By Sara Acosta
San Salvador, Nov 8 (EFE).- “It’s better to cry tears of joy than of sadness amid so much violence,” a clown named Kapush says of the magic and juggling show he brought to a poor neighborhood in Soyapango, a satellite city of El Salvador’s capital that is notorious for gang violence.
The artist, whose real name is Ever Lopez, performed his act on a road leading to the San Jose district, needing only a few chairs and a sound system to provide laughs and entertainment to young and old alike.
His performance was part of the eighth edition of the International Stage Clown Festival, which was held in late October and included virtual shows as well as on-site performances by Salvadoran artists in neighborhoods, schools and other open spaces.
Clown shows are popular because they allow greater interaction between the performing artist and the audience and also offer a type of socially engaged circus in which the entertainment moves from the theater and other traditional cultural spaces to the street.
“The clown is an authentic person. It’s a totally vulnerable person on stage (and that) enables this closeness with the audience,” Lopez, who is part of the “Lagrimas de Risa” (Tears of Laughter) collective, told Efe.
Clowns facilitate the telling of “stories that are hard to tell,” the performing artist said. “It can be done in a more entertaining, more friendly way, with more empathy.”
Salvadorans have gone through “difficult moments of lockdown due to the pandemic, and so the people are in need of (a) mental health (boost) through laughter,” he added.
He said the Covid-19 crisis also has further exacerbated the longstanding problem of violent crime in their communities.
“People don’t have access to a play in a theater. That’s why we decided to move the performances to those supposedly dangerous and stigmatized neighborhoods,” Lopez said.
“Artists also have an obligation to decentralize art, not only (to be in) the theater but also on the street, in the communities and bring (the show) to children who don’t have the chance to buy a ticket.”
Performing artist Valeria Juarez says for her part that the figure of the clown is a way to “invite all children to come out and play regardless of gender or age.”
Juarez is part of the Cirkeras El Salvador collective, which is made up of eight female performance and street artists who bring their shows to street corners, plazas and public parks.
One of these shows was performed at a public school in the picturesque town of Suchitoto, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from San Salvador, as part of the International Stage Clown Festival.
“Art nearly always stays in the capital. So the children get excited when you take it” to their neighborhoods, Juarez said.
Helen Portillo, executive director of the Teatro Irreal Cultural Foundation that organizes the festival, told Efe that the event also serves as a training space for the Salvadoran and foreign artists who participate.
The artists exchange experiences about the socially engaged circus while also delivering entertainment drawn from local stories for the enjoyment of children, young people and adults.
“We harbor the hope of coming together again. And that’s what’s been tough for artists who put on these types of events with this new reality (of the pandemic) because it makes our work triply challenging. But we harbor the hope of meeting up once again to feel one another’s presence,” Portillo added. EFE