January 16, 2008 09:47 PM by Jennifer_Brown
Cecilia Harrison-Velasco (that’s “Precious” the Clown to you, Mister!) and her family are big into the lighter side of life. Married to an actor-turned-clown (John, AKA: “Com-plexy”) and raising a little clownlet named Maya, Cecilia is devoted to fun with a capital F. The family lives in a tiny converted garage in Northern California to save money, so Cecilia can go to Clown School. Tuition costs pretty much what John earns; at $36,000 you can bet Cecilia’s going to come out of there with a big degree to go with her red nose: MFA in Creative Inquiry, with an emphasis in Experimental Performance, with a concentration in Clowning (hope she’s got a big wall to hang that degree on when she graduates).
As part of their laid-back lifestyle, the Harrison-Velascos believe in no chores for their little clown princess, as well as for their clown queen, Cecilia. This means their tiny space is managed entirely by John, and is cluttered, cramped, and unkempt.
Tanya Marshall and her husband, Ben, consider childhood something akin to boot camp and lay down the law with a rigid hand. They rule the roost with strict laws, high expectations, little freedom, and a whole lot of chores. The Marshall kids constantly beg for their freedom, in the form of being allowed “past the stop sign.”
The swap begins and Cecilia is “very uncomfortable” as the kids work hard making dinner for Dad, who is lying down on the couch. She confronts Ben about letting the kids get some freedom outside, but it’s hard to get any real fireworks out of Ben, who is so cool and aloof Cecilia practically has to hold a mirror under his nose to make sure he’s still breathing. He admits that, in their house, “happiness is secondary.”
Tanya, while as cool as Ben, is a little more vehement with her opinions, right away confronting John about his indulging Maya when she has a little tearful breakdown over her clown makeup not being “just so.” Come to think of it, Tanya finds the whole clown thing to be “silly and foolish.” She tells him that he’s “walked on and used” by his Precious Cecilia. “I think if I spent too much quality time with Tanya,” John says, “I’d need some anti-depressants.”
It’s rule change time, and Cecilia bursts into the Marshall living room in full clown regalia, squirting silly string at them. No more chores, no more responsibilities, no more calling Ben “Dad,” and, for the boys, let freedom ring (AKA: You can go past the stop sign now, guys).
“Clowning is over,” Tanya informs her charges in the Harrison-Velasco home. There will be chores for little Maya. John is to go to a talent agency and feel out his chances of “making it big” as Com-plexy. Furthermore, she informs them, they must sell a bag of clown clothes, leave all of their make up and rubber chickens and squeaky noses behind, and move into a bigger house. John cries (sheesh, I hate a sad clown…), and must be dragged to his new home in his undies (now, that’s not funny!). “I wonder about John’s psychological stability,” Tanya says.
Once the change has been made, John tries his hand at defiance – he steps in and does Maya’s chores for her – but honestly, who ever heard of a defiant clown? At the talent agency, there’s good news and bad news. The good news – you’ve got a future in acting, John. The bad news – Cecilia is not a good clown. Tanya urges John to discourage Cecilia from further pursuing clown school, given that information, but John won’t hear of it. Then Tanya tries to make him sell a bag of clown clothes. “I cannot sell my identity,” he says, and leaves. But Tanya, still cool-headed, chases him down and talks him into staying long enough to go to an audition that evening. Good move for John, as he gets a callback.
Meanwhile, at Camp Marshall, Cecilia turns the kids into clowns. It ain’t easy, though – these kids just don’t seem to be all that into it. So she sets them loose in Dad’s office with cans of paint instead. When Ben shows no happiness or excitement over what they’ve done, Cecilia sits him down and gives the kids a bullhorn, so they can “make themselves heard.” It seems to work; Ben gives them the go-ahead on venturing past the stop sign. The boys head out past the stop sign and run through some sprinklers. “Freedom feels like just running around being yourself,” they say. Later, Cecilia and a much looser Ben throw a kid party with baseball and a moonbounce and,Ben in a clown suit? “This is better than Christmas,” say the boys.
The week finally over, the families reunite. Cecilia tells the Marshalls that she has an issue with the word “training” when it comes to children. “You train a dog. You train a parrot to speak,” she says. But the Marshalls stick tight to their way of doing things, saying they’re training their kids to be responsible adults. Tanya tells Cecilia that the talent agent thought she was Stinko the Clown, but Cecilia shrugs it off as “one opinion” (hey, from one artist to another, Cecilia, I say you go, girl!!! Woot!Woot!). For a minute, things get heated between the guys, but soon they’re all agreeing to disagree and going their separate ways.
Since the Swap:
Nothing has changed in the Marshall house. “It reconfirmed our beliefs,” Ben says. The kids even agree, saying that the other side of the stop sign,looked a lot like this side of it (Hmmm…they have a point.).
For the Harrison-Velascos, however, things have changed. John has scored an agent. And, although they plan to stay in their teeny house, Cecilia is more dedicated to helping Com-plexy with the chores.