Volume 6, Number 4, 1997

Mixing science and showmanship

According to Sir Isaac Newton, everything that goes up must come down. Unless, of course, it's an apple in John Hadfield's science show for kids.

Using comedic and clowning skills, Hadfield, AS '82, makes learning fun for children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. In his show, he tosses an apple into the air and...the apple disappears.

"It's really a kick for me," says Hadfield. "I love doing it. It really makes me feel good knowing I'm having an impact on kids' lives.

"A lot of people tell me that I'm wasting my talents doing what I'm doing," Hadfield says. "At least, they say that until they see what I do.

"When people hear that I'm a clown, they say, 'You're a clown?' To me, that has no negative connotation at all because I've taken things that I love and put them together."

Hadfield first studied at UD after high school, working toward a degree in psychology, but he left after two years to work at the White House in Washington, D.C. Hoping to join the FBI, he returned to Delaware three years later to pursue a degree in Russian.

In his first semester back on campus, Hadfield enrolled in a theatre course called Circus Skills and Stage Combat.

"I found I just really enjoyed performing," Hadfield says of the course, which led him to enroll in two movement-for-the-theatre courses, which
led to his first show business appearance-a children's Christmas party with his brother, Paul.

Over the years, Hadfield has worked solo, in circuses and as part of the Crash Brothers. His best friend, Chris Shelton, a teacher's assistant whom he met in that first theatre class, is the other half of the Crash Brothers.

As his graduation approached at UD, Hadfield's parents hoped he would go
on to join the FBI. But, he was busy thumbing through catalogs in Morris Library, dreaming of Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

The summer after graduation, he was one of only 30 (out of 6,000) applicants accepted into the 10-1/2-week program, where he learned many of the skills (such as juggling) he uses in his science show for kids.

Hadfield says he enjoys his work because every day holds a different adventure. He makes his own hours and he answers only to himself.

But, what about that disappearing apple? At the end of his science show, Hadfield reaches up into the air and the apple reappears in his hand. (And, no, he won't reveal the secret of the trick!)

"I was always into sports and athletic things, and I've always loved to make things up," he says. "So, this is the best chance for me to combine an athletic ability with creativity. That's what clowning is all about: To present things in ways that are fun." *

-Paula F. Kelly, HN '76