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April 1st Artful Afternoon is No Joke

Greenbelters celebrate April Fools' Day with a fun-filled afternoon of clowning and crafting.

Visitors to this weekend's Artful Afternoon asked performers for their autographs for the first time in the history of the program, said Nicole DeWald, Arts Supervisor for the City of Greenbelt’s Recreation Department. Though it was the April Fools' edition of the program, this was no joke!

The talented Clown Cabaret performers entertained Greenbelters at Sunday's Artful Afternoon. Some of them went to clown school and others studied Shakespearean acting and stage fighting. All have traveled the world, performed for celebrities and dignitaries, and together they will present a full show at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival’s main tent.

Serendipity brought Karen Beriss, Matthew Pauli and Rich Potter together, and they founded the Clown Cabaret to foster creative collaborations and give DC-area clowns an opportunity to develop new material in a supportive environment. Sunday’s performance of “The Shakespeare Massacre: A Clown’s Lament,” which continued to develop pieces from several of the Cabaret’s earlier shows, appealed to all ages.

Children loved the pratfalls and pie-throwing. Adults appreciated the sly humor at the expense of Greenbelt political correctness, Wikipedia and New Age healing. Theater and Shakespeare buffs enjoyed the delicious send-ups of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. And the crowd loved the pantomiming and participated in a group sing-a-long of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, as well as a group hug in the middle of the show.

But even more enjoyable than the mugging and physical comedy was the chance to experience clowning as an art form that specializes in pricking the bubbles of pretentiousness—even as it encourages everyone not to take themselves too seriously.

One of the highest accolades came from a young member of the audience. DeWald recounted on Monday how a little girl in a frilly dress was overheard insisting that she wanted to be a clown. Her father attempted to console her by suggesting  she could be a princess instead. “I DON’T WANT to be a princess,” the girl insisted, “I WANT TO BE A CLOWN!” DeWald added.

Artful Afternoon visitors also got the chance to try some clown-inspired crafts with Gina Mai Denn, who led the group in creating clown masks and clown hats. Many children and even a few adults were walking around wearing pointed hats decorated with paint, spangles, pom-poms and craft foam.

DeWald promised more delights at the May 6 Artful Afternoon when the Four Seasons Dancers present a world tour in 10 dances and Artist-in-Residence Russ Little encourages participants to create unique personal neighborhood maps.

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