The outside is bright and cheery, full of colorful stripes, polka dots, flags, posters, and curtains.
The inside, though, is a different story. I imagine that the world of the circus freak could be dark and depressing when they were on display. It must be horrible to have people constantly gawking at you because you are different. To reflect this, the inside of the tent is practically devoid of color, as the freaks await their turn on the stage. The only source of light are the footlights behind the stage.
The freaks gather and wait to be displayed in the center box, while the split doors make the perfect viewing place for the individual performers to sit as the curious crowds walk by. I did not attach the doors to the box, so they can be pulled forward as shown.
Here's a brief tutorial on how I made the box and the circus tent top.
The box come disassembled, so my first plan of action was to see how it goes together. I placed all the pieces flat and made sure that the sides of the box were shorter than the sides of the doors. This photo is of the box (left) and one of the doors (right).
Before covering the box with paper, I taped it together to make sure I had it right. Looks good! One thing I did notice is that the doors hug the box pretty snugly. This would most likely not be an issue if you want to paint it, but since I wanted to cover the box with paper, I had to plan for that. I covered the outside of the box with the bright striped paper, and then covered the inside roof and floors of the doors with the yellow polka dotted paper. I assembled the doors without gluing the tops. I positioned the doors in place on the box, which had three layers of paper stacked on the top, between the top and the top of the door, so I could get a little extra spacing. The papers raised the door top panel up a bit, and I glued the tabs with those three papers still in place, acting as spacers. When the extra paper is removed, the doors have room to open and close comfortably. Doing this leaves a bit of a gap between the tabs you are gluing, but once you cover the inside and outside walls of the box, the gaps aren't noticeable.
Alpha Stamps has two great collage sheets filled with sideshow and circus performers. I cut out my favorites and gave them all a little color with Copic markers. After I covered the inside of the box with my papers of choice, I arranged the performers to see how they would fit, and then took a quick photo for a reference as I put the box together.
Here's a view of the bottom and sides of the box, with the sideshow performers inside. The snake charmer and the strong man in the back are attached to the back wall with foam tape. Neither of them are touching the floor; I lifted them up so they can be seen. The other performers are backed with some foam core for sturdiness, and affixed to the bottom of the box with a little bit of white glue. The red circle in the photo below is where I put a small hole in the back of the box so the fairy lights could be inserted. Once the lights and the performers were in place, I glued on the top of the box and covered it with the brighter striped paper.
The box was nice as is, but a circus needs a tent-like roof! I cut a piece of cardboard with the dimensions shown, and covered it with paper. In the picture below, the entire back of the cardboard is covered, and the paper is trimmed as shown, with the overhang on the bottom. (Please note that this is a dramatic recreation of the roof I used in the art, so the paper in the following photos is plain cardstock instead of polka dotted.)
After you cut out the piece indicated above, use a bone folder to score along the fold lines and fold the front and back of the tent together so the points meet. As you hold the structure, mark the edges where you will cut the extra paper so it wraps neatly around the sides and bottom of the tent. What you cut doesn't have to be perfect, as those flaps will be on the bottom of the box and will not show.
After you've marked both sides, cut on your lines and then wrap the tent and glue the flaps to the flat bottom of your structure. You should end up with a pyramid shape like the one below. I wanted to put a flag at the apex of my tent top, so I punched a hole with a Japanese hole punch. You could probably also use small scissors or the tip of an exacto blade. When my tent top was done, I added some pom pom fringe around the bottom, strung up the "Freak Show" sign, and raised the flag.
The Freak Show is open for business.