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bigger and better things

this is the moment i’ve been looking forward to for weeks. some of you may have noticed some changes in my page names, from “a silent soap box” to “silent soapbox”. you may have also noticed some snazzy logos associated with these pages. now i get to tell you what’s going on.

i am SO COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED WITH EXCITEMENT to announce the beginning of my new living statuary and performance art company, Silent Soapbox. that’s right, my long-lived busking hobby is going pro. in addition to busking, you can now hire me to perform at public and private events, anywhere in the US and even internationally. and i’m bringing some friends along with me!

ashley and i have been working together since 2012. being an experienced actress, a stellar living statue, and generally business-savvy, she’s the perfect person for me to team up with in this new chapter of my life. ashley and i are performers, producers, and now co-owners. we will both be involved in every aspect of the company, but she will focus more on sales/marketing and general administrative stuff, while i focus more on costume creation, makeup technique, prop construction, etc. we have a few new characters in the works for the immediate future, as well as a long-term plan for what kinds of things we’d like to do with our collection of characters.

one of the first new characters we’re working on is male. we have two wonderful fellas working with us. patrick, ashley’s husband and a longtime coworker/friend of mine, is going to be our primary local guy. christian, another amazing actor and living statue performer we’ve worked with for a few years, will be a southern satellite of the company – located in georgia, he’ll be busking and available for hire in that area.

just as i’m teaming up with other performers to build this company, i’m also teaming up with them to expand our social media presence. i will continue with the same public blog i’ve maintained off and on over the years, filled with busking stories, observations and philosophical musings, little snippets of some behind-the-scenes stuff, etc. but now, if you want more, you can find it on our patreon. for small monthly contributions, you can get access to exclusive blog posts written by me, posts written by other company members, day-in-the-life vlogs, Q&A sessions on video, a lot more behind-the-scenes stuff, some samples of our swag… and, more importantly, the support from our patrons will allow us to do more work in the studio and expand our character collection.

getting to this point was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but this is exactly where i needed to be. i can’t even fully express the gratitude i feel for my friends, colleagues, and fans, who are all joining forces to make this happen.

seriously, y’all. thank you.

take a look at our shiny new website, where the public blog will live from now on: https://www.silentsoapbox.net

support us on patreon: https://www.patreon.com/silentsoapbox

follow us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/silentsoapbox

and instagram: https://www.instagram.com/silentsoapbox

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weather: 0, lily: 2

sorry this has taken so long, friends. as expected, the wedding took over my life for a bit, but it’s done! we did the thing! now i’m dealing with other life changes [actual changes, because getting married wasn’t really a change for me, it was just the event that brought chaos to my world]. i quit my job at ten31 productions, and now i’m teaming up with other performers to start doing bigger and better things with my art. we’ll talk more about that later.

for now, let’s talk about the last waterfire. once again, i was nervous about the forecast. rightfully so this time, since it was actually raining pretty heavily as we were driving to providence. when we drove into a wall of water i said to justin “nope, i’ve got makeup on my face, so i’m going, damnit!” and i successfully resisted every temptation to turn around and go home, fortunately, by the time we arrived in the city the rain had passed and it didn’t come back. the pavement was wet when i arrived at my pitch, so justin had some challenges getting my tape down [to mark out my personal space], but that was the extent of the weather woes. i still brought my teeny umbrella, just in case, and i’m happy to say i didn’t actually need it.

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overall, it was a pretty good night. there were a few wary children who i managed to win over with some gentle persistence. an unusually high number of boys/young men turn their head and point to their cheek as i leaned down to blow them a kiss. i was visited by a fan from plymouth [hi, kim!] and my littlest big fan of this season, as well as my busker friends andrew and carl. i was also visited by more police officers than the last five years combined, which i don’t mind at all, as i miss the days when they were regular fixtures in my crowd.

i talk about this a lot, but i feel like i can’t stress it enough. in the last few seasons, i’ve really started to embrace silliness in my performances. i love stealing peoples’ hats, sunglasses, glow necklaces, scarves, whatever i can grab, and wearing them for photos. i love “leaning” on people for photos, and if they stand too far away for me to do that, i grab them and pull them in closer. the reactions are always great, even if they’re not overly positive [i do scare the shit out of some people when i reach out to grab their shirt/arm]. but, usually, the response is overwhelmingly positive. these quirks make the statue more approachable. i really want my characters to appeal to a wide range of ages, cultures, socioeconomic statuses… and this is one of the ways i can do that. playfulness is a pretty universal language. and when the stoic living statue does something unexpectedly silly, like pulling someone in to pose for a close-up selfie, it catches people off guard in the best ways.

i did have a particularly disheartening experience with a mother and daughter. this little girl was so intrigued by the living statue. all she wanted to do was watch me, and maybe give me a dollar to make the statue come to life. her mother was very dismissive and redirected the girl’s attention to a tri-color newfoundland nearby [but the mother called it a bernese, which is a big dog pet peeve of mine, no puns intended]. the whole time i was thinking… why? why can’t you let her be interested in me for a minute? you’re clearly not in a hurry to go anywhere else, yet it seems you can’t get away from me fast enough. i see this frequently, and it’s depressing every time. i don’t care if you like me, but if your kids are interested, please just let them be interested. please don’t make me watch you quash their excitement, their curiosity, and their imagination.

i often encounter the opposite problem, which is just as painful to watch. kids who are totally creeped out by this whole living statue thing, shying away from me, then being dragged closer because the parents think forcing it is a good idea. when a parent is really persistent about that, i do what i can to be less scary; i kneel down, i wave, i blow extra kisses, maybe i reach out so they can touch my hand if they seem like they’re warming up to me. sometimes the interaction ends up being okay, but the kid still isn’t exactly thrilled about me. usually, though, the kid just gets more freaked and now they’re legitimately scared.

i’d much rather see this:

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that moment, right there. a kid is curious, his/her parents step back and allow him/her to come up and check me out. no pushing or forcing one way or another. just letting kids follow their guts and explore the world on their own terms. that’s my favorite.


busking in the rain

this blog post is coming to you from sean michaels salon in pembroke MA. i brought my laptop so i could write while my hair gets bleached and dyed. [my beloved blue returns!] trying to juggle wedding stuff and normal life. i’ll have more time to dedicate to art stuff after the wedding, there’s going to be a flood of big posts, so stay tuned!

first thing’s first: i took a better video of my makeup application! someday i’ll do a full person-to-statue transformation video. i also have plans for a cute little intro video. but for now, y’all just get me painting my face.

 

my battle with the weather forecast took a different turn than it usually does. i saw rain in the forecast, right in the middle of my waterfire time. this time, for the first time, i did not let it deter me. i packed my child-size white umbrella, went over our “in case of heavy rain” escape plan, and just hoped it wouldn’t be too bad.

my real struggle this season has been my start time. if i get there too early, i’m bored for the first hour, which is a terrible feeling. for this lighting, i arrived around 6:30, which turned out to be its own nightmare. as we approach my pitch, the whole corner wall is packed with people. this happens sometimes, even earlier in the day. usually, justin politely asks them to scoot down and we get a chorus of “oh, of course! no problem! this is so cool!” but such was not the case this time. justin asked if they could scoot down a bit so i could perform on the corner, and while some people in the group started saying “sure!” the woman who was directly on the corner gave us a nasty look and said no, they all needed to sit, they weren’t moving, i could go somewhere else. i try not to speak when i’m at waterfire, because i spent too many years getting trapped in too many conversations when i really just needed to set up/break down and get on with my day. but this bitch pissed me off. i got in her face and said, quietly but firmly, “i’ve been performing in this spot for ten years. could you please move.” and i guess the talking statue is more effective than the statue’s assistant, because she shut her fucking mouth and moved to a spot further down the wall.

unfortunately, the theme of rudeness continued throughout the evening. i had people touching me left and right. i had a guy jump up behind me while his parents were posing for a photo with me, and i would have at least elbowed him in the guy if i hadn’t been concerned about accidentally hitting his parents. if you’re following me on instagram, you’ve seen one of my multiple flip-offs of the evening, as well as the woman who touched my foot in an apparent attempt to “fix” my costume [???] and didn’t seem to understand why i almost stomped on her hand before reaching down to grab her wrist. then there was the young-ish boy who initiated a staring contest by hovering over my tip jar and not going the fuck away, and he still refused to fuck off even after he lost the staring contest. i was visibly exasperated by the time a guy put his hand on my tip jar as he walked around the corner, twisting it and almost knocking it off my gear box in the process. in a pose with my arms outstretched, i instinctively glared at the guy, rolled my eyes, and turned my hands in a “really!?” gesture, which at least some of my audience definitely noticed. it’s never all bad, but some nights are much worse than others in regards to how people behave towards me.

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and then the rain came. it was shortly after sunset when the first drops hit my arms and justin stepped in to say i’d need my umbrella, which was hooked on the back of my tip jar for easy access. i grabbed it just in time to protect my makeup. i powered through and continued performing through the next hour or so of intermittent showers. surprisingly, aside from my skirt getting weighed down by the water, and the mild annoyance of trying to pose gracefully with a tiny umbrella, everything went very well. i continued getting tips and photo ops and love and hugs. actually, the rain seemed to wash away the shittiness of people that i had been dealing with up until that point. i ended up having a perfectly average tip total at the end of the night. most importantly, i did it! i didn’t let mildly shitty weather stop me from busking. that’s a huge personal victory.

the best tip i pulled out of my jar at the end of the night, though, was an instant photo. there’s a lovely young woman who occasionally visits me with her instax camera, and she always leaves a photo of me in my tip jar. i’ve received a lot of little gifts over the years, notes and trinkets and photos, but these instant photos are the ones i carry with me everywhere. literally. they live in my wallet.

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lily goes to plymouth

i’m trying not to fall behind on my blogging, but the wedding is rapidly approaching and is consuming my non-work time. i now have two excursions to write about – plymouth and waterfire. for the sake of doing things in order, today is a little recap on my return to plymouth. next week, i’ll do a waterfire recap.

it’s been about six years since the last time i busked in plymouth. i got too busy, and it didn’t feel financially worthy of cramming into my schedule. now my life is shifting again, and i’m revisiting options like the plymouth waterfront, busking/working at festivals besides waterfire, and working at private events. [on that note: if you are interested in booking me for a public or private event, for tips or for a flat rate fee, email me at asilentsoapbox@gmail.com to work out details.]

i was feeling pretty meh about everything that sunday, but i was determined to get out and do something, especially since i found out there was a festival happening on the waterfront so i’d have better luck with foot traffic. we arrived in plymouth around 4:30, which turned out to be too late in the day for my spot on the corner of main street and north street to be worthwhile, so i moved to my old spot on the waterfront. i was annoyed to find one of the lobster statues [there are several scattered around plymouth] was right smack in the middle of my little circle.

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i came to accept my new crustacean friend, Sir-Loin, and appreciated his help in attracting passersby to my pitch. the thing about busking in plymouth on non-holidays is that it’s a total grind. the pace and the vibe is very different than waterfire, where everything is so easy and i’ve become so spoiled. even on a busy day, it can be hard to draw people in, especially since i can’t busk in the park directly along the water where most people are walking. i may need to adjust my performance style to draw more people in from a distance. i also remembered why i used to perform with a parasol – the sun can be brutal on a warm summer day, even when my pitch is mostly shaded. i ended up stepping down and going home after a couple hours because i was feeling nauseous from the heat.

on the bright side, i had some really enthusiastic admirers, and when i got home i discovered my hourly average is the same as it used to be. it was the little boost i needed to reinforce the idea that the waterfront [and downtown, if i get out there earlier] are still good opportunities for my free weekend days. i do need to get a new parasol/umbrella, and i should probably make myself a new base that’s easy to transport so i’m less limited to performing on existing surfaces.


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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last waterfire of the season is tomorrow! lookin’ at 5pm to 9pm in my usual spot at the end of the washington street bridge. come bid lily farewell before she goes into hibernation!


no waterfire for lily tomorrow. the weather is going to be wet and miserable. hopefully i’ll be able to find something warm enough to enable me to busk on october 8th to make up for being rained out of two lightings this season.

[9/24 11:30am update: FUCK YOU, MOTHER NATURE. STOP TOYING WITH ME. i’m still not going to try busking tonight, because i know that if i do, i’ll get hit by some stray pocket of rain.]


sometimes, i make jewelery. i’ve [finally] decided to start selling some on etsy, along with some vintage items from my wardrobe. all proceeds from etsy sales are going toward two amazing new costumes/characters that i’m very excited about.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/asilentsoapbox

also, waterfire this saturday! thankfully the weather looks good for this weekend. irene went and fucked up the last waterfire for me. i’m determined to busk at the two remaining lightings in september. show the statue some extra love. she’s going to be very cold.


the last night of zooartyssey is this friday. i hope you’ll be there. it’s truly an amazing event, and i would love for it to be an annual thing.

http://www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org/calendar/zooartyssey.cfm

Admission from 6:00-8:30 pm, event ends at 9:00 pm.

Adults: $15 ($10 for RWP Zoo members)
Seniors & Children: $10 ($5 for RWP Zoo members)