Professional clown Michael Christensen doesn't just confine his act to the Big Apple Circus he co-founded. He also brings laughter to a place that is often badly in need of it: pediatric hospitals across the country.
迈克尔·克里斯腾森是一位专业小丑,他还是大苹果马戏团的创始人。克里斯腾森创立的全国性项目“小丑关怀”每年派身穿戏服的马戏团演员到全美各地的儿科医院巡回演出。

Christensen's national organization, Clown Care, sends costumed circus performers on nearly 225,000 visits to ill children across the country.

Getting into the act

The arc of Michael Christensen’s circus career has taken some funny turns. Born in Walla Walla, Washington in 1947, he trained to be a traditional actor. But he got hooked on the circus spirit during the early 1970s, when he learned how to juggle from the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a politically radical ensemble of street performers.
迈克尔·克里斯腾森的马戏团生涯出现过一些有趣的转折。他1947年出生于华盛顿州瓦拉瓦拉市,接受过传统的表演训练。1970年代早期,他在由街头艺人组成的旧金山哑剧团学习变戏法时,迷上了马戏团。

That’s where he met and befriended juggler Paul Binder, who later joined him as a circus act and became his lifelong business partner as well. Together, the two set off for the streets of Europe, where they performed their juggling act everywhere from Paris to Istanbul.
克里斯腾森在哑剧团结识了保罗·宾德。宾德不仅和他一起表演变戏法,而且成了他终身的商业合作伙伴。

By 1977, the two had returned to America and raised funds to start their own one-ring circus under a small green canvas tent in New York’s Battery Park City, in the shadow of the World Trade Center. They called it The Big Apple Circus.
1977年,他们筹集了资金,到纽约市炮台公园城社区,在世贸大厦的荫蔽下,搭起一个小型绿色帆布帐篷,开始了他们只有一个圆形表演场的大苹果马戏团。

"We took off," Christensen recalls. "A year-and-a-half later we were in Lincoln Center. What started out as a couple of ragtag brazen Americans juggling on the streets of Europe as a great adventure has ended up being a great New York institution."
克里斯腾森说:“一年半之后,我们开始在林肯中心表演。最初,我们只是两个衣冠不整、莽撞冒失的人,如今,我们却发展成纽约市一个大型马戏团。”

Big Apple Circus

Today, more than 500,000 fans see the show every year during its 38-week tour. Christensen stresses that despite its success, the Big Apple Circus remains a non-profit, grassroots operation.
今天,大苹果马戏团每年巡演38个星期,观众超过50万。克里斯腾森强调,尽管他们取得了成功,但是,大苹果马戏团依然是一个非盈利的草根组织。

"We both decided when we created the circus that we wanted it to serve the communities in which we performed. This is important - having a direct, positive, supportive relationship with the community."
他说:“我们在成立马戏团时就决定,我们要服务于我们表演的社区。和社区有直接的、积极的和援助性关系,这非常重要。”

In that spirit, the duo launched "Circus of the Senses" in 1983, a special edition of the Big Apple Circus adapted for visually and hearing impaired children. They also started "Beyond the Ring," an afterschool program which teaches kids clowning, acrobatics and juggling. Christensen says circus arts offer children life skills such as teamwork, perseverance and calm flexibility in the face of the unexpected.
本着这种精神,他们1983年发起了“感官马戏”项目。这是大苹果马戏团专门为有视觉和听觉障碍的儿童安排的表演。他们还开展了“马戏团之外”的课外计划,教孩子们扮演小丑、体操和戏法。克里斯腾森说,马戏艺术让孩子们学习到团队精神、坚韧和遇到突发情况时保持镇静。

"If a club falls and hits the ground, or you drop it while juggling, instead of being embarrassed that you’ve made a ‘mistake,’ accept it, and find some fun thing to do with that," he says. "And all of a sudden the kid looks up and sees the audience go ‘Yeah, yeah!’ And there has been a shift in the child, a really fantastic one, that goes, ‘These aren’t mistakes. These are things that happen,’ and they can be the source of fun and delight."

Clown Care

But it was personal grief over the loss of his brother to cancer and the search for a larger purpose in life that inspired Christensen to start his own signature program.
但是,兄弟死于癌症带给他的伤痛,以及对生命意义的探索,激发克里斯腾森开创了自己的招牌项目“小丑关怀”。

Clown Care brings pairs of clowns and the levity they offer into pediatric hospitals. There are now over 80 "clown doctors" in facilities throughout America, and internationally, hospital clowning has become an established profession. Christensen, whose hospital clown persona is named "Dr. Stubs," says the work keeps him humble.
他们把一对对小丑派往儿童医院,给孩子们带去轻松的气氛。目前,全美各地医院中有80多位“小丑医生”。在国际上,医院的小丑演出已经成为一个固定的职业。克里斯腾森表示,这个工作使他保持谦卑。

"In the first week, I came in contact with a nine year old who was heading to Philadelphia for a heart and lungs transplant. And I entertained him for 10 minutes, laughing through his oxygen mask and respirator. And four hours later, he passed," says Christensen. "And you just say, ‘Wow, to be with a child like that, and to fill those moments with joy, celebration, wonder, awe, fun, fantasy, laughter,’ and to know that you were one of the last people on this plane he encountered, and this was the quality of the exchange, what greater honor is there?"
他说:“第一个星期,我见一个正准备接受心肺移植手术的9岁孩子。我为他表演了10分钟,逗得他透过氧气罩和呼吸管发笑。4个小时后,他去世了。你会惊叹说,和这样的孩子在一起度过充满快乐、喜庆、神奇、敬畏、有趣、幻想和欢笑的一段时间,而且知道你是他在世上接触的最后几个人之一,这种人与人的交往才有价值。”

Clown Care’s gifts don’t have to be raucous, or even funny. On a recent hospital visit he and his partner peered through the doorway of a 10-year-old boy’s hospital room to see him peacefully sleeping while his mother stroked his head.

"The scene is beautiful and so elegant and so touching. And you take a breath and we played a song. My partner has a ukulele and he just played a lovely song and I was simply with him and present. And we simply added the music, the appropriate music, that would complete that moment in front of us."

Clown 'doctor'

Christensen believes that clowns achieve much of their humor - and perhaps their healing power - by acting in ways that seem inappropriate.
克里斯腾森认为,小丑是通过外表不可思议的方式展现他们的幽默、甚至医治能力的。

He might enter a sick child’s room and walk right into a wall, or parody doctors by giving a medical exam to a rubber chicken. He is also aware that children - especially sick children - are often given little power over their lives. So he always asks permission of the child before the room, and sometimes switches roles with a child by acting benignly helpless when at the bedside.
他有可能走进一个病孩的病房,径直向墙头走去,或者模仿医生给一只塑料鸡检查身体。克里斯腾森意识到,孩子,特别是有病的孩子,几乎没有对生命的控制权。于是,进入病房之前,他常常征求孩子的同意,有时他还和孩子调换角色,在病床旁善意地装出一副无助的样子。

"Now, all of a sudden, I am the one who needs the help and they become the all-knowing authority. Even in something as simple as ‘Do I have my hat on right?’ ‘Is everything okay?’ and they say ‘You have to button that,’ and ‘You’ve got it all wrong!’ And before you know it, they are sitting up in the bed taking charge. And medical people have told us oftentimes this is a turning point in someone’s illness where they have organized themselves to take charge."
他说:“突然之间,我变成了需要帮助的人,他们成了权威人物。即使是一些很简单的问题,例如:我的帽子戴对了吗?他们会命令你把扣子扣好,还会说你把事情都做错了。紧接着,他们会从床上坐起来管事了。医护人员告诉我们,这往往是一个转折点,因为他们开始振作起来管理自己了。”

For his pioneering Clown Care program, Christensen has received the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, the Red Skelton Award and Parenting Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
克里斯腾森因为他开创性的“小丑关怀”项目,被授予“鲁奥沃伦伯格人道主义奖”、“红斯科尔顿奖”,以及父母杂志的终生成就奖。

Christensen’s hospital work has not been limited to children. He offers experimential group workshops that teach the value of playful improvisation and empathic communication to doctors, nurses and health administrators. Indeed, for Christensen and the thousands of people who have been touched by his work, play can be serious business.
克里斯腾森的医院工作并不局限于孩子。他还开设了实验性小组工作室, 向医生、护士以及健康管理人员教授幽默即兴发挥和感情移入交流的价值。对克里斯腾森以及数以千计直接或间接接触过他的工作的人来说,玩耍也是很严肃的事情。