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Courtney Cunningham: No Bozo

Burden of Poof proves clowns aren't just for kids

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It all started with a dress: a red chiffon getup, complete with a turquoise crinoline underskirt and lace trim.

The gift from a workshop classmate became the inspiration for Poofy du Vey, Courtney Cunningham's clown alter-ego.

"It was a jumping-off point for me," Cunningham says. "Her dress was very informative as to who this character was."

In Burden of Poof fresh off multiple awards on the fringe-festival circuit Poofy, a lovable (if somewhat foul-mouthed) space cadet, has a direly important story to tell. She just can't remember what that story is. The character spends her time on stage struggling to recall, while losing her attention to a series of distractions.

Though Poofy materialized only three years ago, Cunningham has been clowning around for 10. She actually had been scared of the typical birthday party clown, but through workshops and training, found that she thoroughly connected with the craft itself.

"What I love about clowning is that it's so much more about honesty than it is about being funny," she says. "You really have to be in tune with your impulses."

The youngest of six kids, Cunningham was raised in New York. Between bouts of living abroad in London and Sweden, she made her home in Manhattan for many years.

"It's very easy in New York to get caught up in the cycle and the routine," she says. "I [realized] for me to create something new artistically, I needed to create something new in my own life."

So about a year ago, the performer packed her bags and headed to New Mexico, where the open spaces and vast sky inspired her to develop another story line for Poofy.

She says, "It was such a great shift in reality for me to be taken off my path. It's exciting, because now I'm saying, 'Where do I go from here?'"

Burden of Poof starring Courtney Cunningham
Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Jan. 17-19, 8 p.m., and Jan. 20, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $16, call 685-4729 or visit themat.org.

"Character through Clown" workshop, taught by Courtney Cunningham
Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m. to noon
Cost: $30, pre-registration is advised. Call 685-4729 or visit themat.org.

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