motivates a passerby to stop and watch a street show?
Before this can be assessed, it must be recognised that there are two kinds
of potential audience members; those which stop to watch because they have
been invited, "Guests," and those which stop because they are curious, "Crashers."
Those that have been invited have decided to stop because they have been touched
by the performer's charisma. The most successful performers cultivate their
ability to relate instantaneously to total strangers like some sort of urban
social convener. They take an interest in the passerby which moves beyond the
In a matter of seconds the performer has to identify something which will alter
the primary intention of the passerby whose prime objective it is to continue
on their pre-planned journey from point A to point B. If the performer is successful
at temporarily detouring the journey of their subject, they must then engage
that audience member so that they continue to feel included in the event, the
performer must develop a relationship with that individual or group of individuals.
In a sense these people become "anchors." No matter how large the circle gets,
the performer continues to relate to those original audience members. It makes
the guests feel special and in turn they invest more energy into the performance.
It also creates a certain degree of desire on the part of Crashers to be included
in the same manner. There is an unconscious respect among a street audience
for some one who has become an anchor during a performance, because it shows
that that person has been able to emerge from their shell, take a risk and
contribute to the community's well being by allowing a total stranger to relate
to them outside, in front of an audience. This is not an easy thing to do,
unless you are an extrovert; which very few performers are.
Nurturing the guests during a performance also means having a more reliable
volunteer base, should the performance require such resources. Someone who
has been invited into a performance is much more likely to come onto stage
after they have been made to feel welcome than a crasher who is plucked from
the back of a crowd before they really know what is going on. The Crasher arrives
after the initial performer - guest relationship has been established. They
watch, usually out of curiosity, because it is unusual to see someone present
a relationship outdoors in such a theatrical fashion. They watch because they
are interested in whether or not the relationship will prove satisfactory from
an observational point of view. The crasher wants to see an entertaining situation
but they do not wish to be involved personally. They are curious to know how
it will be resolved; whether or not the performer will maintain the interest
of the guest. As long as the performer can hold the attention of the guests,
the crashers will usually tag along, benefiting from what may be construed
as another's potential misfortune.
These and other observations
about the street can be found in The
Pavement Stage (©1995, but still looking for a publisher.) by David
Cassel, a performer who has been traveling the globe for 18 years doing shows
and putting donuts in his pants.