Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Baling' Two Perspectives

  • To bail or not to bail… is that the question? Well, far be it from me to tell others what to do but it seems to me that, short of death or the threat of physical violence, there is never a good excuse for a performer to bail on a show.

    Now, I’m not talking about before you commit yourself, I am talking about after you are already committed. And you know when that is, that’s right when you have officially started “performing” i.e. when you address your audience.

    I’m not talking a huge audience, I’m not even talking about 4 winos sitting on the one and only bench around who were there already and drunker than I was. Once you commit, you commit, that’s it. Its unwritten contract which, like I said, cannot be broken no matter what.

    Ok, I did mention death or the threat of physical violence. Then, I can justify taking the sole purpose of your existence, transporting your audience toward unreality, away. Otherwise pal, you are doing it for yourself and bailing only because you have no balls, guts or honor.

    Bailing is for pussies. And pussies have no business in this business. 

    Would you like to hear that your surgeon decided not to continue with your kidney transplant because the nurse handed him the wrong forceps? Or maybe your kid’s teacher decided to quit because your little Johnny was a little dumber than the other kids and couldn’t quite grasp string theory on the first go around. How would you feel about that?

    I don’t care how bad it gets. You can be sitting there on the edge of the stage, the whole audience booing you because you just made an old man’s ear start to bleed internally by fucking with his hearing aid and you must continue despite the shame. The show must go on, it has to; it must. 

    Death, or the threat of it, can be justified, for sure. I bailed three times in my 30+ years as a busker, all three for exactly those two reasons.

    When a gun is pulled out during your show it is kind of difficult to turn that reality into enchantment. A gun brings an audience back to reality quickly and to my knowledge, no clever line has yet been written to prevent the collective horror of the crowd. Believe me, I tried, including, “Come on asshole, make my day!”

    Finding out one of the members of your audience was dead and not just snoozing can have a similar affect on your crowd. Mentioning to the paramedics after the fact that you were killing the crowd might get a wry smile as they drag him onto the gurney, but little else.

    Similarly, a small fist-fight, even when its between two clowns, can be so disruptive to an audiences psyche there is little left to do but bail. Although, I must say I quite enjoyed watching their white faces smeared with blood, but maybe that was just me.

    So, that’s it. For me, it’s a big NO-NO to bail except with a potentially mortal consequence and I’ll believe that until the day I die. Which could be very soon I’m told.

    See what I did there?


    Baling; to bale,
    --The act of abruptly canceling a show during the performance itself--

    Street theater creates audiences in public through a variety of means and for a variety of reasons those same audiences can be abruptly dismissed.

    It's relatively rare and understandably disconcerting from an audiences point of view. Whatever trust they have lent is summarily shattered as they come to realize that they are just part of a mob that up to that point was merely useful to the performer before he or she simply changed their mind and deemed them useless.

    I'd suggest everyone's baled at least once but would be interested to see if there were indeed performers who have finished every street-show they have ever started.

    Here are some examples. Ends of the spectrum.

    Pompedu center Paris, a French mime is articulating something so vague and French that only he has any clue whatsoever of what any of his esoteric arm waving and face-pulling represents.

    Some well meaning citizen steps forward and drops a coin into his hat but unfortunately the small coin in question is the final straw.

    The mime exploded, stomping off his small plinth uttering a long string of patented French verbal indignance. Reaching into his hat, grabbing small handfuls of currency he threw them away in disgust on the pavement. Glaring at the audience, mostly bemused, he packed up furiously, muttering venomously before stamping off, in his own self indulgent mind his dignity intact. A perfect example of a dramatic beggar with a superiority complex.

    I laughed at him, silly french dickhead, throwing a hissy fit, spitting the dummy and presumably actually setting out that morning to do street theater with the expectation that by days end he'd be carried around on the shoulders of an adoring public based entirely on the strength of his painfully enormous and demonstratively brittle ego. Clueless to his true function, which to my mind is the dramatic seduction of strangers.
    Instead he merely exposed his tiny metaphoric artistic dick and was outraged, OUTRAGED!! That the world had not immediately formed a line to suck on it.

    He chose to blame strangers for his own failings because simply being pathetic in public was a truth he could not bear. I know this because I've employed a similar mindset in times before I was prepared to take responsibility for my failures as well as my successes.

    On the other end of the scale.....

    Fly-pitching out of Covent garden at the corner of the Opera-house across from the Shakespeare Pub I had a focused crowd when three guys stage right exited the pub arm in arm. What it was an ambush. The two on the ends grabbed the guy in the middle and began their assault . They were actually in my circle. I and my audience could only watch as the victim took a few before being beaten to the ground. He was then dragged to the gutter only feet from me and in front of my mixed late afternoon audience.

    They wedged his head into the gutter itself so there was nowhere for the incoming force to be dispersed and then both beefy guys lay-ed into his head with their boots like they were chopping wood, alternating well aimed boot after boot into his head before running off leaving the guy howling with the lose vocal cord pitch and timbre only a traumatized person in a coma can emit, the kind of sound that raises your primate hackles the kind of sound unique and rare and truly literally spine-chilling.

    I baled. I sat down without explanation, it wasn't required. I had no more defense against this horror than anyone else. What audience remained were in deep shock and even those who had fled earlier had enough brutality added to their worlds to make my small role and laughter itself irrelevant and redundant. They drifted away as police ran up far too late to do anything but stand guard over this guttural howling brutally damaged man until an ambulance could arrive.

    These are the extremes. You bale because you simply on the day accept defeat and sometimes that defeat, if you look honestly, is yours and other times it's simply circumstantial. Mostly I've noted it's simply a defense against sucking any more than you know, on the day, you already do.

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