San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Clown Convention Serious Business

WHAT do you get when you cross 100red noses, 200 abnormally large shoes andthe National Culture Center in San José? Aclown convention in Costa Rica, of course.The Friends of Costa Rica clown cluband the Hospital Clown Foundation areorganizing the Fourth International ClownConvention July 11-15, in the NationalCulture Center.Approximately 100 clowns fromPuerto Rico, Mexico, the DominicanRepublic, Peru, Nicaragua and Colombiaare expected to attend the five-day convention,where they will have the opportunityto attend a variety of workshops rangingfrom balloon art to makeup application andbody language.THE convention was created to celebrate,maintain and improve the art ofclowning, which has existed in nearlyevery culture throughout history since2500 B.C., according to the Clowns ofAmerica International Web site.Gerardo Leitón, convention coordinatorand a professional clown, told The TicoTimes that the coordinating committee hastried to expand and improve the conventioneach year, and is happy to host bothnew and returning attendees.Leitón said that although clowning hasbecome much more commercialized inmodern times than in the past – whenclowns such as China’s Yu Sze, in about300 B.C., prevented thousands of deathsby mocking the emperor’s dangerous constructionplan, and African-Americanclown Bert Williams broke through racialbarriers on Broadway and in film in theearly 20th century – it is still a mediumthrough which practitioners can denouncesocietal wrongs and make indirect suggestions.One of the convention’s goals, hesaid, is to honor clowns’ tangible socialfunctions as entertainers and as educators.BUBA, a Tico clown who will attendthe convention for the second time, says hehad a positive experience last year. He networked,shared experiences with otherclowns, learned new tricks and expandedhis knowledge of wardrobe and makeup.“I’m going again because I want tocontinue learning and improving my character,”he said.Despite the under-appreciation, highcost of costumes and elusive work thatoften comes with being a clown, Leitónsaid it’s worth the sacrifice.“When you see people laugh and smile,that’s what’s most important,” he said. “Tohave the ability to make children and peoplelaugh and forget their problems, evenfor just for a moment… it’s a gift fromGod.”SPECIAL guests at this year’s conventioninclude Librin, 14-time winner atthe U.S. World Clown Convention, and themonster and lion mascots from theSaprissa and La Liga soccer teams.Pre-registration is required to attendthe convention, but it will be open to thepublic for a small fee of ¢500 ($1) July 15,when the event will be concluded withwardrobe, individual routine, costume andballoon-shaping contests.For more information or to register forthe convention, call 275-1775 or 226-6697.

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