Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why I Clown: Elizabeth Bolick

Note from the editor: Today we continue our series on clowning. Professional clown and New Vic Teaching Artist Elizabeth Bolick tells us about her journey toward becoming a clown. If you think clowning might of interest to your family, plan a trip to see Bello Mania this April, or have your kid try out our Circus Kids Week.

Clowning came to me in college where I was studying acting at The University of the NC School of the Arts. We studied physical theater, mime, masks, stage fighting, dancing, acrobatics, circus arts and juggling as part of our theater training.

That type of physical expression and the challenges of learning the circus skills excited me right away. Plus it’s my belief that some people are born funny. Mozart was born to play piano and I discovered I was meant to be a physical comedienne.

Clowning techniques can be taught, but clowns have to have an innate sense of comic timing, an ability to be very open, vulnerable and present in each moment so they can connect with the audience. Great clowns have an almost cartoon-like vision of the world.

The most valuable work I do is as Dr. Sneakers, a Clown Dr. with The Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit. We are Doctors of Delight who bring humor therapy to critically ill children in hospitals. Hospital clowning is spreading rapidly worldwide in over 25 countries. The medical establishment is starting to take our work very seriously and there is no better work imaginable than this.

I find that many people call themselves clowns, but they are really amateur hobbyists. They can make a few balloon animals, paint a few faces, wear a store-bought costume and go out in the world without any real training at all.

But I’ve been working as a professional clown and circus artist for over 25 years. My work daily involves creating new material, practicing circus skills, performing original work, designing costumes and make-up, teaching my craft, marketing and producing events. I’ve made a decent living, worked with an incredibly supportive community of artists and traveled all over the world. Clown work is amazing and very rewarding, but it is not easy.


Elizabeth Bolick is a clown, circus artist, juggler, puppeteer, designer, make-up artist, producer and writer. She has written and performed original shows, designed and performed at events all over the world in every venue imaginable.

She performed at the NY International Clown Theater Festival, The AEMI International Clown Festival in China, Holland Village - Nagasaki Japan, The Cape Playhouse, The Dupont Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Art Park, The Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Liz is also a company member of The Super Scientific Circus and worked with The Grand Falloons at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Liz is a teaching artist at The New Victory Theater in NYC.

Lastly as Dr. Sneakers, Liz has been a humor therapist and Clown Dr. with The Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit® for 23 years. She received the Raoui Wallenberg Humanitarian Award for her work with critically ill children.

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