Fields of Play

April 1-7, 2024 | Hillsboro, WV

A Special Retreat With Jef Johnson at the beautiful site of Gesundheit Institute in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Register Now ->

The Experience

Participants will arrive on April 1 and settle into accommodations at the Gesundheit Institute. We will have introductions and spend the evening together with course facilitators Jef Johnson and Matthew Fielder. 

Gesundheit Institute sits on a beautiful site, rich with forest and natural fauna and flora. While internet service is available on site, and in the nearby town center, we will share this opportunity to escape from the noise and constant bombardment from wireless technology. 

Over the course of the retreat, participants will engage in a range of dynamics and activities, both in workshop sessions and exploration of the natural world, to stimulate creative awakening and deeper connection. 

RECONNECT with the deeper consciousness of self and world. AWAKEN your imagination, empathy, and memory through physical and emotional connection, discovery, creative association, play, and stupid genius.

This work is rooted in the pedagogic practice of renowned clown-philosopher Jef Johnson. 

This is not comic actor training. This work has at its core the examination of identity, connection, empathy, discovery, wonderment, creative association, and the potential of the creative process to inspire and to heal. 

This is a unique opportunity to reconnect, to rediscover the creative self, to recover the inner voice yearning to play, to sing, to dance, to touch, transmit and transform.




Clown State and Play, The Natural World, Connection, The Space Between, Empathy, Frequency, Identity: Self v Ego, Social Ego: Overcoming Social Fears, Body-Space-Time, Dream Door: Between Light and Shadow, Parallel Mind, Actor v Player, The Unspeakable, The Big Mystery, Universal Consciousness, The Entanglement


Who is offering this?

Facilitators and presenters include:  

Jef Johnson

Performer, Director, Humanitarian and Pedagogue, Jef Johnson is considered a leader in the field of performance practice and contemporary clown. His research and practice are based in empathy, naive experience, creative consciousness, “the emerging game,” patterned behavior and social identity. A principal artist (2005-2009) in the company of Slava’s Snowshow, (Off 

Broadway, Broadway and International Tours). Jef has also worked with Cirque du Soleil as clown animator, special artistic consultant and workshop director. Founding director of Jef Johnson’s Clown Lab in New York City, master faculty member at Nouveau Clown Institute in Barcelona, Spain. He has also served as member of the organizing faculty of Évora International Clown School, Évora, Portugal, Director of Faculty for l’Auguste Rendez-Vous and Auguste Studio, Montreal, and he is a contributor to Über den Clown, along with Dimitri, Popov, Leo Bassi, Gardi Hutter, Pierre Byland. His pedagogy is featured in Pedagogía Teatral y Expresión de la Intimidad, by Irlanda Paredes Hernandez. Jef has conducted over 500 master classes and workshops worldwide. His work has been commissioned by many universities and companies, including: Cirque du Soleil, Slava’s Snowshow, Camp Broadway, The Texas Renaissance Festival, National College of Art and Design (Ireland) Scuola di Teatro Dimitri (Switzerland), Atelier Teatro Fisico Philip Radice (Italy), American Circus (Chile), KICS International School in Khartoum (Sudan), International Theater Festival for Youth (Egypt), University of Salford (England), International Clown School at Pim Theater (Portugal). In USA: University of Arkansas, University of Houston, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Wesleyan University, New York University, CUNY, SUNY, and in Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Centro Nacional de las Artes (CENART), Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM), TEC Monterrey, Universidad de Quintana Roo (UQROO), Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (UAQ), Universidad de Guadalajara (UDG), among others. His workshops have been supported by grants from the embassies of the USA and Spain, and many national and state departments of cultural interests. His works include: SENTIDO, OPEN SPACE, AZAR, SOGNO AL SILENZIO DEL PIANO, SOGNO A LUME DI CANDELA, SÓTÃO, MANANTIAL, WHITE NOISE, O-RÀN-GÉ, ANDA Y ONDA (with Diana Gadish Bonas), SENCILLO, PINCHE SHOW.


Who is invited?

You are! No prior background is required, just concern for the welfare of others and willingness to try things out. Recommended for: Humanitarian Clowns, Clown Performers, Actors, Dancers, Artists, Educators, Writers, Photographers, Healers, The Curious and everyone who seeks to better understand the healing force of connection and compassion.


LANGUAGES: English, with the possibility of Spanish translation. 


General Information

Enrollment |

Total Price // $850 (one-time payment/early registration) 

  • $200 non-refundable deposit 
  • $650 balance due by March 1, 2024 

Patron // $1200+ Pay what you wish. 

  • Support programming at the Gesundheit Institute by paying extra. You name your price, starting at $1200. 

Includes | 

  • Transportation from and to the local airport (LWB) 
  • Accommodation/Lodging 
  • 3 Meals each day 
  • Scheduled Workshop Sessions and other activities. 
  • 5 days of combined in-studio and outdoors workshop 
  • free time each day for personal choice activities 

Where? | The program takes place on the Gesundheit Institute’s 320 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with mountain trails, waterfalls, extensive gardens, and a lake. Gesundheit’s project-in-progress is a  unique model of holistic health care that will serve as an inspiration for us to coax each other to dream big—in our personal lives, in our community involvement, and in our contributions to global peace and justice

Facilities | Gesundheit lays on a pristine tract of farm and mountain land in rural West Virginia. The dacha, with its onion domes and Russian architecture, serves as a residence and meeting place, and has won awards for its unique design. PHOTO 5

Meeting Spaces | Gesundheit Institute offers many unique meeting spaces and classrooms. There are quiet spaces for meditation or study and large rooms to house workshops and classes. Gesundheit hosts events focused on education—at the site of the future hospital and elsewhere.

Accommodations | Accommodation are in dormitory-style group settings. There are laundry machines at Gesundheit that you can use. We offer very slow WIFI (cannot download, cannot use skype, sorry!). Clean sheets and towels are provided.

Travel: Please meet us in West Virginia and arrive by the early evening of April 1st. You can plan to leave Gesundheit on April 7th.

⇒ Gesundheit staff will shuttle people to and from the train station in White Sulphur Springs and the airport in Lewisburg on Monday, April 1st and Sunday, April 7th only. 


How Do I Apply?

2024 REGISTRATION is OPEN! Space for this course is limited. We register participants on a first come first serve basis and Gesundheit! courses are known to fill up quickly. If you would like to participate as a clown, here’s how:

Registration consists of 2 parts.

  1. Registration form: Please take a moment to fill out the registration form and make your payment by Credit Card or Bank Transfer. We are only accepting 20 participants and we suggest you submit your application as soon as possible to guarantee your spot. Be prepared to pay at least your $200 deposit to confirm your participation.
  2. Please Send your Final Payment by Match 1st to confirm your participation to workshops in April. Scholarships are not available.

Questions ?

Please Contact: Matthew Fielder at

Patch Adams MD & Gesundheit Institute, P.O. Box 307, Urbana, IL 61803

© Copyright 2024 Gesundheit! Institute