...Star the clown from Mars.
IN THE BEGINNING:
...Susan Van Tuyl began clowning six years ago when she found herself with free time on her hands. After proper training from a mentor and friend, Van Tuyl's first event was on a hot afternoon in Buena Park at a birthday party.
...An excited Van Tuyl painted on her make-up very thick before she set off for the park where she would be making balloon animals for the kids.
..."I suffered a melt down." she said with a laugh "I forgot to powder and so my makeup ran down my face, looking like red freckles."
...But Van Tuyl's fun was just beginning. Her balloon making skills are as unique as the dogs she created that only room enough for one leg --- alien dogs --- she called them.
...Her fist day on the job would, in effect, create her character. She became Star, a 4-year-old clown from Mars --- a character she loves to be. As the story goes, Star's parents live on mars, but she lives in Huntington Beach with her earth mom, Susan.
MAKING KIDS SMILE
...During the school year, Van Tuyl is a fourth-grade teacher at Shoreline Christian School in Fountain Valley. However, Star does not sit idly by while Van Tuyl teaches. Star performs in school assemblies and at church functions promoting messages of self-esteem and equality. Star's hair is blue unlike all the other kids on Mars who have red hair, Van Tuyl said.
..."it doesn't matter the color of your hair, your skin or anything else," she said "Differences are OK because everyone is special."
...Such messages of acceptance and diversity, Van Tuyl said, reach the children because she is in costume. Van Tuyl delights in making kids happy by doing magic tricks, making animal balloons and painting their faces.
..."When the kids are smiling, that is my reward," she said, "Kids have it so hard sometimes, they need time to just be happy and imagine."
...As a teacher, Van Tuyl loves to instill creativity in her students by challenging them to stretch themselves and achieve whatever they desire. Van Tuyl has taken dance classes, vocal lesson, an
air brush class and plans to take a cartoon drawing class in the future all in hopes of becoming a better clown.
...Later this month Van Tuyl will be attending Mooseburger Clown Camp in Maplelake, Minn. where she will be critiqued by Ringling Brothers clowns on her costume, makeup, presentation and other aspects of clowning.
..."I am very excited for it," she said. "I know I'm going to come out the better for it."
A FAMILY AFFAIR
...Entertainment seems to run in the Van Tuyl family. Her husband Doug uses puppetry and ventriloquism to promote anti-violence in schools.
...Van Tuyl's son Ryan, 18, took to clowning last year as he became the character "Pepp E. Roni" -- a big slice of pizza that accompanies Star to her events.
...Van Tuyl's daughter Stephanie, 21, breaks from the family tradition by studying to be a psychologist at Cedarville University in Ohio.
..."Stephanie thinks that maybe she will be able to fix us all." Van Tuyl said with a laugh.
Story by Wendy Gabbe and Photos by Greg Fry