March 9, 2019

Clowning Around

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 1:28 am

This is a story I read at the Goodman Theater’s GeNarrations program based on their play How to Catch Creation. The theme was creativity.

Missy Chrissy was created in 2011. She’s been a calendar girl since 2013, posing with her clown friends in pictures in the Senior Calendar of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

The Chicago Senior Clown Troupe began in 2006 when Joyce Gallagher, now Executive Director of the Chicago Area Plan on Aging, began a class to teach clowning at the Renaissance Court Senior Center. The purpose of the class is described in their mission statement as “To learn how to be a clown – to explore all the skills needed and then go out and perform with the Chicago Senior Clown Troupe in Chicago area events and in nursing homes and retirement centers.”

And that is what we do, no more than twice a month, mostly in the Spring and Summer. If you’ve ever been to Senior Fest, you should have seen at least one of the troupe walking around among the crowd doing whatever we do. Missy Chrissy often has puppets, either a big, red fluffy animal of some kind, marionette, one of the other clowns gave her, or hand puppets. Some of those I had since my childhood.

We posed for many pictures at Senior Fest in Millennium Park, either by ourselves or with our fans and pictures of us have probably been shared all around the world because some of those taking the pictures are tourists from other countries. As a song says, “All the world loves a clown.”

We once had a pretty active group of about 10 clowns, that was the most I counted in one photo of us at one event, there were others who came to class but did not go with us to gigs. We had a father and son and the father was 90 years old.Those people all dropped out and only one clown and myself are left of that bunch. Now we are growing a new troupe and have six regulars who have gone out to perform and a couple of others who have been coming to the class but not joined us on a gig yet.

It was suggested by Joyce and our clown teacher, Karen Hoyer, that we create a clown identify for ourselves, such as Bozo and Ronald McDonald, but only a few of our former members did that. Now we have Lovey, a hippie clown, Pickle Puss, a very girly clown, and Salty, a sailor friend, or relative, of Popeye’s. They dress in pretty much the same costume every time they go out. Missy Chrissy was a gypsy fortune teller, but since we seldom do a fortune telling skit and she gets bored wearing the same clothes, she creates new outfits for every gig. The main part of the costume will stay the same and change with the seasons, but some little item will be different each time. She has many silly glasses and several wigs. A couple of the wigs she bought last Halloween and has not worn yet, so the next time you see her, she may be in one of them.

The main parts of the costumes she wears are always something multi-colored, some items of outdated clothing she had not thrown away and some she has purchased. She is always looking for inexpensive, colorful clothing items she feels will make good costumes and bought the wigs on sale. The silly glasses and other accessories she uses come from dollar stores. You don’t need to spend a lot of money getting professional clown clothes.

If you have ever considered being a clown, you are welcome to come to our classes. As I told you Missy Chrissy is a calendar girl and I have her most recent picture with me. If you join the class and come with us to Senior Fest this year, maybe you will be in the next picture.


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