Montreal Clown Festival Serves Laughter for Their Fourth Edition

Amanda Huotari Makes American Politics Wear a Red Nose

“She carries her origins in her suitcases,” said Rocio Vadillo about her clown act ‘Vous Êtes Ici.’ Courtesy Rocio Vadillo

“It is ultimately asking the audience to question: How free are you?” said Amanda Huotari of her act Pretty Face: An American Dream, at the Montreal Clown Festival.

The fourth edition of the festival was held between Sept. 18 and 22.

Huotari’s style of clowning allowed her to grapple with U.S. politics. She performed in the bouffon style where her protagonist came to mock the audience, rather than the clown poking fun at its own flaws.

“All while cleverly insisting that they take a hard look at some unspoken truths,” said Huotari.

The story is based off Tiffany Trump’s campaign speech dedicated to her father’s presidency. Although it was political in nature, Huotari’s act questioned how we embrace democratic values of independence and freedom in our daily lives.

She exaggerated the absurdity of selfie culture, the need for martyrdom, and the so-called glamorous life of the American dream.

“The story that [my clown persona] is interested in is that of Tiffany Trump who is the U.S. president’s little known daughter,” said Huotari.

Huotari wore a bikini with the design of the American flag over a bodysuit. “It was really inspired, in part by Miss America pageants by amplifying what we do and don’t consider beautiful,” she said. Huotari’s character explored the role of discomfort with heart and joy.

The Montreal Clown Festival’s comical acts handle the absurd and invite the ridiculous of daily life on stage for five days of laughter.

“She carries her origins in her suitcases,” said Rocio Vadillo about her clown act Vous Êtes Ici.

In a colourful, frilly skirt, Vadillo presented her character, who encased her past inside her luggage. She was eager to show the audience what she had in store.

As Vadillo’s protagonist pulled a gold embroidered fabric along with her tap dancing shoes from her suitcase, she began to uncover, with bold motions of the swaying fabric, her flamenco dance.

Vous Êtes Ici offers a glimpse into how we are conditioned sometimes to be where outside forces tell us we are supposed to be,” said Vadillo.

“The clown will always come back. The clown loves too much, it’s a survivor. It will always come back in one form or another.” — Kendall Savage

Vadillo’s clown act played with occupying an unfamiliar space. All within a poetic blend of laughter and emotion, Vadillo engaged the audience through her protagonist’s tricky yet hopeful new beginnings.

“Since I started this festival, I have not put my nose on,” said co-artistic director Kendall Savage, about her involvement with Clown Fest’s fourth edition.

Their teamwork of Savage and Vanessa Rigaux had brought clown culture further into the spotlight of Montreal’s artistic scene. “I knew I couldn’t make the festival by myself,” said Savage.

Rigaux described their initial encounter as a “big clown accident.” They bonded over their mutual love for clowning. Savage wanted to create a festival that brought a variety of clown acts together, and Rigaux was excited to be a part of bringing it to life from the ground up.

After four years of engaging with the local clown scene, they had opened a new gateway for the art of clowning.

“It’s the moment the community comes together to celebrate clown,” said Savage about her favourite part of organizing the festival.

“There are these wonderful groups of experienced elder clowns and then there’s all of these students and they’re all sort of scattered everywhere,” said Savage.

Savage wanted to bring clowns from all over the island to perform together in the same space.

The Montreal Clown Festival is about breaking those barriers created by different styles of clown and spoken languages.

“Our goal is to bring the English and the [French] together, and all the different styles of clown, and try to bring people who fall under the umbrella of clown,” she said.

At Clown Fest, Savage believes that everyone should get a chance to shine.

According to Savage, a clown’s job is to hold up a mirror to society and to problem-solve the impossible with the ridiculous. A good clown can maintain a connection with their audience. For Savage, they do so by having “a big heart and a little brain.”

“The clown will always come back. The clown loves too much, it’s a survivor. It will always come back in one form or another,” she said.

“There’s a clown rule that I try very hard to follow: Go to the fear,” said Savage. “Go and see what happens.”

She added that it will be magical on the other side more often than not.