Featured Q-STAGE Collaborator: Shannon Forney

Part of the mission of 20% Theatre Company is to provide opportunities to new and emerging artists. Q-STAGE is the perfect vehicle to create such opportunity. So, as we get closer and closer to our second installment of the Q-STAGE New Works Series, we’d like to introduce you to a few artists you may not have met. Shannon Forney is a stage performer and Red Nosed Clown.

Stage Performer: Shannon Forney  Photo credit: Candy Coughlin
Performer: Shannon Forney
Photo credit: Candy Coughlin

Who are you? 

My name is Shannon Forney and I am a stage performer and Red Nose Clown pedagogically trained by Giovanni Fusetti. When not on the stage, I am an administrator at the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), co-owner of WORKHORSE COFFEE BAR, and curator of Smallest Museum in Saint Paul.

What themes do you pursue in your work?

For years, I have had the desire to use “serious subject matter” as the content for a clown show. Clown is a rich performance genre with loads of historical, social, and artistic context  yet dominant culture often reduces the form to a singular version that is neither true nor compelling (this is similarly true of Burlesque). Not all clowns wear exaggerated face paint and big shoes. Burlesque performers are not all strippers, and the ‘peel’ in burlesque is more akin to subversion than submission. Having dabbled in burlesque and seriously studied clown, it seemed to me the two genres had great potential to overlap in humor, parody, and dissolving dominant culture norms.

Tell us a little bit about the Q-STAGE piece or pieces you are working on?

FEMME CABARET: CLOWN BURLESQUE is an exploration of self-doubt and social anxiety in the attempt to navigate queer femme identity, as told by a Red Nose clown. By inhabiting a gender identity that is widely accepted by dominant culture, femmes are invisibilized by both straight and queer cultures. How do we perpetuate or reclaim female roles like “Sexy” & “Mommy” within the queer community? When do we play roles for ourselves? When do we play roles for others?

What type of performance do you most identify with?

Clown strips away all of the bravado to reveal a simple vulnerability – this is the humanity of clown. This show is not overly polished or perfect, clown material lives and breathes in a very ‘real’ space. We have a performance framework, but the magic of specific stage moments is purely that; an authentic surprise made possible by suspense of judgment, critique or predetermination. -suspense of judgment as a social practice…