Tag Archives: performance art

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.


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.


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

http://theredditorissues.blogspot.com/2011/10/issue-4-october-2011-halloween-special.html

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.


a note to my new followers from reddit.

i created an account and posted my IAmA on a whim. after reading an interesting AMA a friend linked me to, i did a search for ‘living statue’, as i am prone to doing anytime i find myself on a new social website. the only result i found for IAmA was a living statue request. surely, it was fate.

i was not expecting such an immediate flood of questions and comments. i was surprised by the overwhelming positivity. i was delighted to have been asked questions i’ve never been asked before.

i want you all to know that i genuinely appreciate your interest and kindness. you are the reason i do what i do.