Niagara Gazette

September 16, 2013

Be a clown: From makeup to magic, clown classes teach it all

By Michele DeLuca michele.deluca@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Your teachers will be named Rainbow, Dilly Dally and Shenangian. 

And, likely the class will be a hoot.

But, if you register for clown classes that start on Wednesday, don’t think it’s all going to be funny business ... because these clowns take their jobs very seriously. The full 10-week class runs 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $35 for each of the two five-week series. Call 286-0771 to register.

Beyond floppy shoes and red noses, their experiences in face paint seem to confirm recent research on the healing power of laughter.

“Laughter makes people healthier,” said Carol Shire, one of the class teachers known as Dilly Dally. “I know for myself, if I have some down days, all I have to do is get on the phone with one of my clowns and that’s the end of that. It just lifts me up.”

But seriously, folks, clowning can be a good second income, according to another of the class teachers, Beverly Eiler of Wilson, who said that clowns can earn up to $80 an hour at parties and events.  

“There’s a lot of money to be made at birthday parties, but that’s not my cup of tea,” Eiler said, adding that because she works full-time at Niagara University — helping teaching students get certified — she prefers doing work for non-profit organizations and events because it’s not quite as rigorous and feeds her soul rather than her pocketbook. 

Eiler, whose clown character is called Rainbow, recalled her most outstanding clown moment was at a Christmas party for inner city kids. Despite the games and carnival atmosphere, she was struck by a 4-year-old boy who looked so sad. “I kept thinking how bad could this kid’s life be that he can’t smile in this situation,” she remembered. She kept trying to make him laugh. “I said,’I’m Rainbow and I need a smile.’” Eventually the boy smiled and delivered an unforgettable clown triumph, the kind of experience that keeps clowns returning to their makeup and silly costumes.

The first class in the two-part, 10-week series, begins with the teachers transforming themselves into their clown characters. Subsequent classes help students choose their clown personas as well as delving into making balloon animals, doing basic magic, plate spinning and juggling. The classes are held, not just to teach people about how to become clowns, but to encourage membership in Clown Alley in the Niagara Region. Students must graduate from the class before they can join the group, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Shawnee Fire Hall in Sanborn. 

Who should take the class?  “Anybody that likes to have fun and make people smile,” said Shire.  

Five years ago Carol Marx of Grand Island took the class, taking on the “dainty, pink” persona of Clarabelle. The mother of three, grandmother of five, is better at some clown activies than others, but that works for her. “I’m terrible at magic so I do dumb magic tricks and it makes the kids laugh,” she said. “I’m also terrible at juggling, but I’m good at ballooning, face painting and story telling.”

Marx became a volunteer at Roswell Park Medical Center so she could work the hallways in her clown costume.  She works to put smiles on everyone’s faces whether they are patients, staff or visitors.

“Hospital clowning is called caring clowning but I think all clowning should be called caring clowning,” Marx said. “We just want to bring joy to other people. That’s what we do.”

Ultimately, as Clarabelle, she gets back as good as she gives. “It fills my heart to do clowning,” she said.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Clown Class sponsored by Niagara Clown Alley • WHERE: Niagara Falls High School • WHEN: Two part ten week series from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. starting Wednesday • MORE INFO: To register call the school district Community Education Center at 286-0771. Cost is $35 for the each of two five-week series.