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Old 10-15-01, 12:48 AM   #1
martin ewen
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Default 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).]
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