Lucien Elsen transformed as Señor Dolores, who “finds strength in his failure and food in his adventures.”
Lucien Elsen is gearing up for a statement performance as his clown alter ego Señor Dolores at the Clowns In Progress festival.
Lyme disease may seem like a strange catalyst to launch an alternative career as a stage performer, but it was what led Mesa Verde owner and chef Lucien Elsen to his inner clown. “Everything hurt, so I had to stop cooking,” he says. Recuperating from the disease he took a script writing course in Berlin, where one of his fellow students suggested Lucien should take a clown course in Ibiza. After some thought, he decided that would be a great 50th birthday gift to offer himself. He was soon hooked.
Later he was put in touch with Canadian clown teacher Sue Morrison, an alumnus of Cirque du Soleil. Her teaching was based on the pioneering work of Richard Pochinko, who had studied indigenous Native American mask techniques of clowning alongside the European tradition. “They had a shaman who was somehow a clown, who was brought in to solve problems in the tribe,” Lucien explains. He continues to work with Morrison and has taken workshops in Cork and Torino.
There are many different forms of clowning, but Lucien says what he does “is like transforming from your own emotion and finding truth with the audience. You basically put yourself naked in front of people.” Indeed, in the contemporary world, he finds it is becoming increasingly essential to experience raw emotion--“more and more people merely function but forget to feel.”
The show Lucien has developed over the course of 10 years follows a script. “You follow it, but you surprise yourself each time with the different emotions that pop up.” Titled “El Camino de Señor Dolores” it involves the eponymous character taking an impulsive road trip on which “he finds strength in his failure and food in his adventures.” Which sounds like the sort of thing Elsen used to do himself--Mesa Verde, the first Luxembourg’s restaurant to focus on a mainly vegetarian menu, was born some 30 years ago out of the food he discovered while travelling the world.
A continuous process
But there’s been a whole process involved in becoming Señor Dolores. “First the decision to do it, which was intuitive, and then you are in it and you discover a world for yourself. You enter with a lot of innocence. But the difficult part is freeing yourself to give access to your clown. I think the show works, but it only works for those who open up with me.” People who know Lucien and see his show are quite often surprised. “They say, I haven’t seen that side of Lucien before.” Sometimes even hours after a performance is over, a well of emotion might hit him. But, the process continues, and Lucien says he will continue exploring the character.
His passion for clowning has also given Lucien a new appreciation for the métier and the word itself. “People still have a lot of prejudice against clowns, Clowns can only exist in truth and total transparency. It’s an insult when people call Trump a clown.” Indeed, as Charlie Chaplin once said, being a clown “places me on a far higher plane than any politician.”
“El Camino de Señor Dolores” will be performed as part of the Clowns In Progress festival on Wednesday 9 October at 8.30 pm at Kulturfabrik. Details and tickets here.