Send in the Clowns: A Creature Feature with Madazon Can-Can
Ladies and men and nonbinary friends, please welcome to the stage Madazon Can-Can, M. Ed, a true Salt Lake star! Madazon, or Maddy, is a performance clown, drag artist, educator and also—not surprisingly—a Gemini. They call themselves a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll. This incredibly interesting human who hails from Utah has been working hard to add flair to the SLC art community, as well as touching and the lives of and teaching everyone they meet.
Currently a full-time artist, Madazon Can-Can has had an eclectic professional background. In 2014, performance art became their profession after getting divorced and living at home. They were given some white face paint from a contortionist friend and some colored paints from a face-paint artist who helped Madazon lock down their first modeling job with Sketch Cabaret. They received a scholarship to a Clown School in Minnesota with the very first clown paint they did on themselves. After being a schoolteacher for 10 years, Madazon recently received their Master’s in Education with a thesis on Performance Art for Social Change. Their show “Genit-HELL YEAH!” was performed at the 2019 Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival fully nude, “an accomplishment unto itself” they tell me (and as a nudist at heart, I fully agree).
Clowns saved Madazon’s life. Burlesque helped them express their humor, and drag their sadness. After their divorce and move to Minnesota, Madazon says, “I found my heart after it had been shattered from divorce. I stitched it back together with face paint, pom-poms and oversized shoes, and burlesque found me after that. I wouldn’t have been unlocked if it weren’t for the art of the clown.” Madazon’s style of burlesque is not only filled with sex appeal, but also humor. A favorite piece of mine that exemplifies this is a 2018 burlesque performance at Carnival Sensual, at which they performed in a gorgeous puke-green ensemble to Yael Naim’s cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
“I wouldn’t have been unlocked if it weren’t for the art of the clown.”
Madazon’s drag is just as dynamic as their other performance styles. Their preferred style of drag is boy drag, which they’ve only been doing for the last couple of years professionally. “My drag persona is a sad boi, SAD boi. He has a broken heart, he sings and wails. He dives into the despair and self-pity I see a lot of sad men embody these days. He’s lonely and has nobody to blame but himself. He’s tragedy.” Each time I’ve seen an image of Madazon in this style, it definitely evokes another depth of their intense persona, which makes you feel all the emotions of a true sad boi. Madazon tells me they are nonbinary, and they skillfully weave this aspect of themselves into their art, fluctuating between masc and femme, and sometimes existing perfectly in between.
With the pandemic, they’ve been keeping their performing spirit alive through digital shows (complete with full video editing), participating in a local digital drag show called 8 B!tch—which they say is the best they’ve ever been in—and have been performing burlesque at Prohibition (though they’re currently taking a break, ’cause COVID). They will be onstage performing with the Viva La Diva Show at Metro Music Hall and have been invited to perform at the Tracy Aviary’s Birdlesque, which is scheduled to steam online. Additionally (side note: I’m running out of breath just typing this), they are working on educational programs called Drag YOUTH-iversity and Liquid Motion Certification for dance once the studio is safe again. With each of their performances, they put on display their many skills acquired through clown school and burlesque dance education, including puppetry, flexibility, intense facial expressions, acting and makeup artistry. Every performance of Madazon’s I’ve seen really tells a complete visual and emotional story.
They recently completed an hour-long film called Can-Cantasia! for the 2020 Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, which received acclaim from local theater reviewer Les Roka. It follows Madazon through their emotional journey that has been 2020, “starting with an upsurge of energy as the high hopes of 2020 came into my life (this was MY YEAR!),” they say. “Then it stopped in March, and I take you down the slide of despair, hope, exhaustion, surprise, fear, trauma and pleas for reprieve that is artist life in what I’m calling the EPIC Depression-Pandemic-Induced Chaos that is 2020.” You can find and stream the film on the festival’s website.
“My drag persona is a sad boi … He has a broken heart, he sings and wails.”
Madazon tells me they see the SLC drag/burlesque scene only growing bigger and better. They say their goal is to “have a fully owned and operated performance venue, school and workshop space ran by queers for queers.” We’ve still got work to do in SLC, as it is still difficult to carve out a safe space for our queer artists to perform without feeling taken advantage of physically and financially.
“There are feet on the ground working hard and dreaming even harder,” Madazon says. “We need a place for us, but we’re only going to get it by banding together. I have high hopes and high confidence that when we find a space … It will be INCREDIBLE. We’re tired of not having a home. We just gotta build it ourselves.” Madazon tells me their recent mantra they’re working on is patience. With the patience and dedication of local artists, activists and allies, I also firmly believe we can keep making SLC a more inclusive space for all our queer guys, gals and nonbinary pals.
Madazon Can-Can is a stunning individual whom I’m honored to have been able to learn even a little bit from while getting to know them. Despite that, in this day and age, we mostly are restricted to getting to know each other through screens, Madazon has been able to reveal to me an individual full of a love for life and art. This handsome clown has so many layers that it will be exciting to continue to see them evolve and add to our community with their art, body, mind and spirit. To support this true Salt Lake gem, be sure to follow Madazon Can-Can on their Instagram page @madazon_can_can, and check out their website (madazoncancan.com) for even more of their portfolio. Like, share and tip them—and all our other wonderful local artists who make Salt Lake so colorfully vibrant!