For Racheli Mendelson, a former EMT who'd been creating performance-art pieces since she was thirteen, it just made sense to explore her time serving in the Israeli military through a red-nosed clown performance. See the result at Mendelson's Boulder International Fringe Festival debut, Shoot, Cry & Forget About It!: A Military Clown Adventure opening this Thursday, September 19 at the Dairy Center for the Arts.
"The military is structured to dehumanize people in a lot of different ways -- clowns are the exact opposite of that," says Mendelson. "Clowns get to experience the full spectrum of humanity. They get to go to the extremes and express things that are usually not expressed."
Shoot, Cry & Forget About It! follows a group of new military recruits through basic training and their first experiences of war. The clown facade is used as a tool to expose and share the emotional side of the tale, while still bringing the reality of conflict to the forefront.
"The reason I chose to do this as red-nosed clowning is because with clowning, each character is so unique and eccentric and has a very particular point of view about each thing that is happening to them," explains Mendelson. "It gives you a very diverse spectrum of what it's like to be a soldier -- the humanity within the military. The human beings that are actually within this structure and interacting with authority and interacting with all of these different tasks that they need to perform."
Since military enlistment is mandatory in Israel, Mendelson says that, as a woman, she was lucky to be able to request her possible placement as an EMT. She served two years in that position before leaving for the States to study performance and peace studies at Naropa University in Boulder.
"Naropa offered me a very unique opportunity of studying in a conservatory-like (environment) for performance, but also being able to integrate peace-studies classes. I got to learn about things I really cared about -- different conflicts around the world -- and integrate that into my performance art. This project is a direct expression of that," says Mendelson.
For the creator of Shoot, Cry & Forget About It!, the performance piece also serves a larger purpose -- to bring a conversation about the idea of ending war to a wide audience.
"It's not that I believe that this one performance is going to end war, but my innermost wish is that war is going to end," explains Mendelson. "The reason why I say it is because I feel like a lot of people are just completely discouraged about that; they won't even consider the possibility that it is a choice we have -- whether we continue using military force to resolve our conflicts or whether we do something else. That's why it is really important for me to keep putting it out there that it is actually a possibility -- that we can consider the possibility that war can end."
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Shoot, Cry & Forget About It!: A Military Clown Adventure opens this Thursday, September 19 with a 4 p.m. show at the Dairy Center for the Arts, as part of the Boulder International Fringe Festival. Additional performances run through Saturday, September 28. For more information on Shoot, Cry & Forget About It!, visit the show's Facebook page; to purchase tickets, visit the Boulder Fringe's website.