WHEN 16-year-old Maggie Wong Ho-wan caught a colourful ball from a clown at Ocean Park one summer, something beckoned. 'I suddenly had the desire to become a clown. I am never chosen for lead characters at school because of my dark skin. But as a clown, if you are willing to learn, you can be somebody new every day,' said the jolly Form Five student. Maggie made it happen - she was selected to join Ocean Park's Clown College among 20 older candidates and is now in training. 'By the end of this month, we should be able to juggle rings, balls and clubs, spin plastic plates, perform magic, do gags (funny acts), make animal balloons, do comic body movements and make music with a 'kazoo',' said the budding clown as she started blowing heavy 'doo-doo-doo' notes out of a tiny strange gadget. The most basic technique is making one's own comic mask. 'It draws people closer together,' said Kee Au Yeung Wing-kee, 21. 'Once I've put my make-up on, nobody knows who I am and the paint helps release my true self.' There are three types of comic make-up, according to Wing-kee. 'White face' requires a white that covers the whole face before other colours are added. 'August' is a painted face and 'Character' expresses different roles - a rat, a cat or a policeman. The students love their instructors Michael 'Tuba' Heatherton and Donna Wood, who had clowned in one of the most prestigious United States circuses - the Ringling Brothers and Barnum. 'Working as a clown in an amusement park is a nine to five job, but in a travelling circus, you live in a tent or the back of a trailer and go to rural areas where there's no air-conditioning, or where it is very cold,' Mr Heatherton said. 'Each day, we slept until noon and went grocery-shopping before performing two or three shows until after 11 at night. 'But we did not go to bed until two in the morning because we had been so charged with energy and had to wind down. It's a completely different lifestyle.' Ms Wood drew her comic twists from different audiences. 'Every day is a growth to me, that's why I love the job so much.' A clown needs to adapt to different kinds and sizes of audiences and different stages. 'We have to learn to work on concrete, on television and on radio,' Mr Heatherton said. Age, height and gender make no difference in clowning. There are midgets and dwarfs who are successful clowns. 'Lou Jacobs, our teacher, died at the age of 89 when he was still performing,' Ms Wood said. 'What people really look for in a clown is a sense of humour and adventure.' There are even 'sober' clowns who can draw compassion from people. The two teachers said in the United States and Europe, circus art including clowning was a sophisticated art form on par with opera and ballet. Becoming a pro THE Ocean Park provides the territory's only clown training at its Clown College. The one-month beginners course runs in June and trains between 20 and 30 clowns each summer. Applicants, between 18 and 30 years old, will first be interviewed. Outstanding graduates will be offered a two-month summer job at the park. Exceptional performers may be employed on a yearly basis. Famous clown colleges in the United States and Europe are competitive to get into. The Ringling Brothers in Florida takes only 30 out of 5,000 applicants each year.