Street Theater as Social Justice Cupcake Fundraiser
Join us won’t you!!!!
The early days of street theater in San Francisco is part of a collection of photographs and essays I am putting together about the geographically more ambitious topic of busking across the entirety of North America.
The thirty minute performance was boilerplate. An act started at the top of the hour, shows were thirty on and thirty off, noon to night, seven days a week year in and year out. Social commentary remained coin of the comedy realm but the sharp political observations of the first wave acts faded and changed with the times and all but ended. Costumes had to be neat and clean and so did the street performer’s material. You work edgy out on the street but not on the wharfs best stages. A street act needed to draw a crowd, get a laugh and after the show send the audience away happier than when they had arrived. From the get-go the city center shopping districts designed to attract tourists arrived out of the box and joined at the hip merchandising T-shirts, postcards and this new age repackaged variety show entertainment. This structure prevailed for two decades plus until the audience slipped from the grasp of the street performers hold on their imagination. Like the audience the street performer had to move on.
Street hasn’t died so much as had to adapt and add more reliable venues. There remain an endless supply of people and places where this style of show remains viable. We are fortunate, we are mobile, we can go to where we can find our audiences.We are an emotional timeless siren song. The best of what street performing represents is something all of us feel being threatened when the lawless grip of authoritarian power presses in upon our democracy. We are not some cyber ops, black ops, disinformation gadget. We are a reflection of our communities passion for peace, environmental justice and social progress. That’s why I made this work a career.
City Center’s Beating Heart Edmonton, Alberta 2014
See a show, buy a book, come on back. I’ll be here…
My people are on foot. I see them much as I do when I slip into Shangri-La Vegan in Emeryville or Flora Vegan in LA’s Silverlake District. So what does that mean? Do they all look like buskers and busker girlfriend’s?
For sheer simplicity I am drawn to the messaging around One Step for Animals Organization. No complicated arguments here. The simple ask of the omnivorous is to stop eating all things feathered. Explanation and persuasion are so last century. Put down the drumstick, eat a carrot, save the world. You don’t need to know why.
Shows this weekend in Oakland at Children’s Fairyland where I’ll gather the youngest among us and their parents, relatives and neighbors along the banks of Lake Merritt. Triggering laughter born of kindness and sincerity from both an eight and eighty year old is a gratification of the highest comic order. I love when I ask a three year old where they are from and they say—–from my mommy’s tummy..!
Awaiting downstairs is an exercise machine, the famed treadmill. I’ve more than a few hours scheduled. I’ll read about the early training of the great ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. Athletes can attain higher levels of virtuosity with skilled coaching. Street theater has had only a few. More on this later.
In Hot Spring Honeymoon the pinion pine nut is selected as a pivotal plotting element. So I am all the more transfixed by praise sung for the mesquite tree by Tucson’s Desert Harvesters Organization. Trees rock! I think you’re beginning to see where the World Emergency Full Catastrophe Climate Change Comedy Show is being born from.
Friend’s— buy a book, book a show. Get stuck here, come back for another visit. I’ll try and keep it real. We need reality— a good laughter saturated dose of— sobering reality
Good Monday morning. Solstice and first day of spring just ahead. Always a good sign in the busking life. Warmer days mean bigger audiences.
Pictured with me are two of the great improvisational talents of street theater from an act dubbed The Shakespeare Brothers. We rode that first wave together. Anyone having witnessed a street show in Harvard Square circa the 70’s will have memories of some of the most high energy street performances to ever be seen then or now.
I am the one of the three who remains active as a variety act. How the long and winding road has allowed me to arrive all the way out to here remains both a mystery and proud accomplishment.
Like vaudeville my community is a living tradition of human beings who embody the show, the experience— we are the physical link to street theaters earliest days. Robert Shields, Harry Anderson, Michael Davis, A Whitney Brown… just four of our best of the best who went onto much great success.
Travel Day for the Left Coast Busker. More soon. Remember to buy a book, watch my video, and come on back. I’ll be here love to have you hanging around too…
Dashing out Friday for hikes in Joshua Tree. Up this morning for one more bite of the hiking apple. Good chunk of miles at elevation. Mile high on first hike.
29 Palms Oasis Trail is free and officially part of the park. Short and sweet. Could do this hike every day.
Let’s also take a moment, remove our hats and salute to the stalwart souls who make any visit to Yucca Valley rock. A metaphysical feast of desert fools resplendent in piercings, tattoos and Art Cars in this case a bus.
“The wanderlust in the heart of a street performer is curiosity writ by beat up truck and a one dollar tip.” Polished prose is under construction. And that of course is one of the tasks being attended to at this website. You’ll notice my farcical comedy Hot Spring Honeymoon is here and on offer. One reader wrote, ” I could pick up the book at anytime and feel like I was in a desert town or on the mountain…”
Hibiscus tea drinking has become all the rage in our household. Two quart jar filled with cold water, two teabags and one squeezed lemon before bedtime. Remove teabags in morning and sip your day away on the Godzilla of antioxidants. The African hibiscus flower will cure virtually everything other than stupid and stubborn for which there remains no cure.
Many offseason’s have been thermally ensconced upon the Sonoran Desert. I’m an admirer of the mesquite tree. The bean pods are are edible when ground into flour. I’ve ordered mine and will add to my eclectic breakfast cake batter. Just coming back to read about the results of this edible experiment has got to keep you awake nights tossing and turning wondering what in the name of busking does a mesquite flavored breakfast cake have to do with good health and happiness? Let’s find out together.
We’ll turn finally to reading more Norman Mailer while breaking a sweat on my treadmill. After one hour of that fun I’ll turn my attention to handstands and then finish off with a walk along the LA River.
Sea level rise versus see level rise. One has to do with climate change and the other has to do with looking over shoulders, fences or through periscopes. See level rise… come on people work with me…these are the jokes… or come back tomorrow for more and find out what else the Novel Juggler is up to.
You Win a Baby Blue White Leather Interior Cadillac
Rain is the sworn enemy of a street performer. Cold wind and ice come in second with unbearable high humidity and heatwaves next. The not too hot, not too cold is supportive of such things as solvency. It is the shoe that is always about to drop. We’ll discuss noise in another post.
I’m feeling slightly less dread after seeing that back east in Western Pennsylvania there turned out to be 113,813 people that see the world same as I see things and 113,186 people that don’t. No matter— I’ll fight just as hard for their Social Security and Medicare. Best of all we’re just slightly less off the rails this morning. That’s a good thing.
I’ve got a good pile of nonsense stacked up on my desk, some writing to do, a bit more Norman Mailer to digest, and an exercise bike and handstand training session dead ahead. That’s how we roll here in downtown Los Angeles Arts District.
For those living in Northern California you may turn your attention to Oakland, California for the weekend of March 24-25. I will perform beneath the oak trees at Children’s Fairyland. The first paragraph in this post could influence the outcome or even whether I appear at all. We’ll see.
Something on global warming…“If you haven’t personally experienced climate change then you haven’t pissed off my wife yet.”
Thanks again for pulling on in and spending half a minute of your valuable time with me. Come on back. I’ll be right here doing my part to make this a better world and a niftier website.
One of my missions is to give voice to what being in California feels like. What is this experience doing to its citizens? What’s happening? What’s this happening happen to feel like? One thing for sure you better plan on driving off hours when everyone else has gotten to work and be sure to be done driving before everyone starts driving home from work. The freedom to move about in California is neither absolute or during much of the day practical. Driving from LA to Phoenix off hours is infinitely easier than tangling with rush hours.
I am back up in San Francisco this weekend. I’ll spend Sunday with two of the great men of Boston’s street theater scene. Steve Aveson and Al Krulick were The Shakespeare Brothers. I was a cousin working not in but along side. Al is out here on the west coast and we’ll debrief the raging sage of Binghamton, New York. I’ll also get a chance to sound off about the World Emergency Full Catastrophe Climate Change Comedy Show. This talented duo will be a fountain of misguided comic gold to return to the invention laboratory where I will continue my explorations.
And here another piece in the preparation of sailing offshore in California this summer. One fully loaded Ford Navigator can be suspended by this line.. Dyneema is rope’s real world version of the comic book fantasy world’s Kryptonite. Technology marches on and in the world of sailing the proliferation of new materials is mindboggling.
Whether entertaining, sailing or writing a novel you had better come prepared to weather the challenge. Now away… more soon… come back as you can.