Thursday, June 30, 2011

#3 pt1 how to create an audience

This one's the killer. [and a bit of a ramble which is why it's pt1, I'll probably take 3 posts on this one]

Street theatre you engage curiosity and mix it with promise, implied or simply stated.

I'm going to ...[fabulous fabulous]

Free beer ....[ I hated people that used that line as much as I hated the subtextural rape of the misplanted kiss gag]

The implied promise of scattering interesting props about the stage.

This all works in public because people can SEE you.

Here's a picture of the internet. You're a monkey in a forest, a lonely wee monkey with a bunch of bananas. You are up a tree all alone with a bunch of bananas and you'd like some company.


The internet is an infinite forest, whereas street pitches were/are finite places with traffic.

You had a juggling skill, or some mad storytelling chops, or some oblique skillset that were your bananas. Some people survived on having just one banana. They'd bring it out, TA DA! and a decade would pass. Nothing wrong with that. The worlds a big place, just keep moving with your banana.

I used the same banana for more than a decade. I like to think my banana implied I had a bunch but mainly I hid behind corners and went BOO in a variety of ways. Worked for me.

All this stuff is just my opinion you understand. Part of what I'm trying to convey here is the means to use that tangential imagination that successful street performers have and apply it to a larger environment, a new environment that has only existed a short time and is IMO really suitable for our kind.

So...Bananas. This is worth giving as much time as you would a new show because it's formative and has more potential than simply a new 20/40 minute re-gludge of your skillset.

It's scary in it's own way because you don't have props to hide behind.

It's a given we are all attention whores, you can be as jaded as you like but a crowd of strangers made happy to see you is critically important whether you admit it or not.

Behind the skillset you employ what have you got?

A keen observational eye?

One new wisecrack a show?

Some truism your show is built around to illustrate?

An absurd  perspective?

At the end of the day, apart from the funds acquired, what makes you most proud of what you've pulled off?

It's OK, it's taken us 100+ shows to get to the beginnings of the street theatre vehicle that has transported some of us hither and thither.

There is room for experimentation. I would suggest first that you look at what it is you think you were celebrating by getting into street theatre in the first place.

For me it was about creating a relationship. I was 11 foot tall and disgruntled and appeared not to like anyone and got periods of up to a hour of unconditional love as i moved an audience through a consensual relationship, where they stopped and I made them laugh, to a reciprocal affection where they would pay me for their appreciation.

As far as I can make out that was the core of what I was doing. I was being ME.

I was just being me in a strange and funny way.

So to get an online audience you have to be YOU. and that's really quite hard to work out.

I'm lucky and it's no credit to myself, that I have a certain quality of mind. I'm the kind of person who says something, some simple reply or question or whatever, and people respond by tilting their heads to one side because I'm incomprehensible. Sometimes it's presumed I'm intelligent because I guess everybody's insecure to a degree. [and the most arrogant among us doubly so] , personally I think I'm just resistant to digesting reality on anyone elses terms and as such wonder if I'm the sort of person who should even attempt to give advice.


You want to attract an audience you need a show. There is no beginning, middle, end. there is just show.

Don't pretend you know the minds of others, unless you want to get into pornography or horoscopes.
Work out what you have that could be useful to others, the production of laughter, the ability to collate material, the ability to observe or advise or relate.

What I've found is, through experimentation, that the thing that you never tire of doing, the thing that makes you most pleased after having spent time on it. That's the thing. It's easy to be distracted.

Find that thing and you have found your voice and your voice is of prime importance in creating an audience. Clarity of that voice is what will attract an audience because clarity is a subtextual form of content that's attractive in itself.

Walking the seawall on stilts, then falling off....Kona Hawaii

I slipped on some green slimey stuff. I knew it was there and I was extra careful but it did me in anyway.. I walked away but just between you and I I bruised my buttock something fierce.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Couple of pics from the Chrysler gig.


photos courtesy of Aerial Angels/Alex Kahler

#2-A rundown on street theatre dynamics and online applications

I might work on that title...It's a bit clunky...


Dynamic 1

How to create a stage in public

Now to be clear

The space between the performer and the audience is what we are talking about here, although the space the audience are on needs to be owned by you also because it's a catchment area useless to anyone else while you are working except perhaps pickpockets.
It's real estate, free land, you borrow it, do your business and then relinquish it.
Your audience defines it by their focus, their wee heads are all pointing in your direction and they have lent you their attention

Performers congregate at the prime locations and then usually rotate, allowing each other use of the space. You might get one or more shows done in a day but prime spots are worth the wait because of the crowds and the return from them.

London, Paris, Sydney etc each has one or more prime spots that performers head to. There are other performers who branch out and find niches of their own, forging new territories that are initially exclusively theirs until such time as others discover their now proven potential, or not. It's all very fluxy.

The online equivalent of this real estate is virtually limitless .

A youtube channel
A blog
A website

or any combination of these.

There... done, you have your own stage. No competition for space, take as much as you need.

It's too easy. 

No really, It's so easy it can lull you into a state wherein the next thing, because it so comparatively difficult, fries your mind.

There you are, on a pitch that is so large you can see the curvature of the earth, and it's teeming with people, staggering numbers of people wandering about but the catch is that you are invisible. You can see them but they cannot see you. You can invent yourself as a skyscraper sized luminous scrotum but nobody's going to notice.

Until you do that one thing that will define everything from that point on.

You must engage them.

I'll cover element 2, 'How to create an audience' tomorrow.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#1 A rundown on street theatre dynamics and online applications

Here are the basic elements of the most common template used in street theatre.

Create a stage in public

Create an audience in public.

Perform a show with a beginning, a middle and end.

Collect money.

Simplicity itself on the face of it however each of these elements are distinct skills that require experience and experimentation to master and any one weakness effects the whole disproportionately.

You create a stage in public by projecting your presence with intent and by defining an area as yours to control. Whether it's with physical props or borders of chalk or whether it's simply by engaging with anyone within your preset perimeters, you 'own' a certain area.

Your audience are created via the primate curiosity humans are built with wherein they become arrested by intent and action without easily perceived purpose. It's called the 'curious ape syndrome'.

People stop because there is something happening and they have to work out what it is so they can make a judgement concerning it that will define their next action.

It comes from when we had just got down from the trees and two thirds of things foreign to us would kill us and eat us if we were not paying attention. We have to pay attention to strange things until we make sense of them. It's a feature that has turned into a bug but it's useful and I've hung out in alleys 11 feet tall and crowds form as long as the question remains "what is he doing?"

I aim for the first thing I do producing an audience outburst of laughter and the definition of my stage, my creation of an audience and my beginning all gel at that point and we move onto the second stage of my seduction.

Beginning, middle and end and the collection of gratitude.

I have a big middle, I play with my situation and as long as I create some sustained pace of laughter production my audience are happy and lost in the moment, when I tire I increase the pace to raise the frequency of the laughter generated and when and if I can run the outbursts so that they are running into each other I sustain that until I judge it cannot be sustained any longer and break quickly into a movement dance piece that is a form of punctuation and then Bam, It's over and I bow and beckon the final movement, which is the audience to register their gratitude and come up and donate to my ongoing upkeep as that funny guy that brightens up your day.

For a decade now I've been looking at the internet like it was the largest pedestrian boulevard on the planet and wondering if these not inconsiderable skills that I've applied internationally could be utilized in a similar fashion.

My findings to date; People don't pass, you don't have any visibility until you market it, marketing is your costume and props. Marketing is how you define your stage and audience.

You have to have an online show, you have to have content and there is no beginning middle and end unless you look at each and every visitor as a separate performance which means your online presence, each individual installation of content you produce, has to have a beginning, a middle and an end and a means by which the participant is drawn to support you willingly.

I'll write more about this tomorrow. if the contents of my head are useful it would be ideal if you could donate a dollar once and a while and also link to me so that my audience increases.

What street theatre is essentially to me and why it's profound.

Look at this. Take the time and look at this or these, one will do, two is better. This whole post, if street theatre interests you, is worth the time to do properly.

NYC - Mindrelic Timelapse from Mindrelic on Vimeo.

Mindrelic - Manhattan in motion from Mindrelic on Vimeo.

Now this is New York. A tough city to perform in but it's possible. I wouldn't like to have to survive it long. It's immune system is one of the toughest. Street theatre is a hack and as such it needs rough surfaces to adhere to in terms of public spaces where eddies of public can be formed but New York is sandblasted smooth by the sheer pace of the place.

Looking at these films allows you to see the immensity of the inter-connective systems that dwarf the individual taking part in them.

While we all take trains and busses and do the things we do this huge, almost inconceivably complex system exists as a common cumulative invention that exists to facilitate itself and you could be forgiven in thinking that in a way it's using us as fuel as much as we'd like to think we are using it. When I say 'it' I mean that collective hive we have evolved to sustain us.

Because look here, I say "do the things we do", what is that? Choices are made within certain perimeters by each of us at some formative stage as we decide what it is we are going to be. Education, connections, aspirations, overheads and a multitude of factors are calculated at one point or other in our lives as we decide what role we are going to take in this machine that surrounds us.

And this is just one city. London, Tokyo, Sydney, Paris, the list is long.

Street theatre is it's own tiny system built on some primitive primate level that if done with skill can subvert the larger system and exist temporarily and successfully within these large and complex social machines and unlike any other occupation I can think of it is profoundly a celebration of almost and in some cases literally absurd individualism in the face of the otherwise overwhelming weight to conform to what these complex systems demand of us all in order to achieve our needs.

What other occupation sets as it's ambition to singlehandedly conquer the world?

To travel to NY, to Tokyo, to Paris, to any major city and collect a crowd and do that thing where you tap into what is universally comic and receive in gratitude the means to continue your global conquest.

It is a high risk game but the rewards are nothing smaller than your continued existence on your own terms in a world otherwise riddled with conformity, compromise and subservience.

I cannot think of a more self contained concept and I consider myself very privileged to have stumbled onto it at just that stage in my life where the questions had to be asked and the decisions had to be made. My very early twenties when I decided that yes I was going to, out of all the roles available, be a clown and , yes, I was going to specialise in Street theatre.

28 years pass..... I've changed, the world has changed and yet my makeup and costume sit beside my bed and I still fly off to look down on people as an 11 foot disgruntled pantomime because that is essentially the most powerful tool I've created to deal with the world.

I look at this film of New York as a humming hive of intimidating scale and recall outside the museum of modern art, just as Tokyo, Barcelona, Paris, and probably around a hundred others and marvel that a single person with imagination can interrupt these massive systems and exploit laughter.

I am a member of a select tribe and we are older than most modern civilizations and while one perspective could see our impending extinction we are nothing if not adaptive.

Perhaps the internet is the newest and largest boulevard to play on?

Those people rushing down footpaths looking at shop windows as they move from A to B

That's all you're doing reading this.

Unlike street theatre there's no beginning middle and end on the internet. But that's a topic for later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Feelgood Sunday--Aim Low--The best of Dylan Moran

Rumple, the possibly sacred fool.

Rumple, or Rumplestiltskin as he his referred to out of earshot of copyright enforcers, is an international clown. He's worked solo performing streets and street theatre festivals and arts festivals and all number of events, Glastonbury among others and recently enjoyed employ with cirque du soleil and is now not surprisingly, a free artist once more.

Oh how we laughed, we being clowns and street performers with more than a couple of decades experience both in this precarious form of business we've chosen and of Rumple himself, to hear that Cirque had grabbed his talent.

We laughed for the simple fact that Rumple cannot be tamed, never has been, never will and for Cirque to have the audacity [which is one of their qualities] to presume they could direct Rumple in the exacting way his two year contract implied automatically was to presume that some unlucky Cirque arts administrator, if lucky just one and if unlucky a handful, would suffer an aneurism.

I am not a religious man however if ever there was an argument for some spiritual hand that directs from within, giving birth to dreams and impulses that drive an individual brave enough to trust in them that argument would be personified in Rumple.

He is in his own motley way a sacred fool.

He speaks on and off stage in a falsetto. It used to be a cruel game among some to ply him with alcohol, the rumor being if you got him drunk enough he'd drop an octave. I have it on good authority that this is so. He was an innocent and innocents gets taken advantage of. I saw him once at Glastonbury coming in to pick up his check, supported by a person under each arm, unconscious with exhaustion, to sign for a check and have others change his flight to some east European festival and get him on the plane because those were the things he needed doing. Rumble would sit on somebodies floor and exclaim in his high little voice as his eyes roved in wonder.
“Blimey! You've got a nice house/caravan/big tent. I slept in a ditch last night.”
and it of course would be true because to my knowledge Rumple has never lied, his character shuns that level of sophistication.

However Rumple could go where others could not [in, I believe so many ways]. Before the Berlin wall fell Eastern Europe was steadfastly closed for visitors yet Rumple, in the jesters suit and false nose he wore far, far more often than not, would simply walk through checkpoints under armed guard explaining that he'd heard of this castle or that and wanted to go there because he liked castles and burly men would step aside and let him past to walk on towards wherever and I like to think they did it because on some level they recognised he was holy in that pure sense of childish purpose that radiates from him. [Believe me when I tell you I could think of many more cynical reasons and motivations but I choose not to. ]

Originally Australian, Rumple first arrived in Europe into London on a Qantas jet. It was a laughably short visit. He had worn his costume and false nose the entire 20+ hour trip. The wall between performance and backstage was to Rumple a sliding scale with a clown at each end.

Disembarking, he tottered through to Customs. British customs officers being, quite fittingly, the most dour people on the planet, the spectacle of some falsetto-ed Aussie with bells hanging from his jesters hat and long false nose served not to entertain them but further amplify their disgust with the human condition life had subjected them to.
Rumple no doubt would have been smiling and probably said something as uncomplicated as
“Hello there.”

The passport changed hands, an ordinary passport considering, most likely an ordinary photo.

They didn't care. They asked the important questions.
“Do you have any money?”

Rumple's eyes would have sparkled I suspect as he bent down and rustled in his carry-on before standing with a water polo sized bag made from strong cloth tied in a bundle all circular and bulging before exclaiming delightedly.

Then plonking down his package which inspection revealed contained multiples of hundreds of dollars in Australian coins. Useless, unexchangable coins that had no value whatsoever in Europe. Banks at the time, and probably still, only change notes.

The customs officers would have looked at him blankly [ while laughing uproariously inside their heads which is what I imagine the most spectacularly dour people do] before sending him to some small bare room with his luggage and within hours he was on his 20+ hour return trip to Australia.

Rumple contains no daunt, he cannot be daunted because like many things he simply refuses to conceive of daunts existence.

Close to 50 hours later Rumple, still with his coins and again a rich man returns to Sydney.
Within two weeks of circulating and telling his story he has paper money and a new airticket and had been persuaded to forgo his costume for the trip. Rumple's not stupid, he learns from experience like anyone else. It's simply that his larger picture is unique. So within short order he had gained entry into Europe and was headed in his fantastically impulsive meanderingly steadfast way towards castles he'd once seen pictures of, behind the iron curtain.

His dauntlessness is legendary among those relative few who know of him. He has, at multiple day festivals with multiple stages, performed shows that have lasted up to 26 hours. He has improvised non stop for more than a day. He would pick up a juggling ball and state.
“I am now going to throw this ball up into the air and catch it 317 times!”
and count each one along with the audience until he dropped one then start again. That's an easy 30 minutes right there but Rumple on many occasions would be given or grab or make a stage at a festival and go until he dropped.

His props were a unicycle, juggling stuff and various very obscure found objects or things he'd made.

He would do his show and people would pay him afterwards and in that way he was like us. [in that he was like anybody]

But he had almost complete disregard for the form he was using, it was more like a vehicle he jumped on and off of in pursuit of his character. There's a now stock piece. I first saw Peter Post use it, where you fail to balance an inflated ball on your finger and after repeated attempts enraged you throw or hit it away over the heads of your audience. The joke comes when invariably at some point shortly afterwards it gets thrown back into the circle and further humor is milked by taking out a knife and stabbing the ball and then throwing it again from the circle. Very very often the tattered ball is again returned, thrown back into the circle and the characters comic humiliation is complete.

I saw Rumple use this on a cobbled courtyard in Villach, Austria , he tried and tried to spin the ball on his finger then threw it away in mock anger and got a laugh and moved onto his next 'trick' for a good couple of minutes by which time his audience had quite forgotten about the ball but he hadn't when he stopped and in his falsetto shouted,
“Where's my ball?”
The audience looked behind itself to see but the ball had vanished, some kid had probably run off with it.
Rumple asked again,
“Where's my ball?”

The audience didn't know so Rumple discarded them, he just walked through them and away, leaving his props scattered in what used to be his stage surrounded with what used to be his audience as he wandered round the very old Town through courtyards and walled pathways asking anyone he met, mostly Austrians,
“Where's my ball?”
He gave up after a couple of hours but he never found his ball and others cleared and stashed his props where he had left them. We were all at the same hotel, it was no trouble.

Rumple put his hand to writing for a year or thereabouts. On, he would write long stream of consciousness screes. Genius begs comparison and Rumple is beyond that so no-one will ever be able to judge whether Rumples writing is profound. It will take some sort of singularity to finally make sense of him.

I do suspect he himself is profound although that could be seen as an article of faith on my part and as I've said I'm not a religious man.

[Like madness and white noise, patterns form]

Feel-good Sunday..John Cooper Clarke

I like doing this, every sunday just putting something I consider entertaining or upbeat up for it's own sake. It tends to be a bit treakley some sundays but one day a week is OK. This one I consider treakle of a sweet and sour variety.

John Cooper Clarke is a British Poet, This vid is from 77 but he's still going.

the pest

I love the way he tells strange stories.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Final signed off on Book Cover

Sign off also on the editing by this coming wednesday - just a final readthrough by a couple of people to check and then it's formatting for kindle and softcover.

The context index will be interesting too. Not content with one there will be three index's I hope the kindle version can deal with it really smoothly. Three versions, The alphabetical order, the order I wrote the stories and the order i visited them.

Because each tells it's own story in a subtle way. Anyway that's next.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A series of rambles about festival management #1

I, and most of my purist street theatre brethren, are not immediately attracted to middle management type personalities.

Personally I detest corporate middle management peons with a deep molten fury. They are the type of servile clinging leeches who's lives, revolving around banal politics, blind them to the transparent almost radiant fact of their utter superfluousness. They are essentially binary switches with delusions of grandeur convinced that being given decisions to make, preordained by constrictions and dictates allocated from above, actually justify their inflated wages and ghoulishly hollow lives. They remind me of some falsely beaming, neatly turned out 10 year old teachers pet in the making holding a door open with all their obsequious worth, unaware the door is automatic, before smugly returning to sit and giving the class that look that conveys their own sense of gargantuan self worth and superiority.

However there are exceptions and they are those who facilitate rather than manage. They leave the core of the venture as unhindered as possible and simply do their best to make everyone happy knowing that that is their prime function. That and delegating the logistics as the required secondary focus.

Let me further define middle management. These are people who are paid via funds from one or a series of other sources and who in doing so fulfill a function in providing a public service while promoting their sponsors brand message. Whether that be the Epilepsy foundation which has provided for Toronto Buskers fest for over a decade [to hundreds of thousands of public] to commercial sponsors married to civic entities, {Halifax/Edmonton/ Windsor/Waterloo/ Christchurch/ Fremantle/etc}

Street festivals apply themselves to various social engineering objectives, to reassert atmosphere, to provide healthy family cultural events, to show commercial brand community investment and any number of other stated or unstated aims.

The top level of international street performance artists are an interesting tribe. Individualistic, skilled, usually fairly articulate in a general sense and also proud of their ability to survive entirely on their own terms.

What they create fundamentally is laughter and wonder and a sense of possibility outside of the ordinary to those they expose their talents to.

Predominantly these are folk who can, if given a public space uninterrupted, create from nothing a crowd of several hundred and entertain them for a time before receiving a freely given collective gratuity and having that be their commercial vehicle.

It is a rare thing and to do it well takes skill and a great deal of application, the rewards being once mastered the entire world becomes somewhat of a playground.

Now some 'producers' or 'managers' of festivals see this extraordinary talent by definition and harness it with affection and admiration and trust. Edmonton with Shelley and before her Mr Finkle, Lynne from Waterloo for one bright shiny moment when she was given the reins. Port Credit, which mirrors this attitude of lavishing the performers to reap the rewards of their happy enthusiasm. Hamilton in Canada for a time,Christchurch via Jodi, Auckland via Nick Nickolas doing casting and scheduling, Robert Nelson and Kumi have had a mitigating hand in Windsor, Furgus at Glastonbury fest, there is a larger list than this of festival producers who bring out the best in their performers and support crew and engender loyalty that pays dividends in the efforts made in extra shows and media promotion and charity add-ons.

Compare this to the administrative tragedy that is this weeks surfers paradise festival " Australian Street Entertainment Championships" on the Gold Coast in Australia.

First off it's a competition, it pits the performers, individuals who pride themselves on their originality, to compete to get paid at all.

It uses judges, dubiously unqualified self promoted nonentities with backgrounds in marketing or retail.

One of the judges is the same person who cast the festival in the first place,  an obvious bias.
This is the same individual who revoked Andrew Elliots contract because, even though he is a seasoned and sought after international act with over 20 years experience, he reveals at the end of his show that he's in fact an Australian and comes from Newcastle after fooling the audience into believing he's a bumbling yet very proficient Indian magician for 40 minutes.

The reason given? He says he's from Newcastle and it's an international 'Festival'

what pitiful bollocks!
apparently Australians don't count as international because everyone knows they are the worlds poor cousins and can never aspire to international success, even if they spend 20 years doing it.
 What a sad projected inferiority complex this judge [jon logan] has, that's perhaps why he overcompensates by being a transparently out of his element idiot. 

That this festival in part is designed to mitigate and obscure a prevailing spiral of domestic and urban violence that threatens to blight the always paper thin veneer of surfers paradise is funny when the way it's run is patriarchal and abusive by design. Perhaps a mirror would cost less than the festival.

This festival put's the 'judges' up in a hotel, presumably sucking from the same teat that pays the masterminds that produce it while the performers are expected to put themselves up and be grateful for the statistical probability of working for nothing while five of the cast get paid the allocated prize money.

One last minute maneuver  was the ADDED BONUS of a $200 gratuity towards expenses for the performers selected popped in days before the gig to stanch the hemorrhage.

Prizes 4th and 5th get awarded 10 shows at $100 a show. What an honor!

Of course there will always be performers to take anything that is offered, some simply curious, others with nothing better to do but by design a number of performers will not get paid at all and frankly that's just sad.

It's the kind of short sighted, blighted, venal and self important kind of management that thankfully the internet will strangle to death simply because unlike the preonline business model that presumes information is a scarce and valuable resource and runs on presuming stupidity on the part of the participants the internet is an informational and educative medium.

for example, the basic deceit, [and remember some of these people sell themselves as marketing whizzes] of the blurb in the press release that states...

"To battle for the much coveted title of Australian Street Theatre Champion" 

Given the 'covert' involved exists entirely in the mind of the hyperbolic copywriter, given the title itself, the competition itself and the concept itself is historically non existent and a lie sadly presumes people are stupid.
Heres a clue, people are not stupid, street performers are not stupid and it's a poorly paid one who presumes their audience is stupid because to presume people are stupid is, not to put too fine a point on it,...stupid. But provincial careers in marketing still limp along with this philosophy because denigrating your targets intelligence is the only way relative stupidity can bluff it's way towards demanding the fees required to maintain the charade.  

This particular festival actively promotes selfishness by allocating deliberately limited resources for the services offered. In doing so it shuns loyalty and community .

The gloriously delusively funny aspect of it is that the people who run it will defend themselves indignantly by huffing and puffing and stating they are doing performers a favor by even providing a venue in the first place, oblivious to the size of the world as it exists outside their tiny  insular and increasingly brittle fiefdom.

Street performers have existed for hundreds of years before haberdashery was invented and long before charlatans and real estate functionaries with delusions fueled by corporate liquid lunches learnt to cobble every half thunk concept at hand to feign social promotion while greedily sucking two thirds of the nipples available on the badly dressed sow whose excretions pay their hotel rooms, consultancy fees and wages.
  Such spectacular dysfunction should be obvious to those who are monitoring them as it is to those beneath them and in fact perhaps the only persons not jaundiced by their pointlessness might well be themselves.
I'm sure they are good at some things but apart from inflating their own self worth at the expense of the events they produce I can't think of any.

Good luck Gold Coast.

There will be more in this series as I can be bothered, the rest will be focusing on those positive aspects that future admins can adopt as proven by prior models. 

[this is unpolished certainly, written in one sitting, it's shaggy wolverine rather than shiny coated wolverine because of my diet. maybe if you people fed me?]
a follow-on from this...