“We couldn’t read the room. It was just a four-year-old in a mask. All we could see were his eyes . . . .”
“The hardest part for me right now is I can’t create joy for people. My entire being, everything I do, it’s all about creating joy. And it’s so needed right now. When you have a room of 500 five-year-olds, it’s like conducting an orchestra of laughter and there’s nothing greater than that. It’s just magnificent. I make people laugh. It’s my purpose.
I’ve worked nonstop in this industry since I was just out of college. Full-time, full-tilt boogie as an entertainer, producer, director, clown until COVID hit. It’s all very intimate, either in theaters or strolling or right at a kid’s face.
So I think the hardest part of COVID as a performing artist is that suddenly I can’t create anything. I started making a dozen masks a day because it was a creative outlet. I had to do something. I mailed them to everyone and anyone. But I missed people and laughter, particularly kid laughter.
Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital called and asked if we would do our clown doctoring virtually. Having no training in the virtual world and nobody to ask how to do it yet, we decided to give it a try. Leo, “Dr. Chester Drawers” and I “Dr. Sneakers”, partners for 18 years, put on our clown doctor coats, our noses, collected every prop we had, set up a backdrop in our individual kitchens and we went for it. The Videographer from the Childlife Dept. at Yale agreed to bring his laptop into the room for us.
Suddenly we’re on and there’s this kid. Usually you read the room, get a sense of how sick the child is, how they are feeling, whether their parents are there and we always need permission from the child before we to go in. But we couldn’t be there in person for any of this. What we saw was just a four-year-old boy in a mask. All we could see were his eyes. We ended up with that kid for about 30 minutes, but it felt like a 12-hour day. We were on this hyper focus to connect through a video screen and It was the hardest performance I’ve ever had in my life.
After the first 20 minutes we stopped. I could barely speak. All my experience, 30 years of performing, we had tried everything in our arsenal.
And then the moment came. Out of the blue the kid said “boo!” and Chester ran off the screen. Then I said “Coast is clear!” The kid repeated that “Coast is clear!” Chester peaked back in and the kid yelled “boo!” again. So, Chester ran off the screen again. The kid cracked up and was hysterically laughing. So, we kept doing it, of course. We did that for at least 10 minutes …over and over. We realized again, like with any cartoon, the simplest things always work. But it took us forever to find that moment. Once we got that, I thought, “Oh, I can do this!” It’s comedy, all it is is comedy, and the simpler and the stupider and the more clear it is, like classic slapstick, the better. So, then I got a rubber chicken and I hit the screen with the chicken and Chester grabbed his identical rubber chicken and pretended to be knocked out and fell down. And that’s all we needed." -- Liz, MizLizEvents #Connecticut