‘Clown Appétit’ invites attendees to shed societal norms

Graham Shapley

To most, a dinner party hosted by clowns sounds more like a nightmare than something they would pay to attend. The Fort Collins Fringe Festival aimed to change that.

Clown Appétit was a show that ran on three nights in the upstairs gallery of the Downtown Artery, to be attended by all ages. Children and older individuals gleefully followed the Box Clowns, a pair of gibberish-speaking physical performers, down a rabbit hole of familiar customs made bizarre. 

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And, as their names would imply, the Box Clowns also wore bulky cardboard boxes on their torsos.

clown heart
Each attendee of the Clowns’ dinner party was given a small heart with a smiley face as a keepsake of the evening. (Graham Shapley | Collegian)

Although the boxes hindered the movement of the performers, they were still animated and bright. The show is filled with these sorts of self-imposed obstacles for the actors, from the boxes to their insistence on communicating with nothing but nonsense words, emotional inflection and hand gestures.

The Fringe Festival clearly wanted people to have clowns on the brain even when attending other events. The logo that was picked for buttons, posters and to represent the event as a whole was one of the Box Clowns, a woman caught mid-jump with a cardboard box, a purple tutu and a hairdo akin to the Eiffel Tower.

What the Box Clowns do best is getting their audience to go along with the madness that they present. At one point, the audience was led through a door disguised as a wardrobe into a room painted in a bizarre fashion, where the clowns and the audience were given a chance to dress up nice for the dinner.

For the clowns, this meant affixing cardboard cutouts of fancy dress to their outer shells while the audience was given party hats and big paper bow ties to wear. The magic of the Box Clowns is that not a single person denied these accessories.

For dinner, attendees were given small cardboard plates, with knife and fork glued on, and a handful of chocolate chips to tide them over. A tall glass of whipped cream paired nicely, served directly from the can into one’s mouth should they have the urge.

There is something undeniably charming about the performance. In a culture where one of the biggest fads on the internet is to label odd behavior as cringe and mock those caught doing such things, it is an impressive feat to draw the audience directly into that world.

Dinner parties are typically a formal affair, so to follow a clown down a hallway chanting “Whee! Whee! Whee!” is not exactly expected. The juxtaposition of this prim and proper event with the madness of the clowns is really what makes the show work.

The Box Clowns make it clear that given the chance, people free themselves from the constraints placed upon them by society and give into a bit of silliness, and that the world is all the better for it when it happens.

Collegian reporter Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham. 

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