebrate, here is a video of that amazing first day in Lujan.

Within a few days of a major rainstorm in Luján that caused citywide flooding, we were invited to entertain/distract the 30 or so children staying in a temporary shelter. We arrived that afternoon to some very anxious and excitable children who were thrilled for something to do. We did our audience participation heavy show and then handed out juggling scarves to all that wanted to learn a bit of juggling. As that lesson ended, it became very clear that these children needed to run out a whole lot of energy. We reached into our circus teacher bag o´ tricks and played a lot of silly games... watch Tyler and the kiddos juggling.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Que Sería? A visit to Queseria's Migrant Labor Camp

Que Sería? 
Roughly translated, the question begs: What would be? Or what could be? 
Or possibly even, WHAT IF?

Quite aptly named, the town of Queseria sits at the bottom of an active volcano. A volcano that constantly spewed a combination of ash, lava, and smoke throughout our entire time in Mexico- a constant reminder of just what could be...

Arriving to our third Mexican show, which happened to be in a migrant labor camp in the above mentioned Queseria, we were greeted by about 50 of the most curious and dirt streaked small faces I had seen in a long while!

Quesería is located high on the slopes of the Colima Volcano. The surrounding hills, composed of ancient volcanic soils, provide ideal conditions for growing sugar cane; therefore a large sugar refinery is in operation. The workers who burn and cut the sugar cane on the mountain are indigenous peoples who speak Nahuatl or Zapoteca and are brought up from the Southern regions of Mexico by labor bosses. These families often live in what could be called a ramshackle box- at best. The housing generally consists of one concrete room per family, with an attached lean-to for a kitchen. Though material possessions were few among the local children, delight and curiosity were available in abundance. This was easily one of our most delightful audiences to date!

Project Amigo, the organization that arranged and supported us through our visit, has been active in this camp for many years. Over time, Project Amigo has built two classrooms, a kitchen, children's bathrooms, brought in playground equipment, and hired three teachers to educate the migrant children. There was an interesting glimmer of western influence in the donated clothing the children were wearing; and there is nothing more ironically heartwarming than seeing a shy and tiny dirt-streaked face framed by a Superman pajama top.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Casa de los Ancianos. A home for the elderly, part 1.

“Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90... time is a concept that humans created.” Yoko Ono

  This past Thursday, we arose bright and early with the roosters and headed to Comala, Mexico to spend the morning with an often forgotten segment of the population– the elderly. We were nervous about this show since it is a very different audience than we are used to. "Will they laugh at our jokes?" "Will they be lucid enough to get the nuances?" "Will they just fall asleep?" //   We were surprised to find that our days of worry were for naught. We were greeted by three nuns and about 20 day residents. They whveled their chairs into a U shape, and were instantly charmed by the youthful energy of our circus. They seemed to really enjoy the show, laughing and clapping throughout. One particular grandma became so fascinated by the sound of her own clapping that she would often forget to stop. Fortunately, she had a friend nearby who was kind enough to redirect her focus to all that was happening in front of them. There were other visiting youngsters we nicknamed the miniClowns who jumped up after our performance to belt out some very... homemade tunes. One boy hit the strings of their guitar while the other one belted out random words at the top of his lungs.
 We, of course, came prepared with a pocketful of clown noses. At the end of the show, Tyler coaxed the mother superior into donning a red nose, which inspired everyone present to do the same. Ten minutes later we had the sweetest 30 person circle of vintage clowns. We were so relieved to have this show go well, since we have one more performance lined up at a Colima home for the elderly.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Town Square Smiles ‒ Cofradia, Mexico

Tuesday night in Cofradia, Mexico is community market night. When you wander into the tiny town square you are instantly greeted by the smell of a street vendors tacos, the sight of locals selling everything from spatulas to silly string, and the sounds of whole families out on the town. The sight of dozens of children hanging around inspired us to run home to change into our clown attire and give an impromptu show. On our way back from changing we heard that news of our show had found its way to the town’s loudspeaker system‒ “we are announcing that all children in the vicinity should come to the town square because Circus of Smiles has arrived from the United States!”

Tyler, always the ham, gets excited when he hears the announcement that clowns are coming to town.
Cofradía de Suchitlàn, known as “Cofradía” for short, is a typical country village in western Mexico with a population of about 1,700 people. It is located about 20 km (12 mi) north of the city of Colima on the west coast of Mexico. Tiny rural town only begins to describe the charm. There are cobblestone roads, artisan shops built into family compounds, and delightful children everywhere you turn. We performed that evening to one of the most enthusiastic audiences we have come across. I am not sure who was more delighted... them at our performance, or us at their reactions!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Clown Nose Project 2013

We are excited to officially announce our next social circus project will be in Colima, Mexico! We'll be headed down at the end of this month to work in partnership with the local nonprofit Project Amigo. This means I just put in an order for over 100 juggling scarves and am on the hunt for a great deal on clown noses.

I am sad to report: "Toto, we're not in Argentina anymore." Whereas in Buenos Aires we were able to buy 300 clown noses for $20, here in the states the best I am able to find is noses for about .80 cents each. In hopes of finding some support from local sources, we have launched the 2013 Clown Nose Project! We are searching for circus and party goods supply companies interested in donating noses for free or very cheap, and generous folks who would want to purchase some clown noses for the children. $1, $10, $20... any amount will inspire a lot of smiles!

Facebook campaign coming soon, but in the meantime please send us any leads you may have towards finding a good deal on noses. And if you are one of those generous people interested in donating, please send us a message at Thank you!