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April 11, 2013

Diversity taught through laughter

Performers provide character education in circus-themed show


Heidi, who plays Smudgy the Clown in the show, began researching autism as soon as Gannon was diagnosed and has become a national spokeswoman and advocate for the autism community.

During the performance, children learn respect with a version of Aesop’s fable of “The Lion and the Mouse”; Martin Luther King Jr.’s message is presented as “The Amazing See-Through Kid” and even a kindergarten student from the audience helps prove that people should never judge others based on their appearances.

Doug, the ringmaster, began the show by moving an oversized box of blue crayons to demonstrate the value of diversity. While showing crayons that all look the same he asks, “What fun are they?”

“A real box of crayons is better than this,” he told the students watching from the gymnasium floor.

“In a real box of crayons, some are blue, but others are red, yellow and purple,” he continued. “Some are thin, some are thick and others are sharp. Some are dull and there is short ones and tall ones. Some even have crazy wrapping papers and funny names, but you can’t draw a nice picture if they’re all the same.”

Over the course of the show, children are taught to be F.A.I.R. — an acronym that stands for Fair, Aware, Include and Respect.

Smudgy the Clown does not use words to communicate. Instead, she uses honks of a bicycle horn, whistles and hand gestures along with facial expressions to get her messages across. 

“Smudgy doesn’t talk like the rest of us,” Doug told audience members, “but you can understand her pretty well if you give her a chance.” 

As part of the show, five students were brought in front of their peers and given puzzle pieces. Doug puts the pieces together, but only four of the five pieces fit together seamlessly.

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