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The Red Nose

Ginevra loves to be a clown and make people laugh. She is based in Italy but travels around the world on clown missions. Read on our interview #9 below -

Akanksha: I read your blog on ‘Have a Good Trip’, that Italy is where you were born and       brought up. You wrote that Italy is a place where people from the North are living in the city of South. What do you mean by that?

Ginevra: Well you know I think every country is more or less the same. Italy is a very tiny country. It looks like a boot. North was always the richest part of the country and the south was the poor part and still there exists this difference between North and South. So people always emigrate from South to North to find a better life, better job etc. and people who do not emigrate but try to find the real Italy in South Italy, where still exists a tradition that in North Italy has almost disappeared, so I meant that and also my meaning is to have a more universal vision about traveling. So yes I am from Italy, my identity is Italian but it really doesn’t mean so much for me after many years of travel and understanding that all the countries are similar. And despite the geography and the culture, people are people and always in every country poor people emigrate towards wealth, in the rich part of every country - and look for a better life and that was and is the practice in Italy and in every country.

Akanksha: Right.

Ginevra: All humans by nature I believe are nomads.

Akanksha: What drives your fascination towards the East? You mention that China is a very mysterious country. What draws you towards it?

Ginevra: Italy is a very mixed country, from centuries people have been traveling through Italy and approaching Italy through the sea. We are surrounded by sea from every side except the north, so it is a peninsula. That means lots of people from East were coming to Italy centuries ago and bringing culture and a different way to live, to eat, religion etc with them. So, I was always fascinated to visit countries that have in common some part of our culture, in terms of not only religion but also theater, because I'm an actress and I always was involved in theater, and theater is a part of the cultural treasure I think for every country. And so I was attracted to explore different cultures and that brought me to explore Eastern countries. Asian countries are much far away from Italy, and cultural traditions and theater traditions are so different, and that's why I was very curious and very intrigued to understand and learn about China, Japan etc.

Akanksha: So would you describe one cultural or religious difference that really touched your heart?

Ginevra: The first very far away theater culture tradition I explored in my life back when I was young, was in India actually. I am talking about 1980s and 1990s, when I started to study theater in Italy, I saw for the first time this amazing theater called Kathakali from Kerala. and I was really fascinated by the way those actors were so involved in the play, in the acting, it was not only representing something, it was not only playing by a rule, but it was really a total, 360-degree act. The actor was able to do singing, dancing and to be so immersed in his parts. Then I decided that I want to explore this kind of theater, and I studied about Kathakali first in Italy and I discovered that Kathakali was not only for audience that was paying to see theater but it was also a play in a way for people, for free, it was a way to create an eye for people to better their lives. Most of those plays were about farmers and their interactions with God. One of the actors was God's voice and that's amazing because though I know he’s an actor, but then he creates a magic moment that heals all the people, heal the audience for a certain period of time - one hour, two hours whatever but it was amazing because if the actors are very intense and give themselves totally, hundred percent to the play, they can get their goal to get the audience involved. I was very fascinated about that. Because, you know, when I started to play theater, to study theater, I needed to heal myself. So again through this kind of research I found that theater can help people to heal and to find better, clear vision about many things.

Akanksha: How did this transition from being an actor to a clown happen?

Ginevra: Well you know this is about personal tendency, personal talent, you know so for example I don't know, I hope, I presume you know your talent, my talent was to make people laugh. It was my natural thing since I was like 10 years old and so and I discovered little by little it was really the things that I was good at doing...really good, so without doing anything special. And again when I started to do theater I discovered that I was intrigued and I was fascinated also to dramatic side because it's very intense... But dramatic side and comic side really touch each other in a very tiny way, but if you experiment with yourself with your body with your mind, you will understand what I mean, so I was attracted from dramatic side and I got into very dramatic kind of theater for a certain amount of years. And then I came back to my comic part but first what I was needed to do was a long process you know - study; study, train my body, train my spirits, explore different culture, meet different people, try different genres like Kathakali, I

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Ginevra loves to be a clown and make people laugh. She is based in Italy but travels around the world on clown missions. Read on our interview #9 below -

Akanksha: I read your blog on ‘Have a Good Trip’, that Italy is where you were born and       brought up. You wrote that Italy is a place where people from the North are living in the city of South. What do you mean by that?

Ginevra: Well you know I think every country is more or less the same. Italy is a very tiny country. It looks like a boot. North was always the richest part of the country and the south was the poor part and still there exists this difference between North and South. So people always emigrate from South to North to find a better life, better job etc. and people who do not emigrate but try to find the real Italy in South Italy, where still exists a tradition that in North Italy has almost disappeared, so I meant that and also my meaning is to have a more universal vision about traveling. So yes I am from Italy, my identity is Italian but it really doesn’t mean so much for me after many years of travel and understanding that all the countries are similar. And despite the geography and the culture, people are people and always in every country poor people emigrate towards wealth, in the rich part of every country - and look for a better life and that was and is the practice in Italy and in every country.

Akanksha: Right.

Ginevra: All humans by nature I believe are nomads.

Akanksha: What drives your fascination towards the East? You mention that China is a very mysterious country. What draws you towards it?

Ginevra: Italy is a very mixed country, from centuries people have been traveling through Italy and approaching Italy through the sea. We are surrounded by sea from every side except the north, so it is a peninsula. That means lots of people from East were coming to Italy centuries ago and bringing culture and a different way to live, to eat, religion etc with them. So, I was always fascinated to visit countries that have in common some part of our culture, in terms of not only religion but also theater, because I'm an actress and I always was involved in theater, and theater is a part of the cultural treasure I think for every country. And so I was attracted to explore different cultures and that brought me to explore Eastern countries. Asian countries are much far away from Italy, and cultural traditions and theater traditions are so different, and that's why I was very curious and very intrigued to understand and learn about China, Japan etc.

Akanksha: So would you describe one cultural or religious difference that really touched your heart?

Ginevra: The first very far away theater culture tradition I explored in my life back when I was young, was in India actually. I am talking about 1980s and 1990s, when I started to study theater in Italy, I saw for the first time this amazing theater called Kathakali from Kerala. and I was really fascinated by the way those actors were so involved in the play, in the acting, it was not only representing something, it was not only playing by a rule, but it was really a total, 360-degree act. The actor was able to do singing, dancing and to be so immersed in his parts. Then I decided that I want to explore this kind of theater, and I studied about Kathakali first in Italy and I discovered that Kathakali was not only for audience that was paying to see theater but it was also a play in a way for people, for free, it was a way to create an eye for people to better their lives. Most of those plays were about farmers and their interactions with God. One of the actors was God's voice and that's amazing because though I know he’s an actor, but then he creates a magic moment that heals all the people, heal the audience for a certain period of time - one hour, two hours whatever but it was amazing because if the actors are very intense and give themselves totally, hundred percent to the play, they can get their goal to get the audience involved. I was very fascinated about that. Because, you know, when I started to play theater, to study theater, I needed to heal myself. So again through this kind of research I found that theater can help people to heal and to find better, clear vision about many things.

Akanksha: How did this transition from being an actor to a clown happen?

Ginevra: Well you know this is about personal tendency, personal talent, you know so for example I don't know, I hope, I presume you know your talent, my talent was to make people laugh. It was my natural thing since I was like 10 years old and so and I discovered little by little it was really the things that I was good at doing...really good, so without doing anything special. And again when I started to do theater I discovered that I was intrigued and I was fascinated also to dramatic side because it's very intense... But dramatic side and comic side really touch each other in a very tiny way, but if you experiment with yourself with your body with your mind, you will understand what I mean, so I was attracted from dramatic side and I got into very dramatic kind of theater for a certain amount of years. And then I came back to my comic part but first what I was needed to do was a long process you know - study; study, train my body, train my spirits, explore different culture, meet different people, try different genres like Kathakali, I don't know if you know for example did you see Kathakali play once in your life?

Akanksha: No I have not seen a Kathakali play but I know Kathakali dance.

Ginevra: you know what I mean. So when I was in Kerala, I watched Kathakali for few nights. It’s amazing you know, the actor go into trance, I don't know if it happens now but back in 1990s this kind of actors still existed and they were not paid actors, they were more like monks than actors. Of course this kind of theater has now disappeared because, people want to make money and also actors want to make money as they have to survive. So back to how I can reach my comic part or my clown part. Well I got into many different trainings and research in my life. In Japan I was for a long time playing and studying with the Japanese modern dancers... it was very nice. So just like 20-some years ago, I started, because I needed to survive and I needed to make money and you know if you are an actor it's very hard to make money, it's very, very hard. So I started to play street theater so I'm at the square everywhere with my friend. My friend and I discovered that clown was a very interesting character in the theater panorama. It could easily make friendship with everyone, everywhere. So it was not needed to make a very special performance, but only few ingredients were needed to make myself ready. If you have great energy and some technique, of course, a little technique is needed when you do performance but not so much, but you need a lot of energy, and you need really to.... your intentions to be there and to make contact with people, so my intentions were very strong. My technique was not so bad either. I started to play in the street and it was one of the most amazing and great experiences in their lives and I did this and I was getting money so I was doing the things that I loved and I got money from it. I met a lot of wonderful people as well as some not so wonderful people, because in the street you get both. You get people that..... I remember people who were asking me, 'why are you back in the street? Do you have a house? Do you have money?' and I was answering I have a house, I have money and actually I'm doing the things I love. People think if you are playing in the street you are, you know outsider or drug addict or things like that but it is interesting because you see a lot of everybody, you know you don't have any filter, you are a naked industry. So the people who enter in theater, they know they are in the theater but the in the street everybody can contact you. Everybody, children, old people, immigrant, outsider, drug addict, woman, priests, everyone, so I had this experience and I tell you it was the most amazing experience and from that point I look for similar experiences. In 1994, I heard for the first time about Patch Adams, and so I read his book.  Actually my husband met him. My husband is a photographer and writer so he met him because he was working for a magazine and the magazine sent him to a very interesting doctor meeting-cum-conference where a lot of doctors were speaking about alternative ways - humanization of care so you don't want to treat your patient like a number but you want to see him in the eyes and ask what about your life and so many, many doctors were present in that conference.  My husband was there for doing an interview and he met Patch and he was all so colorful and really friendly and he said, 'Look well so this is my book etc.' so I read his book and I'd write him. And I participated in the first clown mission in 1997.

Akanksha: In Russia?

Ginevra: In Russia exactly. In Russia. And so I got to know really about a new world, a new window got opened in front of me, and so I understood oh! I can do clowning in a hospital. I can do clowning not only in the street where you meet a lot of people that actually are suffering, that actually are lonely, that actually are looking for making friends because the street is a place where you meet a lot of these people, yes lonely people, happy people, very, very sad people, angry people but hospital is the place where people are really sad because if you are in a hospital is because you are not feeling well, right?

Akanksha: Right!

Ginevra: And in 1994 in Italy, this was not existing at all to bring clown into the hospital so as I was thinking well if that works in the street then I'm sure will work in a hospital as well. So we did -  we play music in the hospital, we dance with a doctor, dance with a nurse, we dance with the oncological patient about to die and I can tell you hundreds and hundreds of stories that happened to me in many, many years but the point is that clowning in a hospital was another one of the most amazing things that happened in my life and still I get surprised every time how the power of healing of human being can be if you just are available to listen, to smile, to get opened to everyone and in a very generous way your intention is to help this world to be a better place to live for yourself and for the others.

Akanksha: What is your day like, Genevra. If you could just describe your normal day?

Ginevra: Okay, I have no normal days, actually! Because it depends. For example, winter time I'm more in Italy, so from let's say January to almost February/March, I'm more in Italy so my time is between office, my office and, our kitchen. We have an office and so my time is between my office, computer work for our nonprofit organization, and organizing the next part of the year from March to July/August. Also in January we start school, usually we have from two to three schools to work with. We organize workshops in schools with about 20 or 30 students in each group. Then from March we start humanitarian mission. Usually we collaborate with different organizations. I travel like two or three times per year with an Institute that belongs to Patch Adams, founded more than 40 years ago, and we are working with them and we usually join them on two to three clown missions every year.

Akanksha: and what are these workshops exactly like?

Ginevra: We work for students. We work for student in high school, 16 to 18 years olds, and we train them to do volunteer service in different structures like retired people home, disabled people center, etc and we train them like I give theater lessons, how to be present, how to take out your energy. Basically we have a lot of fun together, which is very important, especially in school. In school what I've observed in more than 10 years of working is that young people are bored, schools are boring, it's really boring that they have to learn something that is not interesting for them and most of the times the teacher has no passion, so they are bored, so we really try to make them enthusiastic and this is the most beautiful thing for me, beautiful gift I receive when you see this kid, this adolescent smile and enjoy themselves.

Akanksha: It’s a great way to live where you have no routine, no? So unlike our desk jobs.

Ginevra: yes, yes but, you have to be very, very, very disciplined. Organize yourself about money, it's really hard, much harder than the people with routine and at the end of the month… a salary! It's much harder but I will never, never, never change my life into someone else’s life. I respect every life but then when you decide to work with your dreams you have to be very, very determined and work very hard every single day, no discount, I mean I love what I'm doing but almost no vacations, and then I think my life is a vacation in the sense I love what I'm doing.

Akanksha: How do you manage all of this with your family?

Ginevra: so when I were 19 years old, I declared that I want to go and live by myself. At that time I was already working. They said No, and I said Yes and I opened the door, took my mattress and went outside. From that time on, it was difficult, in the beginning was difficult, but then they understood after a while that my intention was so strong to make….. you know to have the control of my life in my own hands, to not depend. So after little by little they understood first that it was not my intention to become an employee or something or something that they had imagined for me and second they understood that my mind was more, let's say, artistic mind. So little by little they accepted but the point is from nineteen years old I got out from my house and I stopped asking for money from my parents and I was supporting myself by doing jobs and that was very important.

Akanksha: Very courageous of you!

Akanksha: Tell me your one or two top experiences as clown.

Ginevra: Many years ago we went to a prison here in Italy and we went to a high security one. We had no idea what to do as clowns and we had brought nothing with us. We entered with our group and these people were surprised why the director was letting clowns enter the prison when these people had at least killed someone or you know belonged to mafia. But most of these people were old, like all their lives in the prison or so, and we start to talk. Hey my name is like this and I'm from here and the guard was telling us don't even if they invite you in their jail, in their little place, jail, don't go, just stay in the common part. They were all old men and they all start coming towards my room and they offered let's drink something, juice so we said no, no we are not allowed. But finally they bring juice, they bring sweets and we put all the things in a little table we sit around we talk and we had really great time for like one hour by talking about life, about family, about children, and it was wonderful, it was easy though we were all kind of scared earlier. So after that, I was okay with these people and they don't scare me anymore. The number one things is that they are people, even if they're in the prison for doing something terrible, they're people and they need to communicate, they need to have a soft relation with the people who are softer than the prison guard or than people who are usually around them…and I think, I think they will remember our visit because it was a just friend to friend visit. I think again friendship is one of the most important things in life that can save you.

                        The second story is from last November when we were in a hospice for children and few of these children were nearing their death and so one adult came to me and said do you want to come inside one of the rooms? Yes, I went in this room it was a very small kid very, very small child… like only bones and full of too little muscle …you know tubes everywhere, cannot speak, almost cannot move and he was eight years or ten years old but very, very small and clearly he was… I don't think he had much time and so I act in a way that in front of me was not a very sick child with no possibility to move or to talk but I act in a way that in front of me was a normal child. So my eyes was looking at him like when you look at a normal child and play. I played and he played with me with his eyes, laughing with his eyes and we communicate and it was a great connection and I had fun and he had fun. So the point is that probably this little boy is not alive now but the way how you look at people is how you make them feel about themselves – he could have felt like a very sick child or a regular child depending on how I looked at him.

Akanksha: It was great chatting with you, Ginerva. Thanks again for doing this interview!

Ginerva: Thank you! I enjoyed it.

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