The Arts Club of Washington has been celebrating and promoting visual, literary, and performing arts for over a decade. Last spring, they graciously opened their doors to support a non-profit organization by the name of Clowns Without Borders. That's right CLOWNS, Without Borders. For over 19 years CWB has traveled the globe, where invited, bringing laughter as relief to the suffering of all persons (especially children) in areas of crisis, including refugee camps, conflict zones and territories in situations of emergency. This year, The Arts Club welcomed the circus back to their beautiful venue for the FUNdraiser of the summer! Former President, Jimmy Monroe's, I Street mansion sets quite an elegant backdrop for a bunch of clowns. Fortunately, the clowns are on their best behavior, and looking sharp in their finest duds.
Even Abe is onboard, as the stage is set and the flurry of volunteer performers start to flood in. DC's best talent has come to support, bringing together an all-star cast for a night sure to be enjoyed. As guests wait for the performances to begin, they feast on the organic, homemade delicacies of Cirque Cuisine, a DC food truck doing it right! Curbside entertainment brings the talents of Elena Day and Karen Beriss; whether enjoying some enlightenment from The Light Queen or marveling at the quick hands of The Amazing Catistrafi, it is a good ole time.
The night opens with a local comedy dog act, Mutts Gone Nuts. Husband and wife, Scott and Joan Houghton, are home-run hitters, and long-time performance veterans. Like Joan and Scott, the dogs are no strangers to a stage. Cracking up audiences around the country, these rescue dogs seem to have found a good gig in the hearts and home of the Houghtons. What a treat to begin the show!
As the pups steal their last few laughs, the night moves up into the air. I'm quite certain this is the once-a-year occasion for a portable trapeze rig to go up in the Arts Club's courtyard. The Trapeze School of New York in Washington D.C. once again has brought the circus to I Street, this year featuring the talents of Dana Karash and Elliot Parker.
Master of Ceremonies, J.P. Worthington, beckons the crowd inside, where something unknown awaits them. With his trademark entrance, acclaimed performer, Jonathan Burns zips his way onto the stage in a fashion only he can pull off. I remember my delight the first time I saw Jonathan's show....it is always a treat to get to see a group of new faces going through that truly unique experience.
Yup....it usually looks like that.
Jonathan is an excellent example of how wide the spectrum of clown reaches. His unique brand of comedy contorsion stays true to the honesty, generosity, and nonsense that is cornerstone to the performance of clown. Next up, some classic clown, executed beautiful in all its fumbling glory. The talents of Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell are a treat for tonight's audience. The artistic co-directors of Happenstance Theater, and another husband and wife team, Mark and Sabrina are known for their original works. Presenting, Augustine and Pinot.....no, no, that's not right...Pinot and Augustine.
Director of Clowns Without Borders USA, Tim Cunningham, caps off the hour of laughter with a beautiful story of a man he encountered during one of his recent visits to South America. Many people often wonder, what could clowns possible have to offer communities suffering from the effects of a deadly tsunami? Children living with the daily reality of poverty? A community bound to the borders of a refugee camp? As Tim simply puts it, "we bring laughter. No more, no less." And this laughter, the man tells Tim, is what brings us together. "When we laugh," he says, "we are all brothers and sisters."
Clowns Without Borders is funded almost entirely by individual donations. Last year 88% of the donations went to supporting new and future projects (only a mere 12% going towards administrative costs). Participating artists all volunteer their time. They do the majority of the fundraising for project expenses...Black Ties Red Noses is DC's contribution to this cause! All proceeds go directly to to support humanitarian clown work in Haiti, Colombia, the Middle East, within the US and many other places for 2013 and 2014. CLICK ME TO DONATE!
As guests share another round with friends, browsing the CWB merchandise and silent auction items, the party moves into Late Night. Hosted by the hilarious and beautiful, Rachel Hynes, as Pandora's Box, the night burns on with fire spinning and burlesque!
Fire performers: Barbara Stuckey, Zoe Jackson, Caitlin Matanle, and Heather Muszynski heat up the courtyard before we go inside to enjoy the saucy talents of our Late Night ladies. Anna Steasya and Kitty Bermuda bookend as the final performances of the evening, while Debbi (aka La Dolce Diva) regales us with "Lady is a Tramp."
While the moon rises high in the night sky, sleepy clowns start to pack it in. It is a successful night for Clowns Without Borders; another room full of people learning about the work of this organization and experience the beauty of laughter firsthand.
A tremendous thank you to all the supporters, volunteers, and performers who made this night possible. But, not without a pre-show game of "Little Red Caboose" first! Until next year, Arts Club, thank you from the Clowns!
We will continue spreading joy and laughter. We hope to see YOU the next time the circus comes to D.C.!
Story By: Kolleen Kintz
Photos By: Bobby Kintz
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