Clowning Around

Sarah Buckland & Amanda Allen

Buckland & Allen

During their time at Wayland, Amanda Allen and Sarah Buckland were commonly involved in crazy antics, drama and humor. As theatre majors, the stage was their home, and they delighted many WBU audiences with their dramatic skills.

Today, those lessons are coming in handy as the two head a Chicago-based nonprofit performing medical clowning called Nose Goes. The 2011 grads moved to the Windy City a few years after leaving WBU, with Sarah spending a year at Del’Arte Institute of the Arts, where she was introduced to clowning. She honed her character, a Texas spitfire named Nanny Boo-Boo, and headed to Chicago to connect with other WBU friends and hopefully break into the business. After working one summer with her sister who is a physical therapist and seeing humor make an impact, she had the idea of combining the two areas.

“I was already working for a major rehabilitation hospital in Chicago and went to them with the idea of medical clowning,” says Sarah. “We started off doing performances for kids in the pediatric area on Fridays, and then it evolved into more. It really is an amalgamation of all the things I loved about theatre and improv and the arts.”

Play with a purpose

When Sarah asked her old theatre pal Amanda to join her in Chicago for clowning, she decided to leave the classroom and head north. Her teaching experience pairs well with Sarah’s therapy and clowning training, and their improv experience just ices the cake. The partnership has been rewarding.

“A lot of our clowning comes second nature to us, but we do practice during the week,” says Amanda, who plays Rosalinda or Rosie and is also a nanny and a graduate student. “We come up with the concepts of play that we can bring into the sessions. But working with kids in any capacity you tend to see the unexpected. The kids often throw us a new idea, and we just go with it.”

While the pair is having a lot of fun, they are also seeing results from their fun engagement with pediatric patients.

“The first little girl we worked with had never done sessions with us. She was supposed to be working on walking with a walker but the therapist said she never completed a session,” recalls Amanda. “We went in with this in mind, and when we walked in she was instantly invested and wanted to have fun. The whole session consisted of her chasing us down the hall in her walker and throwing these plastic frogs at us. She was laughing the whole time and didn’t complain. She also didn’t want to stop.”

Hoping to expand services

Nanny and Rosie are regulars at the rehab hospital and are popular with the children they visit, who range from age 1 to older teens. They’d love to expand their services to more venues, but they lack the funding, and their day jobs limit their availability. They recently undertook the painstaking process of registering as a 501c 3 nonprofit so they can accept donations and apply for grants, and they are seeing some fruit from that.

They enjoy the company in Chicago of other WBU alums like Mary (Feril) Fisher and husband Tim Fisher, who has done some publicity photography and are supportive of the duo. They are determined to grow the effort and keep impacting more lives.
“To see the wonder on the therapist’s faces and the parents’ faces (when the children interact well) is a pivotal moment for everyone, as they see what play can do,” Sarah says. “Amanda and I have always had a passion for service in the arts, even at Wayland that was our focus.”