Author Archives: a silent soap box

About a silent soap box

busking for change and changing everything.

regrets, pity parties, and moving on.

instead of writing a waterfire recap, i’m writing about the thing i was so determined to not be doing this season. the forecast looked so grim for saturday evening. warnings of thunderstorms with heavy rain, high winds, and hail. i agonized about it all day, and in the end i decided to stay home. so, of course, the weather was apparently fine in providence aside from a few scattered showers early on. i spent the entire weekend beating myself up about it. someday i’ll learn the lesson of “it’s better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t.” running for shelter in a storm is always better than not trying at all.

in an effort to not get stuck in a pity party, i did a little Q&A on facebook and instagram. since i don’t have a recap to write, here are some of those questions instead.

How did you get started?

my first two performances were at dresden dolls concerts in october 2004. i had seen living statues a few times, and those concerts were the perfect place to try it out myself. i immediately fell in love and started busking in my hometown. the following summer was my first season at waterfire.

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my first performance. photo by sheri hausey

How long does it take you to get into costume?

now that i’m not wrestling with my hair to get it under a wig, it takes about twenty minutes to get into costume for lily. fifteen of those minutes are spent on makeup. i could probably do it in half the time, but i can be a little obsessive about my makeup, so i

of course, there’s also prep work that happens before it’s time to get into costume. all the clothing components need to be washed, then my top and two skirts get de-wrinkled [i prefer steamers over irons]. if my shoes are a mess [like having gum stuck to the sole] i’ll clean them up. i check the batteries for the tip jar lights and change them if i don’t think they’ll last at least another six hours. i make sure my supply box has enough white tape to mark my space on the garden ledge for waterfire nights, extra batteries for the lights, extra business cards, a bottle of water, and my makeup. then i need to get justin set up to take photos and videos. i gather up helpful things like an external battery and a monopod for my phone, clear out storage space on my phone, and check with him to make sure his camera battery is charged. if i’m dumb and leave most of this work for the day of busking, it can take me a couple hours to get my shit together.

Have you ever used any other props…. or just your parasol?

many, many years ago, i handed out flowers. by default, the flowers and the vase used to contain them became props. the same goes for the few attempts i made at handing out candy, or little trinkets like marbles and seashells. if something is in my hands, i have to incorporate it into my poses and movements somehow.

then i decided i couldn’t deal with the greediness of people when i handed out tangible objects. so ditched the vases and baskets, and picked up a parasol instead. i stuck with that for a few years.

then i decided i preferred the physical freedom of not using props. the range of poses and movements i can do when my hands are empty is so much more enjoyable than trying to incorporate props into everything i do. now i only have a little white umbrella as an “in case of sudden showers” back up plan. i perform with props at work with ten31 productions sometimes, but i generally don’t enjoy it.

have you ever performed as other characters? if not, would you like to try?

i’ve had a few other living statue and living doll type characters, though lily has dominated my busking career for quite a few years now. before lily there was jasmine, and cloud [my silver statue], and victoria, and the lonely bride, and masquerade, and a few others who were more for concerts than regular busking. i’ve done a few non-statue characters, such as a raven at some edgar alan poe events, a ghost at some slater mill ghost tours, fairies at some concerts [many, many years ago]… currently, i have twin characters that i will probably debut via photoshoots before using them for performances, and i have a crazy project of putting together a quad stilt animal costume for something completely different. in the longer term, i’m also planning on adding more variety to my living statue arsenal by getting back into metallics as well as more complex finishes.

 

When will we be seeing you in the Plymouth area again?

i’ve actually been thinking about busking in plymouth again. i stopped a few years ago because it reached a point of no longer feeling worthwhile financially, and i didn’t have as much time for it. but my life is taking some turns, and i may need that kind of supplement for my income again. i might test the foot traffic in my old main street spot next time i have a free sunday afternoon.

…and this is the perfect segue into announcing my plan to busk this sunday in downtown plymouth. i will probably aim for mid-day at the corner of main street and north street. the pity party is over, it’s time to get back out there.


easy days are never that easy.

while this last waterfire was blessed with beautiful weather and wonderful crowds, there’s never such a thing as a perfect busking day. but let’s start with some fun things before we get to ranting.

part of the great social media resurrection is trying to come up with content besides my usual busking videos. i decided to record my makeup process [and post the video at triple the speed, because no one is interested in watching fifteen minutes of me putting makeup on my face]. i plan to record a better video, maybe this saturday if i have my shit together enough for any extra stuff between riding and busking. but i think this one is still a fun glimpse at my person-to-statue transformation.

now that i’m not wrestling with my hair and a wig anymore, i severely overestimate the amount of time it takes me to get ready. with my delightfully simple headscarves, i can go from pajamas to full costume in less than half an hour. this has resulted in me arriving in providence a bit earlier than necessary, which isn’t the worst thing, but those first 30-45 minutes can be slow. i need to work on my timing so i’m in place no earlier than 6:30, maybe even closer to 7:00 for these summery late sunset times.

but at least justin is able to use those slow times to get lots of photos and videos [if you’re following me on instagram, you’ve seen a lot of those pre-sunset video clips]. it’s also the ideal time for my new artist fan, julia, to sketch me. i was lucky enough to cross paths with her and chat for a bit at the basin lighting last, where i was producing two of TEN31 productions’ gargoyles for the private event. she is as sweet as she is talented, and i’m excited to share her sketches with y’all. i rarely get to see peoples’ drawing/paintings of me, so this is such a treat for me.

 

as i so often do, i brought some aches and pains with me to this waterfire. i performed with a sprained ankle, and a thoroughly fucked up neck/shoulder from a muscle i pulled a week prior. to add insult to injury, i managed to step in some chewed gum while walking to my pitch, and i was dealing with my skirt sticking to my shoe the entire night. and, of course, the persistent wind was making my eyes tear up and tickling my nose, so i spent the entire evening stifling sneezes and wondering how bad my makeup looked. when you see a living statue struggling to hold a pose, i want you to think about the difficulties they might be experiencing in that moment. none of us are going to be perfect at all times, especially as outdoor buskers. but all these troubles fade away when i’m getting hugs from children, or when people are amused by my mischievous approach to posing with people for photos, or when i accidentally scare the shit out of someone when they realize i’m not actually a statue.

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now, i have two mini rants from this waterfire. one is about animals. i swear i don’t mean to keep babbling on about pets, but damn it, these things just keep happening. this one’s not about snakes [i’m happy to say i didn’t see that guy the entire time i was up], but about dogs.

i love dogs. i’ve owned dogs most of my life. dog training is a hobby i’ve enjoyed since i was in elementary school. i love seeing dogs at waterfire. lily wants to pose with all your dogs for photos. but what i don’t love is seeing reactive dogs at waterfire. before sunset, there was a family with a yellow lab who camped out to my right for a long time. this poor dog was barking and lunging at every other dog who passed by, regardless of whether or not they even paid attention to the lab. this kind of reactivity is very common in the modern dog population of america. my own dog has reactivity issues, and we’ve been actively working on correcting these issues for years. i would never even consider bringing shorty to waterfire. this is a crowded place with lots of people, lots of dogs, lots of noise, just general terrifying chaos for a nervous animal. it’s stressful for the dog, and it’s irritating as hell for anyone who has to listen to the dog bark. and let me tell you, labs have big booming barks. every time another dog walked by, i’d be jumping out of my skin from the lab barking behind me. it boggles my mind that this dog’s owners would bring him there in the first place, let alone allow him to bark and lunge with barely any attempts to redirect him or calm him down. i was relieved [and also felt bad] when the lab eventually noticed me and started totally freaking out about the moving statue, forcing the family to leave. folks, please just leave your reactive dog at home. you aren’t doing them any favors by bringing them into these kinds of situations.

on a completely different note, i want to talk a bit about other buskers. in the hours before sunset, it’s not unusual to see lots of musicians along the canal. and that’s awesome. i enjoy these buskers, especially when they set up in the area of my pitch so i can listen to them play before the waterfire music starts. what i don’t understand is when musicians try to busk in the vicinity of the canal after sunset. do you guys not realize how much your music is competing with the canal’s speaker system? at this lighting, there was a small band directly across from me on canal street, arriving way after sunset. they were playing music i might have enjoyed if my ears weren’t being assaulted by the battle of sound. justin said they weren’t even playing consistently, they’d play a song, stop for quite a while, play another song, take another long break… why? if you want to busk, go find a pitch suitable for your performance. if you just want to show off a song or two, do so where people might actually be able to enjoy it. otherwise, what’s the point?


of better weather and audience thievery

i swear i’ll get better about writing these blog posts in a reasonable time frame. wedding planning is kind of taking over my life for the next two months [yay DIY], and it’s not my fault netflix released the new season of OITNB on a waterfire weekend!

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one thing i struggle with a lot as a street performer is weather. specifically, weather forecasts. i’m used to watching forecasts and planning ahead for my everyday life, since i spend most days riding horses outdoors, but i obsess over waterfire days. i spent the better part of a week worrying that i would get rained out of this waterfire, as there was a high chance of rain in the forecast. but i am thoroughly relieved to say the weather was absolutely beautiful on saturday. i’m trying to not worry about the fact that the forecast for this weekend is also threatening thunderstorms…

i’m also happy to say the crowds were overwhelmingly kind, and the most generous i’ve experienced thus far. i was visited by my dear photographer friend jon beckley and his lovely lady, my endlessly enthusiastically supportive aunt, my favorite crow carl johnson, and some long-time fans. a sweet young artist sat and sketched me for quite some time [if you’re reading this, i’d love to see some of your sketches]. i stole lots of sunglasses and hats for photos, and i “called out” a few people for taking selfies with me in the distant background instead of coming up to me [seriously y’all, lily wants to be in all your statue selfies, don’t be shy]. i had a cavalier king charles spaniel be my temporary statue partner. i received some of the sweetest hugs from the cutest kids. if you follow me on instagram and youtube, you’ve already seen some of my favorite moments.

they can’t all be winners, though. as a living statue street performer, i have to read people and make a lot of very quick decisions on how to handle a wide variety of interactions. sometimes, i opt to react very openly. sometimes, i choose to ignore. one guy shoved a hand full of kettle corn at my face, not once, but twice. a preteen/tween boy tried stealing the spotlight by dabbing next to me [why does everyone think it’s cool to look like you’re sneezing into your elbow? wtf is this trend and when will it stop?] and later tried to fake-tip me. with these gentlemen, i opted to do nothing, to avoid feeding their egos by dignifying their douchebaggery with a response. a young woman thrust her finger into my outstretched hand. i grabbed it instinctively, pulled her hand down, and held on until someone else gave me a tip. if you want to be physically involved in my performance for a quick laugh, i’ll hold you captive until you’re drowning in awkwardness.

then there’s the snake guy. he and his poor dehydrated burm visited me again. this will have been the last time i welcome his presence.

he walked by me twice before sunset. both times, he didn’t stop or acknowledge me at all. he’s not interested in acknowledging me unless i have a large crowd gathered around me. he had no problem stopping and handing over his snake to me after sunset when there were dozens of people watching, which confirmed my suspicions that he’s really just using me [and his snake] to get attention. i’ve dealt with this shit from lots of other people over the years, most notably the street preachers who used to stand across the street and loudly use me as an example of sin [because i’m whoring out my body, apparently]. now that i know that’s what this guy is doing, i’m done. i made sure he took one of my business cards, so i hope he’s reading this. here’s your fifteen minutes of fame. please take better care of your animals, and stay away from me.

as a bonus, here’s a photo of jasper, one of the ball pythons i rescued. he helped me sort through my videos from this waterfire.

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the great social media resurrection

sometimes life just gets in the way of the things one wants to do. my blog may have gone silent for a few years, but it has not been forgotten. i’m resurrecting all of my poor neglected social media pages, and i also added instagram to the list. make sure you’re following me wherever you are, links are in the “greetings & introductions” sticky post!

i’m going to ease my way back into blogging with a good ol’ fashioned waterfire recap. in the coming months, you can expect to see other types of posts, including a revival of my living statuary tips, focused rants, philosophical type musings related to my performance experiences, behind-the-art blurbs beyond performance recaps, and maybe some more “the person behind the statue” type stuff.

5.27.17 waterfire. the changing, the heartwarming, the annoying, and the infuriating. check out my youtube channel for three videos from this evening.

every year, waterfire seems to sneak up on me. the season inevitably begins when i’m also busy with the horses, and still broke from the winter’s financial lull. this year i was more prepared than usual. i had relatively fresh cakes of paradise and starblend. i had two fresh pairs of gloves [the costume component that inevitably gets destroyed within a season or two]. i had my new head scarves [more on that in a bit]. i had new business cards and card containers for my tip jar. what i failed to check was the string of lights on my tip jar. they were dead. oops. i slapped on my backup set, which are that harsh blue-white instead of the pleasant warm-white. not ideal, but at least i had lights. those things have done so much to prevent people from crashing into my tip jar, as well as helping people figure out where their tips should be placed [because the giant vase with a dollar bill taped to the front isn’t obvious enough].

a few months ago, i decided i wanted to move away from my white wigs and try head scarves instead. while i have enjoyed my wigs over the years, i find myself less and less willing to deal with the pitfalls. my real hair has grown quite a bit longer, and getting it all flat under a wig is time-consuming and exhausting. wigs are hot and itchy in the summer heat. makeup inevitably gets all over the fibers covering the back of my neck, and it slowly turns the wig into a ratty matted mess. while i love the look of the bangs, they’re often either poking me in the eye or blocking huge portions of my peripheral vision. it’s also less statuesque to have individual hairs flying around in the breeze. so, i bought some comfortable head scarves, matching the aesthetic of the rest of my costume [a while back i switched from pants to maxi skirts, which flows better with the draping of the top]. i was nervous about making such a big change in lily’s appearance. i was nervous about how i would look without all that hair framing my face. i didn’t feel fully confident in my decision until i returned home and looked through some of the photos and videos justin had taken. i LOVE the new look. i finally feel like lily is finished, like this is how she was supposed to look all along. the comments have gone from “she looks like an anime character” to “she looks like venus de milo” and i’m okay with that.

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my next challenge was the weather. the forecast looked cold, as has been the theme all spring. even with my thick fleece layer, which makes me feel like a marshmallow, i wasn’t sure how long i’d be able to perform. i went in thinking i’d maybe be able to push through three hours before quitting. what i forgot about the fifty to sixty degree weather is that the fires actually help warm things up, even as far away from the canal as i am. i was struggling in the hour before sunset, but i ended up feeling much more cozy and staying out until about 11:00. not bad!

overall, the crowd was fabulous. i only had to shove two people off my ledge. of the few people who tried to grab my hands, none were successful. i held a baby for a photo [and the baby didn’t cry!], i received many hugs from some very sweet children, and i received flowers from four kind souls of varying ages. flowers are among my favorite non-monetary tips when i busk. i even appreciated one little girl’s repeated trips to stuff leaves into my business card holder.

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my favorite, though, was the man who gave me my first two tips of the evening, and came back later for another round. he was very nice, both to me and to my crowd. he was also very loud, because he was very intoxicated. he slurred and stumbled his way through explanations to his fellow spectators “give her a dollar and she moves!” repeating himself several times, to make sure everyone understood the instructions, and following up with a demonstration. i couldn’t help but silently chuckle. thank you, dude, for being a kind drunk.

there’s one big personal rant for this waterfire. i have somewhat mixed, though mostly negative, feelings about one interaction. well after sunset, this guy comes up with a large snake. i love snakes. i have five of my own, with many more in my future. this is one of my pet-related hobbies that i’m pretty passionate about; i spend a lot of time helping other snake owners when they’re having husbandry problems, i write care sheets, and i’ve been chipping away at a project building a reptile pet information website with some friends. so when this guy brings his 9′ burmese python up to me, i have two simultaneous gut reactions: YAY! and WHY!? it was very cold that night, in the mid-50s, which is bad news for a tropical snake. the guy let me hold the snake, and once she was wrapped around me i realized she was in the middle of the shedding process, which meant she couldn’t see very well and being handled was uncomfortable for her, and her skin was very flaky because she was dehydrated. after returning her to her owner, he hung out right in front of me. showing off the snake, encouraging people to hold her for photos, and generally taking over my audience and blocking the path to my tip jar. i waved justin over to have him 1] ask the guy if he had a business card or anything, because i wanted to talk to him later, and 2] to move along. he didn’t give any contact information, so this rant here will have to do. so, snake dude, if you’re reading this… you are the kind of person from whom i have rescued snakes. you need to stop treating your snakes like accessories and start taking better care of them. you may think you’re doing the hobby a favor by trying to show people how not scary snakes are. but you’e doing everyone – especially your snakes – a huge disservice by risking their health, causing them immense amounts of stress, and spreading misinformation. there’s a time and place for show and tell, and a chilly waterfire night in the middle of the snake’s shedding process is certainly not the time or place.


the show must go on

my poor little blog, i apologize for neglecting you. the summer was such a whirlwind of riding and gigs and busking that i fell behind on my writing, and now i just stare blankly at the little blurbs i managed to jot down before details of individual busking adventures began to fade. i’ll have to attempt filling in the blanks soon, before the halloween rush begins. but, for now, i need to skip all of that and talk about the labor day weekend waterfire.

i left my apartment feeling wonderful. i wore my new wig, which is now absolutely fabulous and functional thanks to tom st. germain at suite tart. my makeup was flawless. the weather was perfect.

the drive to providence was a battle, as it so often is, when the sun proved to be too bright for my night owl eyes. being stark white from head to toe tends to make the glare of sunshine unbearable. my left eye began to water. but that’s happened dozens of times before. normally by the time i get to providence it settles down and with a quick makeup fix i’m good to go. this time, i had no such luck. i give up on my parking lot makeup fix and head to my pitch, hoping that the shade of the tree behind me will be enough to calm down my tear ducts. but no. still watering. i spend forty minutes trying to keep makeup out of my eye, waiting and waiting and waiting for it to stop gushing. eventually i decide i have to give up on it. busk or go home. i have to busk.

finally, at 5:40, i took to my pitch and tried so hard to forget about my eye and the fact that the makeup around it was washing away. i stepped down twice within the first hour to do quick fixes. it still wouldn’t let up. after that, though, it was too consistently busy to justify stepping down to deal with the makeup issues that nobody seemed to be noticing anyway, so i accepted my fate of imperfection and soldiered on.

shortly after 7:00, a teenage boy snuck up behind me, grabbed my shoulders, and shook me as he shouted in my ear. by the time i turned to face him, he was already out of reach. i watched him as he walked briskly around the garden and returned to the sidewalk, heading toward steeple street. i hesitated. none of my beloved bodyguards were there to chase him down for me. i grabbed my tip jar and gear box and went after him. but, of course, he is now on his skateboard, and there’s no way i’m ever going to catch up with him. feeling defeated, i return to my pitch. i notice a cop walking toward me. exasperated, i say “please tell me you saw that.” he did, as did at least one other cop. he goes after the kid, and moments later i have a slew of people coming over to express their sympathies and inform me that the kid has been arrested. soon enough, the cop returns, and points out that his handcuffs are currently on the wrists of my harasser. we step over to one of the vendor tents where there’s a table so i can fill out a report. at one point he said he and the other officer who witnessed the incident thought maybe it was a friend of mine just trying to be funny, which they realized was not the case when he ran off and i attempted to follow. i told him that no friend of a living statue would do something like that. planting seeds for the future.

upon returning to my pitch, i called wyatt and told him what happened, said i was having a shit night all around, and i might ditch waterfire and go home early. but after taking some time to calm down, tending to my makeup-destroying eye, and chatting with some of the folks who stopped to express their sympathies, i realized i needed to stick it out. i returned to my performance and was immediately showered with love from pretty much the best audience i’ve ever had in nearly eight years of busking.

well, it wasn’t entirely rainbows and happiness after that shithead got arrested. there were two other noteworthy assholes. i first encountered the guy when he walked by and decided it’d be funny to lean in and yell BOO as he passed me. already being so rattled by the earlier incident, i jumped down, grabbed his arm, and told him to not do that shit again. i thought i got my point across, but no. he returned much later in the evening, this time with his girlfriend who greeted me with a full force ass slap. i hit the back of her head, and for a split second thought she was drunk and unbalanced enough for that hit to send her face into the concrete ledge. i was not so lucky. she starts going on and on about how much she loves me and how awesome i am and she keeps reaching out to put her hands on me and all i want to do is kick her in the teeth. i try to carry on, but i’m watching the pair out of the corner of my eye because i absolutely don’t trust them at all. sure enough, she was determined to let me know exactly how intoxicatedly grabby she was, and she keeps trying to put her hands on me. i lost my cool. i grabbed her fingers, firmly bending them backward [which she didn’t even notice], and i bent down to inform her that if she didn’t knock this shit off i’d have her arrested. a nearby cop saw that i was distressed, and he came over to talk to her. i don’t know what came of it, as i only heard “excuse me, miss” before the three of them wandered out of earshot. i hate that i got so flustered. i hate that they made me break.

not too long after, a woman loudly stated that i deserve respect as she dropped a tip in my jar. thank you. i do deserve respect. i just wish people were as likely to actually confront the people who disrespect me as they are to say something about it. i wonder how far a person would need to cross the line before a stranger would step in to defend me.

it’s not all bad, though. four people gave me carnations. i received hugs from as many children, and one from a teenage girl who asked if she could have a hug and as i extended my arms i heard her friend say something about all she had to do was ask. i guess she’d been fussing about how to approach me for a while. there were a few dog encounters, but more importantly, there was the girl with the african grey parrot. i love birds, and i particularly admire the personality and intelligence of african greys. i knelt down and put my hand out to pet her, and before i knew it, the girl gave the command – “up!” oh my jesus i get to hold a parrot while i’m performing this is awesome. she was a little unsteady on my hand, what with my two pairs of gloves made with slick materials, and the girl said she’d probably be more comfortable on my shoulder. i brought my hand up, and sure enough, my little feathered friend stepped onto my shoulder. i was in heaven. i wish i had a picture.

i was also visited by corvus, who had been absent from waterfire for the last couple of seasons. he dresses all in black a venetian style bird mask. he wanders from garden to garden, reciting poetry and giving feathers to curious strangers. mostly he just creeps people out. i think he is absolutely delightful. he’s been visiting me for almost as long as i’ve been busking at waterfire. i know he’s approaching when i start hearing “LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU” from my concerned crowd. fear not, for the masked man is a friend. he’ll hop down from the garden behind me and come ’round to greet me, and a mix of relief and confusion inevitably washes over my crowd as corvus and i bow to eachother. he would usually drop a colored feather in my tip jar before vanishing into the darkness of the garden across the street. i still have most of those feathers – the ones that didn’t get destroyed before i pulled them out of the jar at the end of the night – and i keep them on display in my living room. i was thrilled to see my old friend again, and such a reunion could not have come at a more perfect time. i needed that.


murphy’s law – the waterfire edition

the last waterfire was definitely my most stressful ever. it started with the weather. more threats of thunderstorms, to which i said, “FUCK YOU NATURE, I’M BUSKING TONIGHT.”

i arrived in providence just after 5:00, aiming to begin at 5:30. that didn’t happen. despite taking my usual precautionary claritin, my eyes caught enough glare from the sun and enough wind to start watering as i was doing my final preparations in the parking lot. i gave up on trying to fix my makeup and figured if i left my eye alone it’d be fine by the time i arrived at my pitch. but the wind was picking up, my eye was gushing, makeup streaming down my face refusing to be fixed. ducked behind the building across the street to try finding some relief from the wind, waiting it out. tents and trash bins were beginning to get tossed around. mike, one of the waterfire staff folks, is bouncing between chatting with us and chasing down the stuff being tossed around in the wind. shit was looking pretty grim.

it wasn’t until 7:00 or so that i returned to my pitch. my eye was still watering some, but it had settled down enough, and it was late enough, that i didn’t care much anymore about whether or not my makeup was pristine. i just needed to get out there and perform. i was hoping it would be one of those awesome waterfire nights filled with cool people. alas, ’twas not one of those nights. by the time i settled into statue mode, i was in a pretty foul mood. i had a decent start, but the downward spiral of jackassery was in full swing in by the time the fires were being lit.

the most noteworthy douchebag of the evening, i’m sad to say, was a little boy who couldn’t have been more than four years old. i went three rounds with this kid over the course of my four hour performance. round one, he ran up to grab at my legs. instinctively, i shot down to grab both of his arms and held on tight. he’s laughing and cackling, “HA! YOU’RE NOT A STATUE! YOU’RE A GIRL!” i let go, hoping that momentum would take over and the force of him trying to pull away from me would send him flying backwards to fall on his ass as soon as i released him. unfortunately, someone was standing behind him, blocking his path to blood spatter. he did not hit the pavement. he continued taunting me for a while. i chose to ignore him and return my focus to the rest of the crowd. he disappeared, but not for long. he was back about an hour later, shrieking a steady stream of “I’M ON TO YOU” exclamations sprinkled with laughter, lunging toward me threatening to grab me again. his fat fuck of a father had plopped his ass down on the wall just off to my right. i glared at him, pointed at the boy, and gestured to get him the fuck out of my face. no response. i turned toward him more, folded my arms, and stared into his eyes with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. he got the message eventually and pulled the boy away. he returned soon after, with his fat fuck of a father nowhere to be seen. i was reaching my breaking point. never in my life have i so badly wanted to kick a child full force square in the face. if he’d been fourteen, or forty, this all would have ended after the first grab. i would have been able to properly defend myself and ensure no return visits. but how am i supposed to defend myself against a child? i can’t use physical force. that sort of thing is frowned upon. what would i tell a cop? “this tiny creature is harrassing me and i’d like you to arrest him.” yea, right. all i can realistically do is pray that this boy dies in a fire before he has the opportunity to become a true menace to society.

on top of the trials and tribulations of dealing with the epitomy of brattiness, i had costuming issues, which is something i shouldn’t still be dealing with after eight years of busking. i wore the wig i’d just bought, which turned out to be a mistake. it’s too long, too straight and thick, the fibers too soft and prone to tangling in the slightest breeze. i’ve ordered another wig, much more like the old one, feathered and messy in style, but longer over the back of the neck where caked makeup tends to tangle the fibers and makes the shorter styles stick out in a funky unpretty flip. but the one i wore that night, ugh. in addition to being a hot mess from all the wind, it gave me a blinders effect – my peripheral vision was so limited. i’m grateful that no one snuck up on my side. lessons learned.

overall, though, i have to say that my performance time was decent enough. i had lots of hand-holding moments with sweet doe-eyed children. i startled some folks coming up to pose for photos with me. i’ll never tire of the jumps and shrieks. i got to hold a toy pomeranian who was fully grown and approximately the same size as my chinchilla. the cute was overwhelming. andrew anselmo came to visit me late in the evening with a dollar bill origami pinwheel and a sign he held up to my crowd that said “best statue ever”. aw, shucks. wyatt and his daughter came with me, and there were unexpected visits from my brother and some friends. thank baby jesus for the friendly faces in my crowd. i might not have survived the evening without them.

we won’t talk about the world’s most obnoxious drunks who absolutely would not leave me alone post-performance while wyatt’s daughter and i were chatting, waiting for him to bring us some indian food. i think i’ve ranted enough for one post.


a slave to meteorologists

lily did not go to waterfire tonight.

i was up early this morning. the first thing i did, still bleary-eyed, was check the weather forecast. small chance of showers in the evening. okay, i’ll keep an eye on it and if it doesn’t get any worse then i’ll go and pray that i don’t get rained on. getting rained on is a serious problem with paradise makeup. the second it gets wet, it’s done.

i check the forecast obsessively. being a street performer and an equestrienne who rides in an open field, obsessively checking the forecast is something i’m very used to doing. weather.com starts frustrating me, chances of showers moving up in percentages, then the next update says it’ll be nice and sunny, then they throw some thunderstorms right in the middle of my usual 5:00-10:00 timeframe. okay, clearly they don’t know what they’re talking about, they can’t make up their minds. i pry myself away from the computer and do some bellydance drills, hoping a little exercise will take my mind off the weather. it doesn’t work. soon enough i am glued to my desk, again, and i begin check noaa.gov obsessively. but they start giving me an increasing chance of showers, too.

living an hour away from providence and needing about an hour to get into makeup/costume means i have to start getting ready at 3:00 if i’m going to start performing around 5:00. it is now 2:00. i have to make a decision soon. continue the frenzy of refreshing the pages and hoping, hoping, hoping for better weather. 3:00, and the forecast says 55% chance of scattered thundershowers at 7:00, 65% chance of thunderstorms at 8:00. 7:00-9:00 is prime busking time for me. i make my decision. i won’t go to waterfire.

at first, it all seemed to work out okay. almost immediately upon opting out of waterfire thunderstorms, i received a text, two longtime friends who i rarely see are in the area and want to hang out. awesome! but as the evening goes on, i discover that the rain passed through providence and finished by the time my friends arrived at my apartment, and the forecast was suddenly beautiful again. the night was clear. waterfire was busy.

and now i’m pissed off. i wanted to busk. this time of year, i’m so excited to perform. i also needed the income. money’s going to be very tight for the next week because i chose to take the meteorologists seriously and stay home. fucking fuck motherfucker. it’s a stressful thing sometimes, being a busker, not living conveniently close to my busking territory, being so dependent on a science that’s really just a crapshoot.


how time flies

busy busy busy. wyatt and i moved to a new apartment at the end of march, and my to-do list has been about ten miles long ever since. i didn’t even order a desperately needed batch of business cards until this week, in addition to new gloves [i can only attack a pair of gloves with a bleach pen so many times before i have to give up] and a new wig [lily’s getting a slightly longer and much whiter hairdo]. doesn’t help that i’m working a LOT more than i usually do at the barn, taking up more of my productive hours and leaving me drained at the end of the day. [did i ever mention that i work with horses? training polo ponies is exhausting.] i can’t believe the first waterfire of the season was two weeks ago and i’m just getting around to blogging. the only reason i’m even getting this written today because thunderstorms have brought me an unexpected day off. i’ll ignore the fact that i went out busking in plymouth weeks ago and never even mentioned it. i don’t have time to get into that.

memorial day weekend waterfire. i was nervous about the forecast, thundershowers creeping in and out. normally, if there’s any chance of getting rained on, i’ll stay home. but i was determined to get out and busk. my new bathroom was a little problematic for makeup application. the light above the mirror doesn’t work. thankfully, wyatt and i have accumulated a few clamp lamps over the years for the pets we’ve had and i was able to rig something up. i’ve also figured out a totally foolproof method of getting 100% solid non-streaky opaque coverage with paradise and starblend. it’s about time, i suppose, considering how long i’ve been playing with this makeup. so, i paint myself white and get into full costume. check the forecast, looks okay. drive to providence, sky looks a little grey, but it’s dry. park, walk to pitch… get to the risd auditorium and it starts raining. lightly, but any rain is bad news when your face is covered in paradise makeup and you don’t have an umbrella. i took shelter under the gazebo and waited it out. thankfully, the showers passed quickly, and the rest of the evening was clear.

i didn’t intend to do a five hour shift. it just sort of happened. time flies when you’re standing still. i was surprisingly steady for the beginning of busking season. part of it is that i’m in better shape than usual, part of it is that i’ve stopped doing difficult poses when traffic is slow. the crowd was good, mostly. i got my dog fix. i was visited by bill, john with his son and granddaughter, andrew with his usual $2 bill tip for me, and the lovely waterfire crew guy i talked to before i began whose name i don’t remember. i’m pretty good with faces, terrible with names. i was most amused by bill and his companion, encouraging kids to put a dollar in my tip jar to see what happens. thank you, sir. i think you are personally responsible for at least 5% of my tips.

there were pests, as always. first was the middle aged leathery woman who went to grab my hand. i grabbed hers instead, which she found amusing. i flipped her off. the woman with her – sister? – pointed out that i flipped her off because she wasn’t supposed to grab me and she was ignorant for doing so. thanks for standing up for me, lady, but too little too late with the lecture. then there was the guy who, uh, shoved his bald sweaty head into my hand. i guess he wanted me to lean on him for a picture? i don’t even know. he was gross and rude and i shoved him away. there were a few folks who needed to be shoved off my ledge. no creepers, the ones who sit on the ledge next to me not noticing my line of white tape. but there were a few who tried jumping up next to me for photos. i’m pretty good at spotting them before they get a foot up, which allows me to simply put my hand on their shoulder and brace my arm to stop them. but sometimes they jump up before i even see them. i have no reservations about promptly pushing them back to the sidewalk. if i can’t easily lift you up myself, you have no business being up there with me.

the youngsters weren’t much better. the teenage boy who wanted to know my name, but knew he couldn’t ask me, so he just started shouting random girl names from the back of the crowd to see if i’d respond to any of them. my only response was to shush him. and the younger children, the 4-8 range. the little girl who kept poking at my leg, and thought it was hilarious when i stomped my foot at her, with her parents watching silently. the boy who was crowding me, poking me, saying stupid shit. i don’t even remember most of what he did. but i remember that it warranted stepping down to get in his face about it. i’m grateful that this method of communication is, for the most part, extremely effective. saves me from so much bullshit.

but then there were the children who quietly came up to for a photo op. i’d extend my hand and they’d cautiously reach out and let me gently stroke their little fingers. or i’d playfully poke their faces to make them smile for the camera. my favorites are the ones who forget all about mommy and daddy and the camera. i become the only thing worth any thought in the world at that moment. the crowd disappears as they stare up at me in awe. what is this sourcery, this statue that moves. they stare at me desperately trying to figure me out. this is what i live for.

eventually my knees started screaming at me and i stepped down to find john et al waiting for me. it’s so nice being able to step down and instantly be greeted by familiar friendly faces when i don’t have wyatt or any of my friends tagging along for the night. we hung out at my pitch to chat for a while, sporadically interrupted by the usual passing hellos and quick compliments and parents bringing their little ones over to see that i actually am a person and maybe i’m not so scary if i’m moving and can talk. one of these interruptions was a very handsome young man who told me that my art is enchanting, and that he’d love to take me out for coffee sometime.

i smiled and said i had to tell him something. then i hesitated. not because i considered saying yes, of course. wyatt is my world. i hesitated because my first instinct is to ask, why? why would you ask me out based solely on my performance? i could understand it more, maybe, if he had first sat down to talk to me for a minute or two. but this boy only saw the statue. he was asking lily out on a date, not me. he doesn’t even know what i look like under the wig and the thick layer of makeup. i’ve never understood why people do that. instead of dragging him into this inevitably awkward-for-him conversation, i opted to be kind, and simply told him that i have a boyfriend. he disappeared seconds later.

waterfire again this saturday. my new gloves arrived today, but my new wig won’t be here until next time. this is going to be the summer of updated costumes.


the importance of protecting personal space

people love to fuck with street performers. living statues are seen as particularly easy targets, because it is assumed that a living statue can’t move no matter what happens. as i’ve said countless times over the years, i firmly believe that protecting myself is significantly more important than holding a pose, and i am completely baffled by anyone who thinks otherwise.

i read a story, ages ago, about a female living statue and a drunk man. it was a pretty typical scene of jackassery. he’s making lewd comments, inching closer, gaining bravery with every second that passes. soon enough, he was all over her, grabbing her, flat out sexually assaulting her. she held her pose. eventually he wandered away, and her audience was impressed that she never reacted to anything he did to her. i read this story, and i wanted to track her down and slap her. why would you do that? why would you allow anyone, intoxicated or not, to treat you that way? i am not impressed.

if you give people an inch, they will eventually take a hundred miles. there’s a performance artist, marina abramovic, who is mentioned often when wyatt and i have conversations about my busking and the bullshit i have to deal with from my audience. here’s why:

To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her.

Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions.

Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) people began to act more aggressively. As Abramović described it later:

“What I learned was that… if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” … “I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.”

now, obviously, her performance was very different than mine. but i do think the basics of humanity are exactly the same. people will test you. that is a fact of performance art. and if you do nothing, they’ll keep going, they’ll want to know exactly how much they can get away with. that’s why i don’t let people get away with poking, grabbing, slapping, or crowding me. i know that if i let people get away with seemingly harmless actions [that certainly wouldn’t be considered harmless under normal day-to-day circumstances], inevitably i will find myself in a much more serious situation. it’s fucking absurd for anyone to expect me to tolerate invasions of my personal space just because i have chosen to perform on the street as a living statue.


busy statue bee

normally, winter is consumed by working at the barn, taking care of the horses, maybe having the occasional ten31 gig, and a whole lot of not wanting to do anything because it’s cold and dark and depressing. but this winter is the mildest ever [seriously, i’ll start busking again in march at this rate], not working at the barn much, more ten31 gigs than usual plus my new job as ten31’s social media manager plus training new topiary performers plus another round of auditions coming up [info below], hopefully moving to a better apartment soon… is it february already?

i have so many things i’m chipping away at for the blog, some “how to” things about performing, making stillness interesting, coming to life and appreciating your audience, general busker etiquette, etc. but i’m so busy, and my attention span for specific tasks is such a slave to momentum.

tonight i’m teaching some theatre kids at bridgewater state university how to be statues for their upcoming play, lysistrata. i’m feeling a little scatterbrained from trying to shift my sleep schedule to something a little less nocturnal, and my voice is kind of crackly due to this persistent hint of a cold i’ve been battling for a couple weeks now. but i’ve got notes to keep me focused, i will have tea and honey and cough drops to keep me vocal, and i’m excited to share the art of living statuary.

 

 

are you interested in a living statuary job?

http://wemakepretend.com/

Living Art Company seeking performers.

Must be in top physical condition. All types and levels of performance experience welcome.
Performers will receive compensation for performance jobs.

Auditions will be held:
Monday March 5, 2012: 6pm-10pm
Tuesday March 6, 2012: 6pm-10pm

TEN31 Studios
250 Esten Ave, Pawtucket RI 02860

Please email wemakepretend@hotmail.com with headshot, full body picture, and résumé.
If selected to audition you will be contacted to schedule a time slot.

Deadline to apply is February 24, 2012.