performers' library

Hitting The Bricks
David Cassel

Oh, what is a man when he has no skeleton but a gelatinous mess of skin and secretions. Perhaps I shall lie here in my pool of goo and consider allowing myself to be evaporated by the sun. Anyplace is better than here, I can't do this, I can't do anything, I am pathetic...

Motivation to perform in the rough edged street environment is always the first hurdle to overcome. The human preoccupation with fear of failure is most immediately realised when you are standing on the street trying to gather crowd. Only the strongest and bravest survive, for the street is the most vulnerable place that a performer can place themselves. It is the tendency of passerby to regard you as a weirdo or anomaly of society. The first task of the street performer is to accept, unconditionally, that, yes, indeed, you are a weirdo and that this is a good thing. If you were not a weirdo then you would not possess that which enables you to undertake your second task...

The second task of the street performer is to generate an audience by convincing the passerby that you are not a beggar, a whore, a leper, a drug addict or a homicidal maniac, but, instead, a weirdo that has something of incredible value to offer the world. The third task is to come up with the goods.

Well... I'm here. And now , if there are no other performers about to intimidate me, I will stand here and contemplate another occupation while I get up the courage to gather an audience. Timing is essential in this, the most crucial moment of your show. If there is another performer in close proximity to me, I want to be certain not to begin at a point where our shows will conflict. There are two ways this can happen; Firstly, I decide to start blowing my whistle, banging my drum and screaming at the top of my lungs and standing on high things at a point in the other persons show which is low key or quiet. This will undoubtedly result in his crowd being disturbed and then coming over to see my show, which , in the short term could be deemed as successful. HOWEVER, politically this is not a good thing, for the other performer will also come over to my show and, if he doesn't make a special un-announced guest appearance during it, I can rest assured that I will get an earful afterwards. In Paris, I stepped on the toes of of a Gypsy glass-walker/ fire-eater. He did not hesitate to come over with a knife and physically threaten me. This is not an option I do not wish to entertain ever again.

Secondly, it is not wise for me to begin my show when the other performer is about to embark on a spectacular 'death defying' routine. Fact is, once this has begun to occur, nobody will be interested in me. The only thing on the mind of the person walking by me is, "Hey, why is that crowd so big and your crowd so small?" followed by, "God, is he really going to eat that kid, balance that flaming snake, juggle those multiedged cutting devices and ride that unicycle with the razor edge seat all at the same time?!?"

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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