Everyone’s invited to this show. It’s the way it’s always been, for thousands of years. No theater needed.
“A police car could go by or a bird could fly over, and the way that you react as a performer and the way that the audience reacts is a universal now,” said festival director Brent McCoy. “It seems to seal the outside world. You get a sense of, ‘Wow, this is happening now, and it’s really special.’ ”
Foot juggling, acrobatics, comedy, bucket drumming, an escape act and more. All on the street and all free this Thursday through Saturday at Denver’s Union Station. It’s a dream come true for the visitors and the artists.
“What’s the alternative?” asked acrobat David Craig from Street Circus. “Academia? Maybe we’ll go back to that, but hopefully we never have to.”
He and his wife are a walking street circus, complete with hand-to-hand acrobatics, juggling, comedy and more. “We call it ‘Cirque du Soleil’ with less people and a much smaller budget,’” he said with a laugh.
For world-renowned bucket drummer Peter Rabbit, it all started on the streets of New York City. He was a guy with a drum set as his instrument and a brother as his teacher. But one day, his drums were taken away. “ ‘You gotta leave, you gotta get out of here,’ they told me. I just didn’t understand why we couldn’t do this in America. I was baffled, because what we did is so innocent and honest. I didn’t expect it.”
Rabbit didn’t give up. Instead of drums, he hit some buckets. After playing in his small high school auditorium for a talent show, he knew he wanted to play for life. “I didn’t care that I was bad at it at the beginning, I really didn’t.”
The profession is tough, said busker Tiana the Traveller. Creating something out of nothing — something that captivates an audience — is no easy feat.
“Performing on the street is incredibly honest. If people don’t like what you’re doing or they’re bored by it, they’ll just walk away.”
She starts by drawing in six people as her audience. You look like a crazy person, she said, so you need some initial support. Her show is an adventure with whip cracking and an escape act.
Her goal: Escape out of padlocks, a zip tie, chains, a ratchet strap and a tow truck strap.
Most important, she’s there to inspire youngsters. As her show comes to a close, she hands a little kid a coin from one of the many cities she’s visited. “Go and find your own adventure,” she whispers.
“At the end of the show, people are typically crying. Maybe it’s surprising that that’s my favorite reaction to my show.”
She’s baffled audiences from Australia to London and Mexico. Every day is a new adventure, and these streets, she says, are meant for connection.
“We live in a society now where we are losing many of the spaces where we build community and connect. We don’t interact in public as much as society used to.”
Drop a few bucks in their hat, of course. All buskers make their living off tips, but Craig says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Wouldn’t it be great if all people got paid on the basis of the work that they put into their project?”
“Thank you,” is what an audience member is really saying to the performer, McCoy said, but let the performer prove it to you first.
If you are having a tough go in life, you still can watch and laugh. If you’re rockin’ it, you can donate. It’s a show saying, “Forget your worries for a while and watch an artist do what they’re good at.” They’ll win your heart.
Sofia Krusmark, The Gazette