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?


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.

keep the fires burning

words cannot describe how significant waterfire is in my life. i earn a living there, but more importantly, i play there. waterfire gives me such an incredible opportunity to create, to experiment, to figure out who i am as an artist. considering how much awesomeness this event has brought into my life, and it is funded entirely by donations, the least i can do is help keep the fires burning, and encourage others to do the same.

if you’ve ever attended and enjoyed waterfire, if you think this sort of event is a valuable contribution to society, consider doing some of your christmas shopping at waterfire’s online store [they have some beautiful necklaces, nifty t-shirts, and other goodies] and/or making a direct donation. contributions are tax deductable, if that sort of thing matters to you.

talking to a statue.

Anyone ever drop their phone number in your tip jar?

i’ve pulled hundreds of phone numbers out of my tip jar. i’m baffled by it every time. exactly what do you want me to do with that? call you up and say “hi, i have no idea who you are, but i perform as a living statue and this number was left in my tip jar”? will i be what you imagined a living statue performer to be? would you even recognize me out of costume? probably not. if you really want to talk to me, wait a while…

I’ve never seen a living statue “set up” or stop their performance. Do you try to be sneaky about it or have I just not witnessed it yet?

i’m not sneaky about it at all. all one has to do to see me set up or break down is be there at the right time. i also do not make any effort to stay in character when i am not actually performing. if you see me setting up or getting down, that’s a good time to chat with me if you so desire.

Do people ever just sit near and spend a while chatting to you, knowing that you’ll be a good listener because you can’t move or reply?

occasionally, yes, i get people who just want to talk at the statue, like i’m the new postsecret. as long as the person maintains an appropriate distance while talking to me and doesn’t do anything to interfere with my performance, i’m perfectly happy to listen.

happy halloween, friends!

yesterday was the seventh anniversary of my first performance. seven years ago, i had no idea that living statuary would become such an integral part of my life. my art has evolved so much over the years. i’ve come a long way, and i’m very happy with where i am now.

photo by justinblau.com

the redditor – diy online magazine


my IAmA was featured in this month’s issue of the redditor. they used a photo i’m not in love with, and they kind of broke up the very thoughtful set of questions from my last blog post. but overall, i’m pleased.

the social life of a statue.

What do your friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/parents feel about this? Does it have an impact on your social life? Additionally, what type of social life did you have before/after getting in to this? Are you otherwise outgoing, or normally a shy person?

my boyfriend and friends have always been extremely interested in and supportive of my art. it works out really well for me, it means i almost always have volunteer bodyguards to hang out in the crowd and step in to deal with douchebags if i need them to. my parents, well, they would have preferred a college degree and a “real job”, but that’s just not who i am, and they’ve accepted that. their attitudes definitely changed for the better after they finally came to see me perform at waterfire. they saw that i have a talent for it, i can make money doing it, and it makes a lot of people happy. before that, they pretty much just saw me as a glorified beggar.

it does impact my social life on occasion. my best busking opportunities are on weekends, and my ten31 schedule is all over the place. it helps to have friends who have similarly weird schedules.

when i started performing at nineteen years old, i had a very small group of friends and was a bundle of social anxiety in groups of strangers. living statuary was unexpectedly helpful in easing my anxieties. my group of friends is still small and cozy, but i’m a thousand times more comfortable chatting with total strangers now than i was seven years ago. it’s hard to be shy when i have dozens of people approaching me, wanting to compliment/ask about what i’m doing. my art is a wonderful icebreaker.

remember to experience waterfire.

on september 24th, i attended waterfire. i did not busk. the weather forecast had been ominous all week, so i decided to go see my brother’s play that day and forget about waterfire. the weather, of course, turned out to be warm and dry and lovely. there was just no way i was going from worcester to middleboro, getting into makeup/costume and gather up all my gear, and arriving in providence at a reasonable time to start busking. instead, wyatt and i decided to go see waterfire with our friend justin. i need to remember to go to waterfire once in a while, not perform, just enjoy.

i parked in my usual spot, the corner of dyer street and peck street, where i have been parking free of charge for a few seasons thanks to the very sweet and very kind gentleman who owns the lot. wyatt and i met up with justin in ten31’s area. i talked to joe about my upcoming gigs, and asked how the night was going for them. he said the crowds were good, but sparse, and he was glad to have only three of the four originally scheduled performers. i felt a little better about not busking. returning to wyatt and justin, i saw my aunt and uncle. talked to them briefly before wandering down to visit andrew. happened to catch him on a break, got to chat with him, stuck around for a bit after he got back up. i’m always mesmerized by his origami talents.

we wandered further down. my pitch looked so lonely. we got some food, met some of justin’s relatives, talked by the river, watched the koi boats go by. i gave everyone suggestions on what to do, as it was their first time at waterfire. and of course i wasn’t performing. son of a bitch. oh well. there’s always next season.

the three of us left the families to do their own thing while we explored. i wanted to see everything. we walked along the river to the basin. i hate walking in crowds, but it’s significantly less stressful when i’m not carrying my tip jar and box. we walked through the peace tunnel. apparently inca son doesn’t perform down there anymore. disappointing. we searched for a tile in the peace tunnel that wyatt and i saw years ago that simply said “WTC”, which happen to be wyatt’s initials. we have not been able to find that damn tile since the first time we saw it.

back to the basin, walking the perimeter, we ran into ben, from roger williams zoo, who was there for a little sneak peak display of the jack-o-lantern spectacular. a delightful surprise, indeed. wyatt and i talked to ben while justin disappeared to take some photos. the topic was, mostly, wyatt’s presidential campaign. ben said wyatt had his vote, and he offered to make buttons for us. i love how enthusiastic people are about my beau’s performance art.

eventually we said goodbye to ben and continued toward the mall. i was curious if any other freelance performers were around. we went up to the mall, around the entire basin, to the ballroom. hung out at the ballroom for a while, watching the crowded dancefloor, not feeling particularly inspired to dance myself. salsa music just ain’t my thing. back to ten31’s area. never saw any sign of sarah paterson or any other statues. has the flood of living statuary finally subsided? or is this the calm before the next storm?

after walking all over the fucking place, the three of us sat on the wall along the river to watch the fires and relax. i remembered what waterfire is supposed to be all about. we sat there until no more wood was being added to the fires. the streetlamps in the park turned on. eventually, things were getting too noisy with the cleanup, and it was getting late, so we said goodnight and went home.

of all the non-busking waterfire nights i’ve had [there have not been very many], this was, by far, the most pleasant.