Saturday, February 16, 2013

Burning Man Stories: Clowning on Acid


Wednesday afternoon I'd attended our neighboring camp's clowning class.  This was a light-hearted session of mostly improvisation games and performance tips.  So I was sort of in the mood to practice this new skill that night.  In my dome, I decided to try out the face paints I had brought.  This would be my first time using face paint, but I'd seen some others that had done some cool things with it and wanted to jump in. Using a mirror, I blackened my eye sockets to look a bit like a skull, added black lines in the form of a fu manchu running down my chin, some blue lines accentuating my cheekbones, and a yellow line down my nose completed my attempt, going for the look of a kabuki mask.  I knew this was very basic and amateurish, especially compared to some of the amazing face and body-painting on the playa, but I felt in the spirit of the event.

I dropped acid and walked out on the town to check out what was happening in my local neighborhood.  A little walk around the block revealed some fun theme camps.  I was soon coming onto the acid and all up in my head.  Acid is cerebral and introspective.  I found I could not maintain conversations with people, too distracted by those inside my mind.  People were not too put off by my face paint.

Walking along the road toward center camp, I affected an odd look on my face, a creepy over-happy smile, which I maintained as a kind of performance piece.  Some people saw this and remarked in hushed tones that I was a clown.  This seemed to me to be permission to be the clown, do what clowns do, behave in the silliest of ways, just for a laugh or a reaction.  I was feeling self-conscious, unsure of what I'd planned for this evening.  I thought about aborting my mission, going back to camp and wiping off the paint with a baby wipe, but I stoically pressed forward.
Arriving in the Center Camp Cafe, I scanned the sparsely populated space.  The cafe is crowded during daylight hours, but mellow at night.  I moved towards the main crowd, lounging on couches in front of the stage which features musical acts.

With my clown makeup on, and a creepy smirk plastered on my face, I looked at the stage to see a seven or eight-person all-clown band playing hard rock on the stage.  It was perfect, like it had been planned.  I had no idea, but of course wandered over and danced like a clown to the music.  The clowns onstage noticed me and I felt supported in my role I'd chosen for the night.  This place gives one a blank social canvas to create any persona, any role or character that one wishes.

The next day, I had a hard time getting all the yellow paint off my nose; it seemed to be caked into my pores.  After scrubbing a layer of skin off, it was mostly gone. 

No comments:

Post a Comment