In the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series focused on New Orleans entertainers on the road, called “Field Trip,” New Orleans circus performer Clay Mazing chronicles his return to entertain Syrian refugees abroad — a journey that I chronicled here and here. In this first installment, Clay Mazing explains his need to return to help through his Emergency Circus.
Well, since the last trip I knew I needed to go back. The extreme situation these humans have to face just breaks the hell out of my heart. After discovering how impactful this clown work could be to the situation, I just constantly ached to come back. I also wanted to do a better job of documenting my experience and showing the refugees in a positive light to the rest of the world.
This new rhetoric of xenophobia used for political power makes me utterly disgusted, like my eyes want to vomit screams or something. Being on the ground, listening to, clowning for, and being playful with Arabic people of all kinds has destroyed my tolerance for prejudice. It’s extremely stupid to hate Muslims for being Muslim, for example. So I have to use whatever privilege I have to attempt to better the situation.
It’s just so important to me to show these refugees as neighbors in need, not mysterious enemies. Hopefully, through showing the smiles of children and the warmth expressed by their parents, a few more fearful and confused people in my country will be able to see the similarities of our souls.
Counterplay, a conference on play in difficult situations in Denmark, invited me to be a keynote speaker earlier in April. I took the plane ticket as an opportunity to do another month and a half of work. I’m linking up with about 20 other clowns and performers from all over Europe to tour refugee camps and schools in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland. Linking up with local clowns is a great way to begin establishing regular clown missions in the area. We learned this from our last trip.
We’ll be visiting areas where the refugee situation has been complicated by terrorist attacks and camp closures like Calais, Brussels, Beirut, Istanbul and others. Since the last trip in November 2015, the situation has become much more difficult for refugees. Nationalism, xenophobia, racism and economic concerns have led many governments to close their borders. Last time we traveled alongside the refugees, getting a small taste of their experience while spreading as much joy and entertainment we could along the way.
This time we’ll be visiting places where they have been stuck, trapped with the inability to move forward or back. Aside from Denmark, our first stop is Lebanon, where we are joining forces with a local troupe called Clown Me In led by a clown who I worked with in Lesbos and previously in Lebanon. We are visiting mostly refugee schools near the border of Syria.
April 20 (see photo above): Sometimes I start to wonder why I work so hard booking, planning, raising funds, and traveling for days on end for $0 an hour. Then I have a day like today where 900 refugee kids go to their tents excited to dream about the circus that came to school today. So happy to team up with Sabine again and Clown Me In. This is the silly, sweaty, sunburnt life I wouldn’t trade for anything.