performers' library

David Cassel

What 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 mundane.

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.

David Cassel

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.

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