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Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa’

Kyrie Kristmanson

Kyrie Kristmanson

What an incredible night at Bluesfest! I jumped around to five concerts in three hours, simply because I could. Also, it just so happened that a number of acts that I wanted to see were happening at the same time. Both Kyrie Kristmanson and Marie-Josee Houle (two talented and beautiful local songstresses) were playing at 6:15 this evening. Thankfully I was able to enjoy a good dose of Kyrie’s angelic voice combined with her skills on the guitar and trumpet, and then I caught the end of Marie-Josee seducing the audience with her accordian and a back-up band.

Marie-Josee Houle

Marie-Josee Houle

Later in the evening I went to Holy F*ck at 7:30. I was reluctant at first because I knew nothing about the band and I felt the title was just asking for attention. But my friend Christian (thanks for the help with photos, taller friend!) insisted they were worth seeing, and I had a fabulous time dancing to the techno beats. I also caught Ottawa’s Ana Miura, another lovely lady with a guitar, along with her back up band.

Holy Fuck

Holy Fuck

Ana Muira

Ana Miura

Finally, I followed my friend back to the Byward Market Blues to check out George Clinton and his band. Or should I say ‘Carnivale troupe’? This act was complete spectacle! Everyone dressed up in wild outfits (one guy in the photo below was wearing a gold jacket and an adult diaper — apparently this is not the first time), and of course the music was fantastic and totally dance-able.

George Clinton musician

George Clinton musician

Looking forward to the rest of the festival!

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The recipients of the Rideau Theatre Awards were announced on Sunday evening at the Arts Court Theatre. Members of the theatre community presented peer-assessed awards to celebrate achievement in English professional theatre in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. The event was hosted by CBC Ottawa’s Alan Neal. The Rideau Theatre Awards encompassed 29 professional theatre productions presented in Ottawa and Gatineau during the 2008 calendar year.

Third Wall Theatre Company took home a total of 4 Rideau Awards for their production of Empire Builders. This darkly comic play was recognized as the Outstanding Production of the year. Also recognized were Joël Beddows as Outstanding Director, Lynn Cox for Outstanding Lighting Design, and Angela Haché for Outstanding Costume Design.

Margo MacDonald was awarded Outstanding Performance Female for her work in SevenThirty Productions’ Iron. For the same production, architect-turned-designer Ivo Valentik received the award for Outstanding Set Design. Valentik also won the Emerging Artist award for his work in set design.

Erin Finn was recognized for her work in Stage Management for another SevenThirty Productions’ show, Kings of the Kilburn Highroad.

Pierre Brault was awarded Outstanding Performance Male for his one-man show 5 O’Clock Bells, a co-production with Sleeping Dog Theatre and the Great Canadian Theatre Company. The production was also recognized as this year’s Outstanding New Creation.

The Company of Fools’ Richard III was awarded Outstanding Adaptation for transforming William Shakespeare’s twisted history play into a circus bouffon spectacle.

This year marks the Rideau Theatre Awards’ first steps toward becoming North America’s only fully bilingual professional theatre awards program with the presentation of two Prix Coup de Coeur for French professional theatre: Gilles Provost for Outstanding Performance and Benjamin Gaillard for Outstanding Director.

Les Prix Rideau Awards will be officially bilingual for its 2010 celebration.

For more information about the Les Prix Rideau Awards, please visit www.rideauawards.ca

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For more information on the Rideau Theatre Awards, visit http://www.rideauawards.ca, or check back here for a list of the winners on Sunday evening!

Here is an essay I wrote for my Elizabethan Shakespeare class on the Company of Fools’ production of Richard III: in Bouffon

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city-of-ottawaLooks like efforts from the arts community actually made a difference! A group of councillors from the City of Ottawa (not including Larry O’Brien) brought and passed a package motion that results in a 4.9-per-cent property tax increase and avoids serious program cuts.

Find out the full details in the Ottawa Citizen coverage.

Thoughts? Opinions? Do you agree with this decision?

Personally, I’m rather amused that Larry O’Brien has so little say in the decisions made by his council.

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shocked-face

What’s new, eh? But this recently released piece of information REALLY ticked me off.

It seems that our municipal government conducted a survey asking citizens of Ottawa where they would like to focus their taxes. They asked about the economy, the police force, public transport… and the arts.

While the government claims that MOST people supported cuts to the arts, the statistics show otherwise:

11% said they wanted to increase funding significantly for arts and culture programs

22% said they wanted to increase funding a little bit

43% said they wanted to keep the level of funding as is

21% said they wanted to cut funding a little bit

8% said they wanted to cut funding a lot

That means **76% of Ottawa citizens DID NOT SUPPORT CUTS TO THE ARTS, but the government WENT AHEAD WITH IT ANYWAY.

This survey was hidden from the public until very recently when an anonymous source let it out. The information was announced today at a press conference at La Nouvelle Scene (Ottawa’s French-language theatre venue) at 2pm.

Please contact Aude Rahmani from Theatre Action at 613 745 2322 or email arahmani@theatreaction.on.ca for more information.

Hope to see you at the rally at City Hall on Monday: 10am for the conference; 12 noon for the protest.

**Also, weirdly enough, their calculations amount to 105%. Not sure who’s working in numbers here…

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With the number of productions taking place at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre in Hintonburg, it seems the building is becoming a second home for most theatre lovers. Just this week I caught two shows from a couple of Ottawa’s most prestigious companies: the preview for Third Wall Theatre Company‘s Look Back in Anger by John Osbourne, and the opening performance of the Great Canadian Theatre Company‘s Zadie’s Shoes by Adam Pettle.

***

When I see Third Wall shows, I often wish I could go back in time to see the original production in order to make the proper comparisons. Their productions tend to be very unique in staging, very unusual in casting, and very modern in tone. This one was no exception.

Director Kevin Orr set this kitchen sink drama in the round, so the actors are surrounded by the audience and are made to move about on a smallish stage with numerous props and furniture pieces. At the performance I attended, a plug would fall out of its socket or a pipe would be drop-kicked to the floor, but that’s just tuppence. It was a little distracting, though, when sections of the audience missed out on a character’s reaction because of seating arrangements. Perhaps some more varied blocking would have helped in those cases. Sitting in a front row, I ended up with an actor’s backside in my face a couple of times. It’s a touch claustrophobic, but it works well for giving the impression of a cramped household barely able to sustain Jimmy Porter’s ginormous personality.

Kristina Watt and Stewart Matthews (File Photo)

Kristina Watt and Stewart Matthews (File Photo)

Speaking of strange casting, could anyone else predict that Stewart Matthews would be chosen for the original “angry young man”? I remember literally laughing out loud when I heard about that. I imagine Stewart mastering those stock comic roles, or perhaps a character in an absurdist play. But this is such a realistic and disturbing piece. And yet… there was something about him that made it kinda sorta work. Instead of allowing his qualities (his height, his comic appearance, etc.) to work against the character, he actually used them to create an original interpretation of the character. This play was funnier than I ever imagined it could be (though his excessive mugging did grow rather tiresome at times). And Stewart also achieved a surprisingly high degree of pathos, despite his character’s horrid emotional abuse towards his wife, Alison, played by Kristina Watt.

In this role, Kristina was an absolute dream. First of all, I was impressed that she had been made to look so sweet and girlish. I think the bouncy hairstyle and her general awe-ful demeanour helped. She played the ideal mix of cynicism and wonder. My eyes widened with interest and curiosity whenever she appeared onstage. And it was delightful watching her developing relationships with all the various characters. I felt I was following her journey through most of the play, and when she arrived at the end – an extraordinary performance that actually drove me near tears – it was a wonder to behold. I think another Rideau Award may be in order.

Stewart Matthews and Richard Gelinas (File Photo)

Stewart Matthews and Richard Gelinas (File Photo)

In terms of awards and general recognition, I think people should start taking serious notice of Richard Gelinas. That man is a superb actor, and I love him in absolutely everything. In this production he plays what might be considered a quieter role, Jimmy’s and Alison’s roommate, Cliff. But he mastered the character with such subtle humour that Cliff was given a near equal prescence. And it was fun watching him awkwardly take some of his clothes off.

I mentioned that I was surprised by how much I empathized with Jimmy in this production. I was equally surprised by how little I felt for Helena, Alison’s visiting chum, played by Amanda Kellock. I think Amanda is a lovely person and a lovely actress, but I absolutely positively HATED Helena in this show – and I’m not convinced that was the intention. Surrounded by all these flawed personalities, why was Helena the only truly unlikeable character in this entire production? Was that only my reaction? I’d be thrilled to hear some other thoughts on that case.

I was incredibly impressed, however, how the height difference between Amanda and Stewart was handled in the staging. Very clever with the levels, Kevin! This is a show well-worth seeing, not only for the production values, but for the lengthy and controversial discussions it will provoke.

Look Back in Anger plays until November 1st. Check out http://www.thirdwall.com for details.

***

I was reading an article in the Canadian Theatre Review recently and found out that Zadie’s Shoes was picked up by the Mirvish duo awhile back and toured around Canada extensively. Gosh, I thought, that must mean it’s really good!

Well, sort of.

Upon reading the plot synopsis, I was already a little turned off: some irresponsible dude gambles away his girlfriend’s cash which was supposed to go towards sending her to an alternative cancer clinic in Mexico. Oh great – what are the chances I’m going to feel sorry for this guy?

Paul Toogood Photography)

Aaron Willis and Sarah McVie (Credit: Paul Toogood Photography)

I thought the wittiness of the script or the originality of the structure would win me over. But no such luck. The playwright has some interesting ideas, but his script is painfully linear (with a couple of useless flashbacks) and totally predictable. Does the guy win the money back, or doesn’t he? I’ll give you two guesses.

Some of the characters, too, are just plain stock. We have the pregnant hippie sister and the anal retentitive ambitious sister. And there’s conflict between them. And that’s it.

But enough about the script: the production itself was reasonably well put together, with appropriate casting and a sensical arc and character development. The set was functional, but not particularly good-looking (the furniture was not properly upholstered, and the paint job could have been better). And I could not for the life of me understand why it was necessary to have that darn screen in the top left-hand corner. It said things like “Cafe” and “Diner” and showed the score for the curling match and horse races. We’re in a theatre, for heaven’s sake, we know we’re supposed to use our imaginations for these things!

Paul Toogood Photography)

Peter Froehlich (Credit: Paul Toogood Photography)

Most of the acting was fine. Aaron Willis (Benjamin, the gambler) and Sarah McVie (Ruth, his girlfriend) worked well together, though I’ve seen more evidence of their talent in previous productions, such as The Russian Play and My Name is Rachel Corrie, respectively. Dylan Roberts was really freakin’ funny as Bear, the tender-hearted heavy drug user. But it was most rewarding to see Peter Froehlich onstage as both Ben’s father and this random old Jewish guy Ben meets in the synagogue. Peter has comic timing down to an art. I also loved Kris Joseph (ah, who am I kidding? I love that guy in everything) in the script’s tiniest, almost insignificant role. The distinct quality of his voice, the sharpness of his speech, his ability to inhabit any character. When his character confessed to his wife that he really needed to get laid, I was right there with him. Well, you know.

Zadie’s Shoes plays until November 9th. Check out http://www.gctc.ca for details.

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I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people … at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.
(Prime Minister Stephen Harper, September 23rd)
this is my "gala"

I think Prime Minister Harper's statement shows a limited understanding of the arts in Canada. So I got into my gala gear to show everyone where arts funding is really going and why it is important to our community.

The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Foundation (among others) distribute funds among our arts organizations to keep these companies alive and thriving.

The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Foundation (among others) distribute funds among our arts organizations to keep these companies alive and thriving.

The average income for an artist is $23 000 (compared with the overall average of $40 000)

The average income for an artist is $23 000 (compared with the overall average of $40 000)

La Petite Mort Gallery showcases unique and often controversial works by local artists in a downtown studio.

La Petite Mort Gallery showcases unique and often controversial works by local artists in a downtown studio.

The Saw Gallery also gives opportunities for artists to display their work...

The Saw Gallery also gives opportunities for artists to display their work...

...whether strange and grotesque...

...whether strange and grotesque...

... or just plain beautiful.

... or just plain beautiful.

This art both reflects and challenges our urban mentalities, our multiculturalism, our childlike impulses, our morality, our sensibility...

This art both reflects and challenges our urban mentalities, our multiculturalism, our childlike impulses, our morality, our sensibility...

...and even our sexuality.

...and even our sexuality.

The musically talented appear at arts events in venues like the Mercury Lounge, contributing to our vibrant nightlife.

The musically talented appear at arts events in venues like the Mercury Lounge, contributing to our vibrant nightlife.

There are approximately 1.1 million jobs in the arts sector - not just for artists, but for those working backstage or in administration. Like any other business, the arts are providing jobs for all types of people.

There are approximately 1.1 million jobs in the arts sector - not just for artists, but for those working backstage or in administration. Like any other business, the arts are providing jobs for all types of people.

Theatre groups rehearse in church basements, preparing to delight you with their theatrical innovations. The cast of Gladstone Productions' "Rabbit Hole" even shared their chocolate cake with me!

Theatre groups rehearse in church basements, preparing to delight you with their theatrical innovations. The cast of Gladstone Productions' "Rabbit Hole" even shared their chocolate cake with me!

Members of Le Groupe Danse Lab are already creating their interpretive vacuum dance.

Members of Le Groupe Danse Lab are already creating their interpretive vacuum dance.

Artists are creating new work all the time, whether in their private studios...

Artists are creating new work all the time, whether in their private studios...

... or out in the street where the entire world can see it.

... or out in the street where the entire world can see it.

Opera Lyra's "Cinderella" will delight children of all ages, inspiring them to create and get involved.

Opera Lyra's "Cinderella" will delight children of all ages, inspiring them to create and get involved.

We have to fund programs for our children so they have the opportunity to pursue their talents and increase their knowledge of the arts.

We have to fund programs for our children so they have the opportunity to pursue their talents and increase their knowledge of the arts.

We also have to encourage writers to publish their works locally and support them in their endeavours. We should be proud of our Canadian artists.

We also have to encourage writers to publish their works locally and support them in their endeavours. We should be proud of our Canadian artists.

scientific and cultural learning stems from the arts and is an important part of any community.

And don't forget about our national museums: scientific and cultural learning stems from the arts and is an important part of any community.

The Oz Cafe supports local artists by displaying their work on the walls. What a treat for the patrons!

The Oz Cafe supports local artists by displaying their work on the walls. What a treat for the patrons!

The Capital Poetry Collective sparks discussion and encourages people to speak their minds onstage through poetry.

The Capital Poetry Collective sparks discussion and encourages people to speak their minds onstage through poetry.

It is said that every government dollar spent on the arts goes back into the economy tenfold. But the economy aside, the arts are essential to the general well-being of a nation. We should support our artists as we support our athletes because they all represent us; they challenge us and they inspire us.

It is said that every government dollar spent on the arts goes back into the economy tenfold. But the economy aside, the arts are essential to the general well-being of a nation. We should support our artists as we support our athletes because they all represent us; they challenge us and they inspire us.

Jessica and Jadis

On October 14th, consider the role the arts plays in your daily life. Art is your story. ~~ concept and photographs by Jessica Ruano ~~ gala models: Jessica and Jadis

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Local shoe artist Lou Hayden takes a big step into the world of fiber art

Lou Hayden never really considered herself much of a shoe-person, but since beginning her newest art collection on classical footwear, her eyes light up at the mention of shoes.

Lou Hayden, Shoe Artist

Lou Hayden, Shoe Artist

“Some people are so excited I’m making these shoes, they start to hyperventilate!” laughs Hayden, who has lived and worked in Ottawa since moving here five years ago from England.

“There’s so much symbolism and history that has gone into shoes, and a whole fetish world, too.”

True enough, shoe obsession did not start with Sex and the City. Think about Puss in Boots, or perhaps the Old Woman who lived in a shoe, or even the little girl with the red dancing shoes. There is an entire world of fairytales and fables that revolves around shoes, not to mention a series of expressions about shoes taking you where you want to go, and taking the first step.

Hayden took a big first step when she decided to move on from her position as Head of Wardrobe and Props, at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), and try something that was purely artistic and much more her style.

“This was my chance to do what I wanted to do, to actually have my dream of being an artist. I had a studio for two years, but I had no time to use it. I decided to take a huge leap and see what the universe would come up with. People have been overwhelmingly encouraging, and they’ve even passed on my work to friends. It’s been great!” says Hayden.

Hayden only started this project, in January, but she is already booked for several exhibits around Ottawa. This summer, she was asked to participate in “Art in Our Gardens” in the Glebe, and group shows at Blink Gallery and the Dale Smith Gallery. She has yet another show scheduled for October 8th with Le Petit Salon des Arts, and she is also going to be a featured guest artist at the Fritzi Gallery in the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre for the GCTC production Zadie’s Shoes. Pretty impressive for an emerging visual artist!

But Hayden is already quite well-known in the arts community as a spectacular costume designer for numerous theatre companies — most notably, with the outdoor theatre troupe A Company of Fools. This summer, Hayden designed the costumes for the Fools’ Torchlight Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet. She explains that costume design for the Fools is especially difficult because the company’s shows are so physically demanding and are performed in all sorts of weather.

“The costumes must be suitable for physical theatre; they must be ‘wash and tumble dry;’ and no sharp objects. When there’s 35 degree heat, the costume has to be breathable. It needs to have the period silhouette, but with modern comfort. There are an awful lot of requirements; it’s more like costuming for the circus!” says Hayden.

When designing costumes for theatrical productions, Hayden rarely has the opportunity to be creative with shoe designs because staging needs must first come into consideration. For that reason, she has always had images of fancy footwear floating around in her imagination, just waiting to be let loose. Her collection, Lost Shoes, features several fiber art designs inspired by men’s fashions from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. “There are not many periods in history when men got to be peacocks. I love the idea of extravagant decadence, of absolute opulence, of rose petals strewn on the floor for men to stand on,” muses Hayden.

As a fiber artist, Hayden loves working in this three-dimensional medium that is part of a growing trend in our national arts community. However, she has found that more conservative art patrons are a little reluctant to give the medium a chance.

“People are anxious about it, and they are confused about how to clean it. You just dust it like you would dust a painting!” explains Hayden.

“How come oils and acrylics are better than fabrics? How did that happen? It seems that art mediums have a hierarchy, and fabric is at the bottom; perhaps because it is linked to women and crafts.”

Hayden’s previous art collection was entitled “Women’s Work” and the pieces were created with bits of left over costume fabric and scraps of worn out clothing. It was an experiment to see what she could salvage from very little material.

“Women spend a lot of time making beauty out of things that would otherwise be considered not worth looking at,” says Hayden, who continues to focus on aesthetics and self-sufficiency in her most recent exhibit.

“There’s a huge mystery about shoes. When I tell people about my collection, they look at me as though I’ve said ‘I create sunshine,’ like it’s completely impossible, not something a mere mortal could do. I don’t like to use the word ‘empowering,’ but there’s something special about knowing how to make your own shoes. I feel like: if we have a nuclear war, I’ll be alright.”

For more information on Lou Hayden’s upcoming exhibits, please visit her website at www.louhayden.blogspot.com.

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In my high school history class, it was referred to as the “dirty thirties.” But still visionary Wayne Van De Graff was enthralled by the magical fringe life of the 1930s and was inspired enough to create the Carnivale Lune Bleue. I was fortunate enough to attend this delightful festival yesterday evening in the small town of Kars, near Manotick, just half an hour outside of downtown Ottawa.

At a first impression, the Carnivale seems a modest affair — set in a snug fairground environment, with only a few stage tents, two rides, a midway, a freaky museum, and a simple restaurant. Since it was only a Tuesday evening, it was not filled with crowds of people, as I imagine it could be over the weekend. I recognized several Ottawa actors working as carnies and entertainers. For the most part, it was quiet, quaint, and generally demure.

That is, until, you enter the stage tents! The three mainstage productions were simply phenomenal. And all entirely different from one another. At under an hour each, these shows were the perfect length for children, but enough to keep everyone satisfied. Since each performance runs two or three times every evening, it is possible to catch all three shows, and I definitely recommend them all.

Diablo and Sword Swallower

Carnival Diablo was hosted by a devilish character named Nicolai Diablo, who promised to shock and amaze us by defying all types of bodily pain. He did some amazing things like hammering a nail into his nose, drinking boiling water, and swallowing three razor sharp blades. It was disgusting, and honestly I have no idea how he did it. He was joined onstage by a sword-swallower and a strong man nicknamed “the human dart board.” That’s pretty self-explanatory, I think. This trio was especially impressive, I think, because they were so engaged in their over-the-top style of performance. Their costumes, their voices, their movements, and their interaction was so theatrical. They knew how to make us laugh, make us cringe, and make us gaze in disbelief at their death-defying feats. The only thing that bugged me was when they tried to sell us merchandise at the end: it totally broke the suspension of disbelief for me. They could have easily asked a stage manager or an usher to do that for them.

Bending metal pole with teeth

Bending metal pole with teeth

Cirque Maroc was a colourful fairytale adventure featuring members of Cirque de Soleil and Ringling Brothers in a very intimate environment. It was such a treat sitting a mere few feet away from the stage as five gorgeous and talented women performed all kinds of stunning acrobatics. Each performer had her object of choice: a tight rope, a trapeze, hula hoops, stacked chairs, and something that looked like a hamster wheel. Each unique performance was flawlessly done and accompanied by beautiful music that suited the pieces perfectly. Providing comic relief were two very aroused men (can you blame them??) watching these women, completely in awe of their beauty and skill. My thoughts were pretty much the same.

The third and final show featured Great Snakes of the World, including a 20-foot Giant Rock Python that is documented as having swallowed a man whole. Thank goodness that evening he wasn’t terribly hungry. I am incredibly proud that I was brave enough to lay my hand on his scaly skin after the performance. It felt warm and smooth and comforting. Dressed up as a crocodile hunter, the host wasn’t quite as confident or convincing as the men from Carnival Diablo, but I think the kids really enjoyed his boastful humour as he described almost having had his head bitten off by a ferocious snake.

While I had an incredible time at these three impressive shows, it was the Carnivale’s simplicity and unpretentiousness that I found the most charming. It didn’t have that commercial feel of the Ottawa Ex, and yet there was ample entertainment to keep you busy from the opening at 6pm until the closing at midnight. And that little restaurant actually has gourmet food from the time period: it looked delicious. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the entire evening, but I did have the chance to mount the authentic 1930s ferris wheel before returning downtown. It reminded me of a chapter from E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” when the little girl named Fern gets her first kiss atop a ferris wheel at the county fair. There was something so sweet and nostalgic about just sitting there in a two-seater, feeling every rock and flow of the contraption, like riding your favourite old bicycle around a suburban street corner.

Carnivale Lune Bleue has truly captured that old world charm and had transformed it into something that can be enjoyed by all. What a treat. I hope I have a chance to return before the summer is out — it runs until September 6th.

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I planned on returning home early this evening, but I was politely accosted by a Australian busker in the Byward Market who was looking for an audience for his show. Soon I was called up to be a volunteer, and thus began one of the most painful experiences of my life.

Bicycle Busker

Bicycle Busker

I know this busker. I’ve seen his show, and it is good. He has been training and performing for decades. In addition to being quite talented, he also has a charmingly dry sense of humour. Audience members always walk away from his show having had a really good time. Unfortunately tonight there was something a little off-balance. The busker was not in a very good mood (I’d heard later that he’d had some of his stuff stolen the evening before) and the audience was as dry as… I don’t know, your mom. It was a bad combination. People would literally just stand there, arms folded, and stare at the guy as he tossed chainsaws and fire torches in the air while riding around on his bicycle.

And I suspect that not one person in that entire crowd has successfully juggled a handful of oranges, let alone a chainsaw.

Long story short, thanks to the lack of audience response, the busker decided to cancel his show. Actually, there was some response – but only from a couple of guys who decided to shout out obscene remarks that were not even funny. I do think the busker should not have taken so much offense to these hecklers. In this profession, a sense of humour and the ability to rise above such inanities is essential. With street theatre, everyone is welcome to watch and respond. Even if the response is not welcome or tasteful, these spectators have a right to it. It was clear that the audience sensed the busker’s general unease and were turned off by his bad mood. Nobody wants to watch an ill-tempered performer, much less participate in his show.

That being said, this audience was truly terrible. Usually I don’t expect much from street audiences. Most of them aren’t planning on attending a busker show, and just show up by accident. Besides, people are so accustomed to watching television that they don’t know how to react to live entertainment. In some sitcoms, even the laughing is done for them. But when you’re watching a street show, it’s almost like you’re onstage, too: you have to participate, to react, to laugh, to clap, to cheer, to follow orders. If you are not doing those things, then you’re not really engaging in the performance.

Lately I haven’t enjoyed going to buskers shows because I find that – excluding the performer, of course – I’m doing all the work. I’m one of the few people in the crowd who is actually cheering and clapping and being enthusiastic. I’ll look at people around me, as if to say: “Why aren’t you clapping, too?” Most people just stand there with their arms crossed, wondering if they should change the channel. Even when the performer says, “Please clap when I do this trick,” most people stand there as if they heard nothing, as if “clap” is a foreign word. Children look at their parents, as if to ask permission to clap. One child this evening called something out during the show, and his mother covered his mouth to shut him up. I wanted to tell her, “No! He’s got the right idea! Why don’t you try it sometime?”

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’d like to write a short list of etiquette for watching a street performer’s show. Here goes.

  • Respect the performance space: if you can’t stay for the show, then do not walk through the performance area. It is indicated by a rope, and it is very obvious. It is disrespectful, much like walking through someone’s backyard instead of going around.
  • Answer questions: even if you’re just passing by, don’t be shy about answering a busker’s questions. He is not hitting on you, nor is he trying to harass you. He probably just wants to try a joke. Ignoring people is rude and unnecessary.
  • Follow the lead: if you plan on watching the show, come as close as possible to the performance area. Or when the busker tells you to come closer, just do it. The rope on the street is in place so no one gets hurt. He would never ask you to stand in harm’s way. He is asking you to move closer because it looks like he has a real audience instead of people just standing around doing nothing.
  • React! Respond! Rejoice! In other words, when the busker does something impressive (like a back flip) or tells a mildly funny joke, don’t just stand there looking at your cell phone. Please laugh or clap or holler. This puts the busker in a good mood and makes him more likely to put on a better show. There’s no such thing as “just watching” street theatre: you have to be an active participant or else you risk bringing down the overall energy of the show.
  • Give money: these folks do this for a living. Their lives depends on the few dollars you toss at them. Even if you can’t afford that much, just a few quarters is appreciated. If you have to leave before the show finishes, try to slip him some money before running off.
  • Give thanks: if you don’t have any money on you at all, then tell the guy how much you liked his show. He’ll appreciate the effort.

If these rules are common sense to you, maybe pass them along to a friend. Spread the word. Street performing is awesome, as long as the audience keeps giving the proper support. Don’t let it die. Clap if you believe in fairies, people. Seriously.

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