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Clowning Around
Clowning Around

Clowning Around

Katy Parsons

Nancy Guest is a newcomer to clowning.

 Her first job jestering was, in fact, last November's Santa Claus parade.

 "Having been in the Eaton's Santa Claus parade in Toronto as a teenager, I thought what is a parade without a clown?" she says.

 So she borrowed a costume, bought some make-up, and morphed into a mime.

 From that first time, Nancy decided she liked clowning and created the incomparable Violet the Clown.

  The make-up

 For our day of clowning, Nancy suggested she and I have completely different looks.

 Nancy's face is made up to match an illustration she drew of Violet, who happens to be the main character of a children's book series she's writing about her clowning experiences.

 "I wanted her look to be very feminine, which is unusual for clowning," she says of Violet, while applying an assortment of soft shades to her skin.

 She paints on purple cheeks and eyes, big red lips and thick black eyebrows over a white face.

  As Nancy puts on her make-up, she tells me how she learned to transform herself into a clown.

 "I have a mentor," she says, referring to a friend of hers from London, Ontario. "He's been into clowning for years and years. He e-mails me all of my information and sent me good make-up."

 Having good make-up, she stresses, is key to looking like a great clown.

 As far as my face make-up goes, our inspiration comes from the back of a Kodak photo envelope.

 Nancy's friend, 14-year-old Josh Hatt, is in charge of painting my face.

 Instead of soft purples and solid white, we go for a more abstract look - red streaks and mauve on my forehead, red triangles with black freckles on my cheeks and a red and blue mouth to boot.

 I'm much less professional than Nancy, laughing as each stroke of make-up is applied to my face and carrying on at each peek in the mirror.

 Inspired by my bouts of laughter, Nancy names me "Giggles" the clown.

  The costume

 After our faces are appropriately painted, Nancy and I truly transform ourselves into clowns by climbing into our costumes.

 "I made my whole costume, wig, hat, the whole outfit myself," Nancy says proudly.

 Her costume was obviously made to match the colours of her face.

 She puts on a floppy hat, a wig made from mop strings and a loose fitting clown suit, each item splashed with purple and pink hues.

 Her gloves, socks and shoes are white.

 In parades, she also uses props.

 "I think that each clown likes to be an individual, therefore my look is very different," she says. "I push a red wheelbarrow with Abigail the Invisible Dog and Pamela the Nova Scotia fainting goat."

 My costume, like my face, is blue, red and white, topped off with a rainbow wig and a big red nose.

 Except for a dopy grin, I can hardly recognize my own reflection.

  Clowning around

 All dolled up, we have to go make Meals on Wheels deliveries in Chester Basin.

 The comfort level I had inside Nancy's house slips away as soon as I step outside and realize it's probably not so cool for a 22 year old to gallivant around town dressed up as a clown. Nancy, on the other hand, has no qualms about our absurd appearances.

 In fact, she tells me, she likes watching people's reactions to her.

 "I think it's watching people's reactions, that's the most fun. Especially when I mime. It gives people a chance to talk and it draws them out," she says.

 Nancy usually mimes when she's in costume, but breaks this rule of thumb while with me.

 During our day, I begin to see the appeal of clowning.

 With each door-to-door delivery we attract bigger and brighter smiles.

 "Nancy, is that you?" one woman asks in surprise, while another looks affectionately at my clowning companion and exclaims, "We need more people like her, we really do."

 For a short time, I get caught up in the clowning thing and wonder, why wouldn't this interest people?

 Then a trip to the grocery store brings me back to reality.

 Nancy stops to buy a loaf of bread, in costume, and I panic as we go a little too public for my comfort.

 "Coming in?" she asks.

 I chicken out and opt to stay in the van, watching as junior high kids do a double-take while Nancy walks by.

 It takes a special person to be a clown, I decide.

  Clowning on the South Shore

 At the end of the day, I take off my wig and red nose with a sigh of relief. Nancy's enthusiasm for clowning, however, doesn't wane.

 "I love to be with children of all ages, from one to 101," she states enthusiastically.

 And she isn't the only one.

 Nancy's in cahoots with four friends who are also interested in the weird and wonderful world of clowning, and she hopes that number will grow.

 "Clowning is growing on the South Shore and everyone is welcome," she says.


Nancy Guest and I show off our made-up mugs. "I love to be with children of all ages, from one to 101," Nancy says, explaining her yen for clowning.

  Mar 21, 2001  
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