The Empty Tent Circus offers guidance for aspiring Fort Collins poets

Walker Discoe

Tall and gangly in a brown t-shirt, G. Alexander McDonald hardly stood out from the crowd of students pouring into the Lory Student Ccenter food court. Yet he possesses specific qualities that make him different from those around him.

man posing beside door
G. Alexander McDonald stands outside the Blue Door Bar, the venue that hosts the Empty Tent Circus poetry slams. (Mackenzie Pinn | Collegian)

McDonald is an artist, poet, performer, and perhaps most importantly, a curator. Starting in 2017, he founded the Empty Tent Circus, an organization dedicated to giving local artists a stage to perform on.


 “I think it’s important to have a place performers can come to start getting their legs under them in the world of performance art,” McDonald said. “Most of the slams and things of this nature in northern Colorado are all judged. There are judges that give you numerical scores. You might come with three or four pieces that you’re dying to share, and you get cut after the first round.”

 For amateurs or experienced performers, the Empty Tent Circus is a safe space, founded in response to the lack of non-judgmental poetry gatherings in Colorado. The organization was founded on performance poetry but has expanded to all forms of performance art.

“What this has blossomed into is a collaborative effort. Call it a talent show if you want,” McDonald said. “Now we have comedians and a couple of musicians, but we still have our core in poetry. There’s always more poetry performers than any other medium. Any artist that approaches me, I can say, ‘Whatever you do, let’s put it on stage.’”

As for the performers, The Empty Tent Circus does everything McDonald hopes it would do for them.

“I get exposed to a lot more people and I get a lot more feedback,” said Luke Fels, a regular performer at the Empty Tent Circus. “They are an awesome crowd that help poets grow and learn. They’ve helped me become a better performer, and get over some stage fright issues I’ve had in the past.”

The Empty Tent Circus can be found online on Facebook @emptytentcircus, and holds performances the second Thursday of every month at The Blue Door Bar in downtown Fort Collins.

For growing poets, having a stage on which to perform is important. The Blue Door Bar provides a venue for the performers every second Thursday of the month. For the bar, watching the organization grow has been both exciting and inspiring.

Man speaks into microphone while looking at cell phone
A poet shares their work at Blue Door in Old Town Fort Collins on March 28, 2018. (Mackenzie Pinn | Collegian)

“They’ve been a wonderful group to have performed here,” said Nathan McMaster, general manager for the Blue Door Bar. “Watching them grow so quickly is super humbling, and we hope that G and the rest of the group keep finding success doing what they love.”

The Empty Tent Circus members are dedicated to their craft, and their leadership is passionate. While the organization is still in its infancy, they have a bright and promising future.

“The future is very exciting to me,” McDonald said. “And once we get polished, and have a real show where everyone’s proud of what we can put on then we can think about leaving The Blue Door. I don’t want to go out into the bigger world before I can say, ‘I’m G. McDonald, this is The Empty Tent Circus, watch us go. Are you not entertained?’”

Collegian reporter Walker Discoe can be reached at and on Twitter @wdiscoe.