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Old 01-08-11, 05:31 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Lurk Street Theatre Advice for Newbs, Collated Pnet Wisdom #1.

The following are a collection of tips from various threads on
( in response to questions posed by first timers/
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

Martin Ewen

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 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 will all the talking for you.
Knives work. The best is personality, but few are blessed with

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

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

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.
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Old 01-08-11, 05:40 PM   #2
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Lurk Street Theatre Advice for Newbs, Collated Pnet Wisdom #2.

I think the first thing any solo performer needs to find out is

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.

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.

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

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.
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Old 01-08-11, 05:47 PM   #3
martin ewen
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Lurk Street Theatre Advice for Newbs, Collated Pnet Wisdom #3.

Try and create a progression that tells some kind of simple story in your 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

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
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

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.

Martin ewen, Butterflyman and others of the Pnet community.
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