- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 28, 2003 

Bringing Smiles in Bronze: The clown with autumn in his heart

Several circus figures visited the bronze statue of Leonid Yengibaryan set up in front of the circus building in Yerevan on March 15 with flowers to pay tribute to the great clown. That day was the anniversary of his 68th birthday, but he passed away from his audience when he was only 37.

"He was a kind, who emitted light. He was a teacher not only for clowns, but for all artists and people," says famous Russian actor, director Vyacheslav Polunin.

Under colorful lights, a clown enters a stage, leaving behind heavy curtains. His lips are painted and Chaplin-style shoes are dangling on his feet. A rain of laughter falls on his face as he enters. Leonid Yengibaryan, with "autumn in his heart", probably used to take his umbrella with a hole in it for this very reason.

He would enter a stage and use his elastic movements and sadness in his eyes to tell a story that encouraged his audience to: "Don't hurt each other, don't offend each other." He told people that the stairs, but not a staircase, are the most important things in this life. The stairs that first go up, and then go down. And one should not offend those stairs too.

Being natural and clear as a child, and at the same time complicated and contradictory as a philosopher the mime Leonid Yengibaryan amused and made all people around laugh. However, he always remained cheerless himself, with his big surprisingly serene and sad eyes.

"Sadness often comes to me. That's maybe because I give all my joy to an audience and there are only grief and loneliness left to me," he wrote in his memories.

"Leonya not only took upon himself the sadness of people, but also I had always had an impression that he bore all the sorrow of the times and people," says People's Artist of Russia Natalya Kamburova.

The jolly and sad clown joined a circus at the age of 22. He wrote he had tried many professions. He had been a wrestler, during which time he said he learned the principle of "turning the other cheek" is wrong.

He was also a scriptwriter.

"No authors were willing to work with me. This circumstance forced me to become a scriptwriter myself," he wrote. "And I liked it." He created his unique circus, where he was an actor, conductor and scenario writer.

"He was imitated a lot, many people tried to perform using his scenario use, but nobody laughed," say Sos Petrosyan, director of the State Circus.

He was the one to perform parodies and to tell silent philosophical stories. He was the one to be awarded a first prize in Prague, at the International Competition of Clowns.

"However, Yengibaryan wasn't interested in titles," says Albert Minasyan, the acrobat who worked with Leonid Yengibaryan for many years. "The only thing that could amuse him was the fact that people liked his performance and would become a little kinder after it".

Kindness of Yengibaryan was boundless, and he believed that kindness was the only way to success.

"He was highly appreciated by all," Minasyan says. "I remember, once after the performance Leonya was asked to go on stage one more time. He somehow did it and he saw (French actor) Jean Marais bowed in front of him. The latter was amazed and impressed by his talent, imagination and plasticity which were difficult to think of."

Another movie star Millie Delar once said that if he went to Paris all flowers would be under his feet.

He did not manage to go to Paris and be awarded with those flowers. He was only 37 when he fell asleep with the smile on his face and did not wake up the next morning. Nobody knows why. Perhaps, he was tired and wanted to have rest.

There aren't many statues of clowns in the world. However, Leonya has heart-to-heart conversations with people from his pedestal. He again tells people silent stories and says parting words to them. "He was a fairy-tale of my childhood," says sculptor Levon Tokmajyan. "I restored his life; I created not the objective Yengibaryan, but his soul, his character, his expression and his grief. The bronze statue of the downcast and sad clown hugging himself who is looking at a rose expresses all his loneliness.

"He is fixed in my memory in this very pose. Once I threw a rose from my seat to him. I saw him after the performance behind the curtains with the rose pined to his dress at his chest. He was looking to that rose and filling his soul emptied for audience with the scent of that rose."

The bronze likeness has been at its place near the Yerevan circus for seven years, bringing alive the popular clowns emotions.

There is an impression that he will spread his wings and fly into sky. He will say again and again, "I want to soar as a bird and to be an autumn leaf."


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  Photo of the week
Click on the photo above to enlarge


At today's Under-21 football match between Armenia and Northern Ireland, played in Abovian, the match had to be delayed for nearly an hour while workers cleared the pitch of snow. When the field was cleared, the home team played to a 2-0 victory.



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