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Old 06-06-05, 05:49 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Lurk Newbies..collected wisdom

Researched, "Newbie" "Advice" "Beginner"
and a few others and spent a little time over the last day cutting and pasteing and the following is the result.
I'd noticed from time to time the same topic came up and people applied themselves to answering and each time the knowledge got a little more comprehensive.
I think it deserves to be put in the library.

Additionally I ran it through a self publishing service. I had the idea that I'd make it into a booklet (11pages) sell it for $10 ($4.20 profit) and split that between Jim and I.
My questions are.
Is this cool or not?
Does everybody who's advice is included want their name and website referenced?
Given that the info's free here and hopefully in the library also I would say that the demand for an 11 page booklet would be more or less sentimental.
But it was an exercise.
It exists but I'm the only one with the URL and its private until I decide otherwise.

so let me know what you think and any editing ideas or additions and alterations.

(I'm going to chop it in two as theres a word limit on posts)


The following are a collection of tips from various threads on ( in response to questions posed by first timers/ newbies/beginners.
These are some of the responses and are a good collection of simple guidelines given by performers with many years experience from all over the world. You have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any.
If you have further questions post them on

So You Want To Be a Street Performer.

Advice I give everyone starting out is that your first hundred (or so) shows are going to SUCK. So just get through them and take notes on what worked and what didn't. After 100 bad shows, you'll still probably have learned something new in each show. With 100 lessons learned, something is bound to click in that 101st show and you'll be off and running.

Start a notebook of ANY idea you have (tricks, lines, promo ideas, etc). No matter how strange or ridiculous they may seem. Then at the end of each week/month/etc review your ideas and breakdown the ones you might work and pursue them.

Don't lose heart when a day crashes around you ..

Be respectful.. of the people you share the space with.. performers , other street workers, close by shops.... and any reoccurring fans you might have...

Work as many different spots as you can [all over the country] this will help you to be adaptable to any situation and not get used to only working one spot.

Travel,watch street performers with reputations you've heard of,ask them questions about your show,these people know what they are talking about.

The 3 s's.......Smile,Shave and Slow down [you have to relax when you perform,if you are too high energy,people just leave]

Look good,you will get paid what you look like,if you look like a clown you'll get paid like a clown,if you look like a hippy,same.But if you look like a professional,clean props,clean clothes/costume,well groomed,It'll help people relate to you.

Good ideas can come anywhere, so be sure to keep your notebook handy. I used to think I would remember it, but I usually forget…

NOTHING can replace the experience of watching an experienced street performer as she/he (wow, does that phrase sound like the good laugh it ought to be!) builds an audience, entertains that audience and then, after suitable hat lines, garner the rewards from his/her years (or hours) of study and preparation.

You create a stage in public
create an audience
do a show with a
and end
and ask for money afterwards.

You should somehow look like a bit of a goof out on the streets so that people understand that you are a performer. By placing stuff on the ground (clubs, knives, torches, babies etc.) you get the interest of passerby's. Contact them. Tell them a show is to start. Grab a child and place him or her where you want her. Make a stage out of a rope. Ask the child to hold onto the rope. Her family will stay (hopefully) Run around and get the audience around the rope. Start the show. It helps if you have some really crazy things placed at the ground. A chainsaw do all the talking. Knives work. The best is personality, but few are blessed with that.

Making your tricks flow into routines is also very important. Finding a way to connect them together and connect you with the audience.

Give it a fair chance to see if you really want to do it..
watch other performances and learn from them.. the good .. and especially the bad... but be your own show... if you copy another performance then you are just a copy ...

Getting out and seeing how the other guys do it, asking questions, and just doing it yourself is really the only way to learn.

Develop a character,

1/ Get one article of clothing that ‘is’ you, some playful/interesting piece of clothing, hat, jacket,pants doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are comfortable and playful about pushing a stage to just outside your body..

2/ grab a prop, juggling ball, babies rattle, small/big doesn’t matter, any object that gives you some deep playful impulse (resist yourself you double entendre fuckers)
Something that, in any given moment where you feel you’re losing it, you can grab that thing and focus on it and remember that the idea is to enjoy yourself. Choose wisely and personally.

3/ THEN on the pitch

create a stage
Put your props out with focus and intention (builds possible anticipation, its a tension device)

and/or mark out an area with string/rope whatever

and or pace the intended stage

and or (others can put suggestions under numbers ie this is 3) (then we could put it in the library under ‘collective’)

Create an audience

beckon interested people to the edge of what you have defined as your stage.

Use the ‘curious ape’ technique.
(Deeply rooted in the human psyche is a curiosity borne from self preservation. From the time we came down from the trees onward unusual things had the ability to kill. If a person sees an action or a series of actions that make no sense it is a universal human principal that they will halt and focus until they have perceived meaning. If you for example take 5 actions and unusually stop each to continue another nothing will make sense for round two thirds of the process when the objectives become more apparent. In this time a good proportion of people passing will stop to try and make out what you are doing.
I was lucky enough to have the silly people comedians do a piece I wrote that demonstrated this principle, I was able to stretch ‘making no sense at all but obviously doing something focused’ to a grand total of round 15minutes--before they realised that the dead fish were there to attract flies that each performer was competitively catching)

Promise them a show

Create eye contact

Instigate relationships, be happy, if you try too hard go back to (2) then resume.

I think the first thing any solo performer needs to find out is HOW OTHERS PERCEIVE YOU ...

The only way I know to do that is to take whatever skills you have and present them to an audience ... don't write material (for gawds sake don't steal) just put the things you do in a kind of order on the ground in front of you ... then pick them up (even if they are alive) and see what happens ... THEY (the audience) will tell you what they want from you ... and THEY will write your show for you.

Once you know who you ARE will know your CHARACTER ... your clown.

It might be a little frightening at first ... but you will get it pretty quick ... especially if you are hungry.

Once you know what they want to see ... then it's pretty easy ... just write down everything that you see or hear that is funny ... if you wanna get real good, record your shows on tape ... that's about it.

There is no failure, just success and not trying. Set your goal and do it. There are tons of business people that are very successful because they're stupid. They don't think about stuff, they just start and figure it will all work out. Hard work is better than hard thinking. This is what I tell myself once a week.

Do shows and suck and go home rejoicing in your suckness knowing that at least you did shows. The most valuable thing I have been told and what seems to be the recurring theme through all these posts is that the only way to get good at the street is to do the street.

While personal perseverance is a major part of anything creative I think those of us who for various reasons are still performing on the streets after a decade or so could quite easily bring to mind individuals who have taken us under their wing showed us some techniques and probably more importantly given us permission to make our own rules.
Its scary to get out there with your own content and risk failure.
That's why generic shows are so plentiful.
I was very lucky to have a teacher, ( and a soft hearted probation officer) How to create a stage in public, how to create an audience, how to create a show with a beginning a middle and an end, how to ask for money.
There's heaps of ways to do each of these things .
It helps to know what some of them are.

Go to festivals and learn at the feet of your elders, betters and wisers (and those are mutually exclusive terms in many cases). Catch all the street at the Fringe that you can. Plan your holidays to coincide with streetfests in other cities. Try. Rehearse. Ask quality questions. Fail. Succeed. Laugh at yourself. Don't let the odd cranky reply or brush-off dissuade you. Read. Research all kinds of comedy, of performance, of style, of tempo, of era, of mood.

----cont next post
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Old 06-06-05, 05:50 PM   #2
martin ewen
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Lurk Read the bottom one first

Find the skin that fits like a glove.

Beginning, middle, end dude. It's not rocket science.

Beginning: (For a street show) Make some sort of spectacle of your self until you've drawn enough attention from passers by that they are no longer passers by, they are a crowd. (For a stage show) Make an entrance.

Middle: Do something to keep every body interested and entertained enough so they don't want to walk away. That works for both street and stage.

End: It's called a finale', or perhaps a grand finale', your biggest trick, or most visual or funny routine. Also if it is a street show and you want your audience to tip you for the performance, you should communicate that to them at some time during the show. It's called a hat line. For stage don't do a hat line, the people have already paid to get in and it will probably just confuse them, or worse, piss them off. Can we say off on this board?

And finally the best way to put together a street show is to do it. Find a pitch somewhere and do at least 100 shows. Paying attention to your audience at all times. The stuff they like, keep. The stuff they don't like, either fix or discard. Have fun and try not to hurt anyone or get arrested.

Just think outside of yourself a little. If you were just a spectator on the sidewalk, what would surprise you, make you laugh, and endear you towards a performer (i.e. want to give him some of your hard earned money). Thinking like an audience member is a huge help towards writing original material, and avoiding being overly masturbatory. And never just deliver, always tease at least a little bit first, otherwise they won't appreciate it, you've got to make people WANT what you've got before you give it to them.

Oh, yeah, and don't ever shout "Look At Me!" It makes people want to !@#?in' slap you

General rule of thumb: if they stop and watch, you're doing good. If they keep moving, try something else.

Personally, I tend to try and create a progression that tells some kind of simple story in my show (ex: inept chef struggles to cook a wily lobster) rather than just string tricks together.

But if you do string tricks together, here are some things to think about:

1) transitions between tricks are where you will lose your crowd. Try and link your tricks together some way so people will stay to watch.

2) the arc of your show should be straight up -- build suspense, work the crowd, make 'em want to see your big finish, whatever it is. Don't give your best away at the top of the show.

3) Don't even start your show until you get at least a solid front row of people actively watching you. Before you start your show, you need to do things to attract people's attention, and make them understand that they need to stick around for the show.
More talk, less walk. More show, less stuff.

Work on your patter, your verbal skills, your dialogue and interaction with the audience.

Don't keep on talking about it , do it .

Rehearse. Go to a neutral space, set up a video camera and just jam in front of it. Improvise. Throw out ideas. Create. Even if it's awful. Especially if it's awful. Then watch the tape. Watch it again and then a third time. Note which ideas you liked and chuck everything else.

Go back and rehearse again this time go back to your 'good ideas' and try and take them further. Try new stuff. Watch the tape three times and take notes. Then go back and do it again and again and again and again...

1.THE RIGHT STUFF- combine all your skills.
a) physical...what you can do ... be like Murph.
b) mental ......what you think about ...positive attitude.
c) emotional you feel about it about them.
d) theatrical...who you are ...impersonations / dialects.

2. MATERIAL- what works for you.
a) “street” is not “stage”...break the 4th wall.
b) the family show....appeal to the masses.
c) the Pizza Hut mentality... everybody gets the joke.
d) the “L” factor...”Likability” much they like you. *
e) character & personal unique... you are: who?
f) technique...master your craft.
g) K.I.S.S....keep it simple stupid.
h) standard lines, tired bits....mistakes are stepping stones to failure.
i) ripping off... give credit where credit is due.
j) Houdini’s Rule: involve the senses...sight and sound together, + smell, + touch
k) the hat line...unique to the street...they pay you because they like you.*

3. DESIGN - your choice.
a) set...the look of your stage...banner / showtime sign.
b) props...and proud of it! ...your prop case display.
c) costume....neat & clean & durable ...“nice vest”.
d) sound systems....Mouse vs. Peavey, Anchor Audio.

4.SAFETY - think!
a) personal...if it hurts, don’t do it!
b) audience... “...ever hit a little boy in the face with a knife?”... ... “our client has...”
c) fire... shake those torches! OSHA approved fuel ask or not to ask?
d) security....out of sight..out of mind!
e) travel...don’t fly with fuel, carry-on restrictions... (check those machetes!)... I.N.S.

5. THE SHOW - made up of bits.
a) packing...prop case + casters...two check-in, one carry-on, weight & size limitations.
b) structure....put it all together.
1. set-up, warm up...pre show.
2. crowd gathering...whistles, bells, yells...make a spectacle of yourself.
3. intro., hat line ...who you are...mention money, be funny.
4. bit...usually one prop or skit about 2-3 minutes long.
5. transition...segué...time between bits.
6. etc....create tension...relax tension.
7. Big Trick set up....what I’m gonna do for you...
8. hat line...what you’re gonna do for me....$
9. Big “louder” ...WoW!
10. hat pass...laughter turns their money into yours.
11. benediction....thank you..thank you...both of you.
12. cool down, reset...turn around time.
6. CONDITIONAL PROBLEMS - beyond your control.
a) site selection... high traffic flow (people)...sight lines.
b) surfaces & sun... “the sun was in my eyes!...I stepped on a rock! was the wind!”
c) pollutants: fumes,, cars, children. (& the occasional fountain)
d) legality...Stephen Baird...learn the rules then break some.
e) weather... it affects the audience.
Butterfly’s Rule: 92-62.. over 92?... too hot... under 52?...too cold ......duh.
f) safety first again... re-read #4. ... this time, everything’s wet.

7. HECKLERS - friend or foe?
a) analysis ... listen to what they say.
b) action ...use what they say ... comeback lines.
c)’s part of the act!

8. FOREIGN LANDS - your backyard.
a) people...loving the differences.
b) places...Waldo says: ”buy a ticket.”
c) things...border crossings, money woes, the best spots, Visa’s

9. SHOW BUSINESS - these days, it’s 1/2 show and all business
a) professionalism ...presentation is 90 percent of your act.
b) corporate, on paper ... your video!
c) public relations ...give them more than they expect...make those calls!
d) moneymoneymoneymoney...satisfy yourself, make a lot then use it to help others ... save for the future... don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

Keep a diary for the first month or so at least as you'll find it useful and entertaining later on, audience sizes, particular interactions, problems, hat sizes and shows per day.

Remember, you can do anything, go anywhere, earn as you go.
All you need is one unit of performance.

Good luck.

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Old 06-09-05, 12:51 AM   #3
Daniel Craig
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Wow Martin.

This really is something that should be an article in the library. While I agree the value of printing such a guide would be somewhat sentimental, it sure would be nice to have a little how-to guide out there for those who might meander across it and have their perspectives changed.

This is a really excellent and comprehensive post, and it kept me awake and interested far past my much needed bedtime. There isn't much you've missed. and I sure wish there was a guide like this when I was but just a wee sprout amongst plants... Well done.
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Old 07-03-05, 06:20 PM   #4
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Default Whoa, Dude!

Jumping Jeebus Martin, where was this when I was a tyke?

You forgot the main thing.
Stand around with other performers and watch your "friends" perform... then mock them mercilessly, in particular when you've seen their shows more than twice and can coyote sense all of their weaknesses.
Now you've arrived.
And Daniel, a real pro never needs sleep, n'est pas? Sleep is for the normals.

Martin, this essay is brilliant.
led zimmerman
what's that on your shirt?
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Old 07-03-05, 09:19 PM   #5
Peter Voice
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Great stuff, Martin.

The only thing I can think of to contribute.

As soon as you begin to come to terms with "the street" start exploring "the road".

Once your know you can make some money, it does not have to be a lot, try to get out of your home town to work as much as you possibly can. You will find it much easier to drop inhibitions at festivals and events full of total strangers and it does wonders for your confidence.
The sooner you get used to the road the better, few performers can survive without travelling. Out there you will find independence, inspiration, adventure and most importantly the cameraderie of your fellow street performers. You will learn and grow a lot faster on the road.
Every-one should watch their drawers!

Last edited by Peter Voice; 07-03-05 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 07-20-05, 08:32 AM   #6
martin ewen
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Lurk testing

Last edited by martin ewen; 07-20-05 at 08:34 AM.
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Old 08-15-05, 10:46 AM   #7
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Wow, I feel spoiled. I'll try and put all those tips to good use. Thanks everyone.
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Old 08-15-05, 04:28 PM   #8
Butterfly Man
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Butterfly sensei says:

The difference between a professional and an amateur is a $1.69 notebook.
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Old 08-15-05, 09:32 PM   #9
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Default 1,000

Hey Robert,

Your next post is magic 1,000....

David Walbridge
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