August 28th, 2018 – Located in the clown and circus capital of Canada, Montreal will play host to the 3rd annual Festival des Clowns de Montreal from September 12-16, 2018.
Partnering with Montreal indie theatre darling and Fringe Festival producers, MainLine Theatre, this year’s clown festival will bring together seasoned and emerging performers featuring a spectrum of clown styles. Headlining this year’s festival is the physical comedy Snooze by Francois-Guillaume Leblanc, a clown with over 500 Cirque de Soleil performances of Ovo under his belt from Quebec City; a collective of seasoned Montrealers performing a feminist bouffon show: Les Zoubliettes under the guise of Coop les ViVaces; and Canada’s top clown-sister duo Morro and Jasp (Toronto), presenting their take on Steinbeck’s classic tale with Of Mice and Morro and Jasp.
The festival program also includes four double-billed shows, with an additional 7 companies presenting an array of genres from slapstick (Bibi and the Beast:Mariage RSVP); dance (Les Dancing Queens are Éric Ménard, Josiane Proteau, and Maxine Segalowitz); clown melodrama (Nicole Ascroft: Desolita); physical comedy (Grand Salto Theatre: Ralph and The Philipe & Lucinda Show); visual delights (Toxique Trottoire: Le Ciel Rue); and funny puppets (Lost & Found Puppet Co. Beaver Dreams – La fièvre du castor) from Montreal, Québec City, Toronto, and Santiago, Chile!
The heart of the organizing committee, co-artistic directors Vanessa Rigaux and Kendall Savage, call themselves the “Glitter and the Glue” of the festival. In 2015, Savage saw an opportunity to create a space for clowns to experiment and share their art as well as a fun way to educate the public on the many different styles of clowning. In a strange and surprising meeting, which can only be described as a clown-inspired mistake, Savage met Rigaux and the two formed a company: MTL Clowns.
Explains Rigaux, “We recognize the long game necessary to establish a healthy festival. It’s a community-driven festival by artists for artists, and it is pretty magical. We want more people to come check out what clowning can be!”
While Savage, the glitter, looks after the artistic side, Rigaux, the glue, organizes the staff, communications, and literally holds the festival together. They operate a bit like a clown duo themselves. Both have theatre, improv, and movement backgrounds, and studied clown over the past 15 years. While they plan on carving out time to create their own clown show, they have first committed to producing the festival from the ground up.
On a local front, the aim is to offer a space where all generations of clowns can exchange ideas and support one another.
Says Savage, “There are so any ‘off-duty’ clowns hanging around Montreal, and we share in the joy of laughter by creating hope and light in a world that is clearly off its rocker. The political implications and nuances of clown are endless and we need to revisit the historical role of the clown to get by, to create change, and to educate and encourage our world. It’s seriously time to look to the clowns to get us out of this mess.”
The directors have big plans: start an association of Clown festivals across Canada, which is already in the works with The Toronto Festival of Clowns (now in its 13th year) and Edmonton’s Play The Fool Festival (started the same year as Montreal’s festival). As the “circus capital of Canada”, Montreal is a perfect city to play host to clowns from across the province and around the country. This year, they established a board of directors to help with the operation of the budding festival. Says Rigaux, “we are a small company with a goal to build a sustainable festival that promotes clowning, education as well as providing a space for exchanging ideas and knowledge.”
Several events are also programmed throughout the bilingual festival. A panel discussion on women in clowning is planned for Thursday, September 13th at 9:30PM (FREE), featuring a panel of artists lead by Sonia Norris; and the popular talent show, Le Grand Imbécile, will be on Friday night at 9PM in the theatre (FREE). The winner of the contest gets a trophy and a 15 minute spot in the following year’s festival. Last year’s winner, Ivan Pavel Eterovic Diaz, returns to Montreal with his full body puppets all the way from Chile! The closing cabaret on Sunday evening will feature artists in the festival and will pull in other clowns who have been producing their own Cabarets throughout the year. The Closing Cabaret, directed by clown musical-personality Soizik is a ticketed event ($15.00).
The festival kicks off with the Opening Gala (Free event), at MainLine Theatre, hosted by the sassy Mme Zazou.