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martin ewen 10-14-01 11:48 PM

Windsor 2001
Windsor International Street Theatre Festival.

Never has so much love, indifference and sweat been invested in a carpark.
Ken sets it up, his wife Patty’s role is to help him avoid a mental
breakdown and this year Robert Nelson’s wife Kumi stepped efficiently and
unasked into the role of onsite programmer.
Its really hard to vent your spleen at a diminutive non-paid Asian whose day-job involves serving you coffee at altitude without poaching your genitals.
And really there was nothing to complain about.
Same couldn’t be said for various staff members of various service
establishments at various times. We left ashen faced chambermaids, simmering
bouncers and fragile front of house staff in our wake but we tend to
traditionally tip heavily and apologize profusely so it all worked out in
the end.
Ken had to stand outside some offices like a naughty schoolboy
forging doctors notes that explained which of us suffered from Tourettes .
And thats because we’re all highly strung individuals, so creative, so generous with our gift of producing laughter in others that we sometimes digress from societies norms.
It has to be understood that this is just a natural side-effect of our genius and whats more, to be honest, we’re really not much good for anything else.
Ken understands this.

Checkerboard guy
Reid Belstock
Hotnuts and Popcorn
Stickleback Plasticus
Chalk circle
Nick Nickolas
Lee Zimmerman
Mad Chad Taylor
Marie Claude

Alakazam’s subtext and chosen quest relates to physically manifesting an arcane sexual statistic.
It is said that one ejaculation contains enough sperm to impregnate every female on the planet.
Als chosen hobby is to do the same thing the long way.
Obviously thats a great many people, if any woman reading wants to bump her name up on the list and so get seen to in the next 10/20 years rather than later on when he’s all wrinkly and jaded I’ve heard he sells priority sessions on e-bay.
Als act involves juggling, micro bike riding, pole balancing and being a cheeky young scamp that woman of all ages want to sleep with.

Checkerboard guy is this guy. And the checkerboard thing is like a marketing ploy that grew like a particularly vicious virus until it devoured him whole.
He has a great big cuddly juggling show that he can perform in 15 languages as well as 7 obscure Afghan dialects.

Reid Belstock
Is a clown who has a rare gift of being as funny as himself as he is in character.
He’s a hilarious mass of contradictions too large to list here.
He’s the sort of person who, at a meeting, you just focus on the wall and wait for him to ask a question so that you can be entertained by the way his brain works.


Dado looks like zippy the pinhead and sounds approximately Irish and spends his career attracting rainfall. Probably a really sad person to be but a really funny guy to watch.

Davio is French Canadian, and if that weren’t strange enough he speaks passable English and balances on womans bottoms before climbing a pole and striking impossible poses that last for 10 seconds and take years to master. Sometimes whimsy frightens me

Hotnuts and Popcorn
Slick, sick and pass the schtick.
Barely clinging to their sanity, every risk dynamic conquered, the only challenges left being general social norms and in-jokes. If they don’t get rescued and taken off the street soon they’ll either marry and breed or join the foreign legion.
Pulled off a 3 peaker 90 minute late night show masterfully so there's still gas in the tank.

Stickleback Plasticus.
I paraphased them last year well enough, In fact this paraphasing stuff might well stop soon. Don Kings of ballroom dancing plus all the spontaneity and guile of street theatre purists.

Brian and John have a sort of bovine burlesque that involves juggling and the sort of hidious puns that really should only be used in wartime. They have classical training and its like Shakespeare and Bozo were put into a meat shredder and they’ve made sausages out of it.

Bev and Ulla are two Australian woman who sit in the blazing sun scratching the surface of the planet with coloured sticks, patterns form and then they leave.
I’ve never understood australians.

Anti-gravity theatre
What can I say, A cynical panto-sham with a drinking problem, the only redeeming fact being I don’t have an ounce of self pity in me.

Nick Nickolas
Nick is one of those freaks of nature science is still struggling to understand, when small organisms were discovered living in unbelievably hot volcanic flues deep in the ocean scientists actually called them nickyboys until they were forced to change it to something suitably latin.
Nick has been credited with many things and discredited about twice that often.
He is the reason for childproof caps and also for Mormons special underwear.
He is a magician and juggler and a sophisticated urbane raconteur, even so it is advised that even if he asks you nicely, don’t pull his finger.

Marie Claude
Marie Claude is a face/body painter who’s work and its quality carries her from major festival to major festival , she’s unleashes animals from the faces of small children and then sets them free. And thats apparently a good thing.

Mad Chad Taylor
Mad Chad should be an ambassador for real Californians because he is in fact very real, its a bit of a shock really, enthusiastic chainsaw juggling, genuine upbeat, thoughtful. Freaked me out when I first met him. He’s the kind of guy who can go to a strip club and it doen’t seem dirty.He’s what alakazam could be with the right dosage of saltpeter.

Lee Zimmerman
Lees the other sort of Californian, sort of Randy Newman with puppets, a rock and roll show with puppets, deadpan, ironic, self taught highly skilled and witheringly articulate, had this great monologue about being the bottom feeder of the festival, with the elevated jugglers being the sharks at the top of the foodchain and him being the only performer who really was risking his life rather than it just being a line because if he went home with no money his wife would kill him.
I could write what I like because he never comes to but this plus last years paraphrase, I’m done.

A challenge known well in advance thats unique to this festival is that it, more than any other Canadian festival, (with Halifax coming a distant second,) is a tourist draw as much as it is an opportunity for a community to celebrate itself.
Its Windsor and its just over the river from Detroit.
Every weekend American tourists pop over in large numbers to exploit the slightly cheaper goods and services of their northern mini-me in a sort of living beyond but within our means sort of more bang for your buck sort of a way.
And before I’m deafened by foaming reactionary flacks convinced in their own tediously facile way that I am anti- American I can admit that Windsor depends on it.
Its just another example of the dynamic of a border town, Copenhagen has the same thing with hordes of Swedes arriving every weekend to drink a cheaper kind of beer and have sex with a slightly different kind of blonde.
Now at this festival (which in my opinion is a two and a half day fest held over four) the mayor steps up to the mike and in his immaculately kept, politically astute and faultlessly jovial way, opens it and thanks the sponsors without whom none of this would be possible and to whom we’re all exceedingly and sincerely grateful. ( sung to the tune of- ‘we are the world, we are the sponsors’)
He really was remarkable, all the performers were crying and the sponsors and spectators alike were rushing up and hugging one another, one elderly woman was so touched she there and then donated all her worldly goods to nobody in particular and walked naked into the river.
Bear with me, I have a disturbing habit of coming to the point when you least expect it.
My point such as it is, is that the Windsor fest is as much about getting Americans over the bridge to open their wallets at bars and casinos as it is to reward the local townsfolk with a festival that brings them together to celebrate both their diversity and ours.
It trys gamely to do both and I think succeeds to a degree at both. It is sponsored for example by both the Casino (tourists) and a mental health organization (locals)
Lots of others as well but those two sum it up for me.
While at the majority of festivals, even though there might be significant numbers of tourists, the performers are generally aware that they are bringing something to the community and that that is their prime function.
While at Windsor good hats are made and undeniably good times are had, there are times when after strenuous efforts and much laughter, a show ends and at least two thirds of an audience turn their backs and insensitively head off to the next piece of free entertainment, why?
Because they’re tourists who owe Windsor nothing more than making their money last as long as it can before they head home.
There was one world class performer who held it in for an hour or more until safely away from the site before slowly subsiding into tears and as some of you will understand it had nothing to do with the money. Just tired and spent and undervalued and used.
Kens great and more than a producer and its neccesary that Roberts there and the locals who turn up year after year as volunteers to support it and others who bring the whole family to laugh and cheer and celebrate are the reason most of us attend.
But just because we’re romantic doesn’t mean we’re stupid and the tourist showcase thing just might have to be addressed.
(at this point martins name gets scratched from every festival casting list in Nth America because it equally can be argued that the performers make as much as they do anywhere else or else they wouldn’t be there)
Oh but the moments make it all worth while, and really thats our strength, we can take tired old formulas and create beautiful original irrepressible moments, I’ll just list one or two.

Pee wee and Em were starting their show with a couple of hundred people gathered in the daytime, just mucking about creating atmosphere, character and focus when Em notices three children in the crowd, seated and staring intently at the ground.
So she makes her way over and ask’s in a stage whisper “What are you doing?”
The children, serious as only children can be, point to three bugs on the ground and state “They’re not moving.”
Em considers this and then asks, “Are they dead then do you think?”
The kids nod solemnly.
After another brilliant pause Em asks “Shall we bury them then?”
They nod
So Em picks up the dead bugs and the kids follow and they walk through the stage and up onto the grass bank behind the stage and they dig a small hole and bury the bugs with all the respect accorded the moment and then walk back down and the kids sit down and the moments over and the buildup continues.

The festivals over, cancelled early by a sudden downpour, performers have been milling on the covered stage waiting for Robert’s decision on or off, now its off. There's another tent in which 100 or so public have sheltered hopefully.
Nick can’t help himself, he cobbles a show together in his head that is not the show he’s been doing all season but just bits and pieces he remembers along with whatever props are at hand and wanders over.
He asks everyone whether they want a show and of course they do although they don’t completely trust him at first because he’s a bit loose and weird and he’s standing on a table thats not too stable.
It doesn’t take long and its all ripping along and even though the first two thirds of the show was uphill we’re over the hump and nicks juggling three balls while trying to strip from the waist up and finally he’s done it and his slightly less than pristine body is exposed all sweaty with seismic cutaneous waves sweeping across what years ago might have been a tight form and he’s juggling and exclaims. “ladys and gentlemen, The body of a god.” and I swear the kid was all of 6 years old and quick as a flash he yells “yeah Buddha.”

John from Cowguys is handicapped by the fact that he’s such a nice guy and such a good sport and just by existing in our midst reinforces all that is cruel and unfair and hilarious
He comes up to the buskers area from the public area of the bar and brings with him his dinner and a pint and sits at a table with Pee wee (judge), Lee (jury) and Nick (Executioner)
One of them addresses him while he’s eating and as he casts his eyes back to his meal he notices his beers missing and Nicks suddenly right across the room with a half heartedly innocent look on his face and a suspicious pint in his hands.
John laughs good naturedly then makes a critical error.
He says “ You won’t misdirect me again.”
Nick returns, replaces the beer but then in a rapidly moving, spontaniously planned and co-ordinated series of events, John, with his arms protectively across his plate, manages to have the contents of his dinner disappear, item by item (I think it was steak, vegs, mashed potato but it really doesn’t matter) from underneath his eyes while ‘never being misdirected again’.
He’s befuddled, sitting there with an empty plate while Nick, Pee wee and Lee weep with laughter when the unthinkable happens, food starts re-appearing on his plate. The humour at this point strayed dangerously close to potential aneurysm and John finally started to get a bit pissed off as he realised that Nick had actually grabbed his nicely prepared steak off his plate in the millisecond he wasn’t focused on it with his grubby little fingers.
It may have its downsides but what we do to the public and what we do to each other and the skill and laughter that goes with it are reason enough to meet up regularily and Canada really does lead the way in this area.
Sorry this took so long, I’m half way through Waterloo but don’t hold your breath.
If I've offended anyone sorry, if I havn't offended anyone, sorry.
Thanks for the moments.

[This message has been edited by martin ewen (edited 10-17-2001).]

em 10-16-01 01:25 PM

i have just cried with laughter at the reminded memory of the mis-directed food fandango...

i am fluey and have just started to do an MA and am very tired and that was just what i needed to shake me out of my self pity...

Cheers to all our Windsor buddies and memories.....
love Em ( or soon to be known as Emmama)

Bri 10-16-01 09:49 PM


What was that link to your site with the pictures of the cast of Windsor on it? Stick it up here.. it would make a lovely addition to Martin's summary.

The food fiasco was incredibly funny. Jon is now vacationing in sunny Greece undoubtedly trying to forget the whole thing.

Emmamam??! does that mean what i think it does?

martin ewen 10-16-01 11:33 PM

Great idea brian
I put the link at the bottom of the review

em 10-17-01 12:48 PM

nah, not emmamam but emmama, theres no mam in this girl!!
how are ya??

em 10-18-01 03:55 PM

ummm its me again,
sorry Martin this seems to have become a random thread not connected up at all with the Windsor topic....but at least i have finally become "em" and not "new member"
Anyway i would just like to clarify something....ummm although some of you out there can see me with small Peewees or Peeweetas jumping round my ankles demanding tit; ummm i have to inform you i am not pregnant, and its only Peewee jumping round my ankles demanding tit (getting nowhere as usual)
what i meant was, i am at college doing an M.A. iam not gonna be a ma. In fact in England we don't even call her a ma, we call her a mum, or mummy, sometimes even mother.
sorry to dissapoint all you cuddly types but at the moment the only thing that is gonna make my belly swell is beer, which is in high demand after spending all day with highly strung arty types.
i love you all, well nearly all anyway......

Bri 10-28-01 09:34 AM

Hey Em.
I was just wondering if this email addy works?

I've sent you an email or two and hadn't heard anything back. Was just wondering if you got em?


Butterfly Man 01-29-02 01:27 PM

Not that anybody cares, but as of last night I retired as co-producer of the Windsor Buskerfest. It was an amicable departure and Ken Brandes and I will always be good friends (and lovers).
The reason I quit was because I found myself stuck between two ideals. My true allegiance is to the truly great performers of this world (me) and being a festival organizer came into conflict with that ideal once again. What is best for the fest is not always best for an individual act (right, Davio?).
Over the three years I did the festival I tried as best I could to be what I thought a festival organizer should be and always attempted to put the performers (Alakazam’s) needs first. It was not an easy job, to say the least, to be fair across the board with the scheduling but I honestly did the best I could (no matter what Glenn Singer may tell you).
So, I say goodbye to all my Windsor fans and friends (in wheelchairs), and “Thanks” to all my former friends in the street performer community who I haven’t worked well with over the years (Bill Ferguson).
It was a helluva ride.

Stephon 01-29-02 07:42 PM

[quote]Originally posted by Butterfly Man:
<strong>The reason I quit was because I found myself stuck between two ideals. My true allegiance is to the truly great performers of this world (me) and being a festival organizer came into conflict with that ideal once again. What is best for the fest is not always best for an individual act.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Robert, could you clarify that a bit, please? I haven't done busking festivals, but may want to in the future, and your insights would be invaluable. Are you refering only to pay agreements, or were there other issues?


Butterfly Man 01-31-02 11:37 PM

Some of the stuff I might say is probably not for public viewing, but at this point in my career, I really couldn’t give much of a rat’s ass anyway ... so here goes.
Yes, payment of per diems and transportation reimbursements at some fests (Eg. Halifax, CHCH) are not equitable for all performers. Personally, I think this sucks as (IMHO) everyone should be treated the same otherwise petty bullshit jealousies ensue. Also, some fests get outside gigs that pay (sometimes good $) and favoritism can come into play here as well. Many times, it can be downright politics as to what pitch sites you get (Eg. Denver).
What is unbelievable to me, is that all the festivals are getting us all at such a dirt cheap price, yet we, the performers, seem to take all the risks (inclement weather/small crowds/travel hassles) ... unbelievably, some producers don’t even provide water for their performers at the pitch sites!
Occasionally, an organizer/producer has to make an agreement with an act and then later finds out that the same act gets a better offer somewhere else. This has happened to me both as a performer and as a producer as well. As an act, it almost killed me to realize I was bound (by contract) to do a 10 day street fest when I could have made more money at the one 20 minute gig. On the flip side, as a producer, I realized my allegiance was to the festival and not to the act. It’s easy to see where a conflict of interest can occur.
I’ve lost one too many friends being what I thought to be the best producer. To me, it’s simply not worth it.

gazzo osborne 02-01-02 10:05 PM


Lueng Dick 02-02-02 06:16 PM

"What is unbelievable to me, is that all the festivals are getting us all at such a dirt cheap price..................... Occasionally, an organizer/producer has to make an agreement with an act........... "

Yea, I remember thinking similar thoughts with regard to Canadian Folk Festivals in the '70's-80's; not just how little the artists accepted, but also how they often were "mistreated and disrespected" repeatedly by some producers and Festivals.....yet they still came back when invited. These are 2 separate issues however.

In Edmonton I always had less $$$ than I wanted, or was "fair". I had to try to make "it" happen with what I had, and yes some folks sometimes got more or less than others, no one got enough.........that was my reality.
Just as I excercised the options to invite, the artists had the choice of accepting or rejecting the offered deal.

With regard to being disrespected........I'm still blown away by the vast majority of artists who accept invites and unconscionable "deals" from Fests that they know are taking advantage of them. Why don't they just say NO??

I assume that your experiences in Windsor, although sometimes trying and frustrating, were still worthwhile on several levels.

Since mid-August I've been back in Thailand and living with a 10 minute computer connection limit (after which I'm automaticly cut off on my apt. phone system), hence [I do like to use that word occasionally] my surfin' is limited. I've recently started to occasionally read this forum and have for the most part enjoyed what I've seen. I've gotten a kick out of seeing posts from Peter Voice, Taxi Boy, Em, Martin, Young, Nick, You and a few others.
If this post gets through (I'm still a computer weenie), I expect you'll hear more from this guy in the future.

Back to the topic........Flyboy, I'm sorry you couldn't cut it as a producer, but I ask you to think positively and realize that you can now put your considerable energy into a more needed and long neglected facet of your life: improving your show.

Keep up the good fight.


Mr.Taxi Trix 02-02-02 08:20 PM

Good to see your chops are still fresh, Dick, it'll be our treat to hear from you here. When are you gonna get enough Thai ducks in a row to experience temporal internet freedom? Start a poker game, man. What is that indigenous plant Thailand is so famous for? Perhaps there are internet funding capacities you've overlooked.

I've never had to deal with pitch shuffling in the face of rain and egos, and I can see runnning for the hills from that position. But hey, come and play it, Robert. You can take Dick up on his act improvement idea. Oh man, Mothboy, you takin' that lyin down?????
Martin Ewen:
"Kens great and more than a producer and its neccesary that Roberts there" So come work it, Martin says its neccesary.

Good question, why do some performers come when the money is short? I do both ends, producing and casting when I get the business, and mostly performing. I love it when there is a big money gig for a friend, and they deliver for my client. Wish it would happen more. I do offer to hire acts for short money sometimes, because as a performer, I'm always glad of an offer, even when I turn it down. (Sometimes, I offer Boris short money just to listen to him scream at me.) The operative word is choice, and I think take the gig or don't, but if you take it and bitch, you belittle yourself. Just say blow me.

Lynneski 02-04-02 09:45 AM

Ricardo! Nice to see you de-cloaked, and feel your warm and sage-y vibes. I hope we can chat over a cup 'o chai in Edmonton this summer.

Robert, I think you've extricated yourself from what is for you a proverbial rock-and-hard-place situation with honour. It's hard to wear the grown-up producer pants and make those tough calls at the best of times, must be harder still when you feel your allegiance is unclear. I hope, truly, that you will find a time to don the pants again, and maybe start us up a new fest in your neck of the woods. Ted and Al have been holding up the streetfest end of the rope all alone for too long. There must be some other US cities who want a fest of their own.



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