Each month, New Orleans’ top circus and variety performers get together and showcase their latest works at the Fly Movement Salon over at Café Istanbul. But next week they’ll get a chance to showcase their work while supporting the very timely work of a fellow performer helping Syrian refugees.
Clay Mazing, known to some for his work at Cirque du Gras (which I covered here for NOLA.com) has taken his initial project work with the nonprofit group Clowns Without Borders in Greece and is continuing to perform with Syrian refugees as they continue on their journey. Right now he’s in Macedonia. And because now he’s supporting himself on the journey — working with his own troupe, the Emergency Circus — he needs some help, and his friends back in New Orleans are ready to go.
The next Fly Movement Salon, which will be held Tuesday (Dec. 1) at Café Istanbul, will feature performances by co-organizer Liza Rose (who I’ve also covered here) paired with Sarah Stardust, as well as David Chervony, Emily Chervony, Sami Smog and Golden Delicious, Penelope Little, and more to be announced soon.
Molly Levine, the director of the New York-based Clowns Without Borders, performed with Clay Mazing and a couple others during their project trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, which included 32 shows over 16 days for Syrian refugees who have already endured major hardship.
“If I could say one thing to my close friends, that I wish people would understand, is the sheer enormity of tis crisis,” Levine said. “The people who are arrive in Greece, these are middle-class people, they’re children, they’re old people, their families, and they’re coming knowing this is a dangerous trip for them. The choice for them in taking this trip often is between dying and maybe dying, and so they chose maybe dying, so they chose these trips.”
For Clay Mazing, it’s been an emotional and fulfilling journey.
“I feel so blessed to be following my dreams out here,” he said via message. “It’s obvious that people need this kind of empathy out here. When someone is starving and you offer an apple they take it hungrily. The same is true for people starving for joy. Some of these people (not just children) haven’t laughed in days because they are constantly moving through boats, tents, trains, and busses without knowing what’s next.
“It’s really this focused attention we give to them that they appreciate. The Red Cross and others give them blankets and tea but we provide some simple relief from the constant stress,” he continued. “And we all make instant friends. Tonight we all laughed and played music and danced around the fire. These friends are so damn full of love it’s insane. I don’t know how they keep it up honestly after being treated like cattle they offer their cookies and blankets to us.
“I’ve had so so many heartfelt hugs and deep eye contact thank-yous. There’s too much to say.”
(It should also be noted that Moniek de Leeuw of the Balcony Players also is performing, on violin, with Clay Mazing.)
Fly Movement Salon co-organizer Liza Rose has worked with Clay Mazing on several productions and sees him as a perfect fit for this kind of work.
“He is a delightful raconteur, a shameless ladies man, the penultimate poster boy for the Peter Pan complex … And he has, without a doubt, the shiniest heart of gold you’ll ever meet,” she said. “When he’s here, he spends a lot of his time arranging and performing shows for kids in hospitals, folks in nursing homes, at special needs schools, and wherever else it’s needed. As a sometimes guest performer with the Emergency Circus, I can tell you that it’s a special kind of thrill to bounce up in the Sh’zambulance (when stateside, the EC travels in a converted ambulance) and hear Clay on the megaphone saying, ‘It’s an Emergency Circus!'”
As for Clay Mazing’s work, Levine said, “He’s is a very special performer. He’s also really versatile. If you’re in New Orleans you’re probably seeing more of the edgy Clay Mazing, the cowboy who’s cracking his whip, and with the flaming shotguns. It’s fun crazy stuff.
“And when he is doing the Clowns Without Borders shows, he’s in character, but as a really child-friendly clown. He does comedy,” Levine added. “He does slapstick. He loves to perform with the charango (a lute-like string instrument). The reason that Clay is the best performer to be doing this tour for the refugees he’s performing for is because, when he’s going, he never stops. If there’s a kid nearby, he’s always on. We’ll do two, three, four shows in the morning and be wiped out and will be going to lunch, but if he sees some children, those fake teeth will come on, and he’s performing again.”
Liza Rose echoed those sentiments: “He is doing what we all wish we could do, what we all think about briefly right before we think, ‘… but what about all this other stuff that will be hard and all the things I have to give up…?’ Clay’s not thinking about that. He’s living in the moment and using his talents to make a real change in the world, human to human. He should be a national fucking ambassador.”