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Clowning Around, With Purpose

Laura Ricci, who is receiving a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education, always suspected she would follow in her family’s artistic footsteps. “The arts have always been a very deeply integral part of my life,” Ricci said. “I come from a family of artists and musicians, and grew up surrounded by all forms of artistic expression.”

But Ricci, whose new degree has a focus on arts education, never suspected that her longtime interest in theater — which prompted her to graduate from the Interlochen Arts Academy (’89) and Mills College (’94), and even to study with acclaimed actress Dame Judi Dench at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center — would eventually lead her to practice her craft in hospitals.

She also never expected she would become a professional therapeutic clown.

“My clown is a weird-looking doctor named Bill,” said Ricci, smiling. “He has a big moustache, and he wears a funny-looking skirt and two pairs of glasses because he’s just that smart. Actually, when my friends at the hospital found out that I was going to Harvard, they joked that when I came back, Bill would have three pairs of glasses.”

Ricci’s first introduction to clowning came during her senior year of high school, when she worked at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, an organization created by actor Paul Newman for children with serious or life-threatening illnesses.

To read the full story, please visit the Harvard Gazette.