Laughter is the best medicine … at least according to Eugene-native and professional clown David Lichtenstein.
"Leapin' Louie," as he is known to thousands of fans across the world, is also a long-time member of Clowns Without Borders, a travelling troupe of comic performers bringing a smile to faces of children living in some of the most difficult circumstances.
Lichtenstein began clowning at an early age. His grandmother taught him rope tricks on her ranch near Seattle when he was a boy, inspiring his Western-themed clown persona "Leapin' Louie." He describes Louie as a 1930s-era, down-on-his-luck ranch hand, wandering Texas in search of adventure and the odd job. Lichtenstein specializes in the old Western tricks that Louie brings to life – twirling lassos, cracking whips and sometimes balancing towers of breakables on his chin or pedaling a REALLY TALL unicycle.
But what Lichtenstein really loves is bringing his hapless cowboy antics to kids who haven't had a reason to smile for months.
"It's wonderful work," he says. Although Lichtenstein finds the work exhausting, he also believes it's entirely worth it.
"The audiences go crazy so it's wonderful to do and to … have people come up over and over again [and] say, 'I haven't seen that child laugh for months and that's the first time.' And people tell you that stuff all the time," he says.
Lichtenstein's performances with Clowns Without Borders have taken him all over the world, including post-earthquake Haiti and troubled regions in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala.
"It's some of the most rewarding work I've ever done."
To learn more about Leapin' Louie, tune in to Think Out Loud for "The Circus Has Come to Town" Thursday at 12:25 p.m. and watch Oregon Art Beat's special "Art Beat Goes to the Circus" Thursday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. on OPB TV.
Go See It!
- Leapin' Louie is part of the 15th annual Portland Clowns Without Borders Benefit Show
- December 7, 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)
- da Vinci Middle School, 2508 NE Everett, Portland
- Purchase tickets
- Leapin' Louie performs with the Wanderlust Circus for the White Album Christmas
- December 21-23, 2012
- Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta Street, Portland
- Purchase tickets