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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The side walk shuffle » » So winter eh?... what's that all about? (6 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

magicalmilton
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This is less of a magic question and more of a street performance question in general.

I know that there are lots of magicians and street performers who follow the summer all around the world because their show is "Optimised" for summery climates.

Does the opposite exist too? Are there any magicians here who have made a show specifically for the winter, or that works better in the wintery climates?

There is a notable decline in street performances (all kinds, not just magic) in the winter in the UK, which is understandable with regards to the difficulties in finding audiences (the assumption is that less people spend time outside in the winter) however, putting aside participatory regard for a moment (which is to also put aside those regards concerning monetary gain for a moment), are there any other reasons for this?

Is there anything inherent within winter that stops it being conducive for the creation/performance of high quality street magic?
noland
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My experience is that people in my area (Washington DC) won't stand around in the cold for very long to watch a street performer. I personally detest and cannot abide the cold. Call it a meeting of minds.
magicalmilton
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The point that you make is very valid, it is also in my experience the number one reason performers give for not working in the winter. However it does raise some alarming questions about where we place the value of street performance. If there is not a large enough audience (or an audience that is simply too poor) to make enough monetary gain for the work to be financially worth while, does that mean that the performance is not valuable?

Most street performers, in my experience, say that the work is still valuable regardless of the money it receives. Equally most street performers, in my experience, whilst preferring to perform for as many people as possible, still claim (a claim that I agree with) that a show for less people holds a similar or the same value as one for many.

What interests me here is the separation of value and monetary gain. It is quite right that the value of a performance is not judged by how much money it obtains for the performer. If it were, investment banking would be judged as one of the best performance practices ever conceived.

Equally audience size is separated from the value of a performance, else a full circle show would need to be considered more valuable than a side-walk show and, again in my experience, most performers would acknowledge that such a claim would be arbitrary as you are not comparing like for like. Indeed some excellent street performers perform one on one.

Finally, and most obviously, duration is a two edged sword. The length of a show can't at all be used to indicate its value. Many street shows that I have seen (as I am sure anyone reading this will have to) were too long simply by starting at all. Others are far far too short. Some are three minutes long and are superb memories that will stay with me forever, others are forty five minutes long and brilliant from beginning to end. Judging a show by duration is like judging a gift by the size of the box.

You can have a fantastic street show, that inspires audiences and revolutionises the space you are performing in... but that makes very little money, is very short and is seen on a one on one basis.

However.

If we say that the money is not the reason that we choose to go out and perform, or that being the centre of attention for a large group of people for a long period of time is not the reason we perform, and yet we actively choose not to perform because we do not consider it to be financially worth while or that it will not have a large enough audience for long enough, what we are effectively doing is saying one thing and hypocritically doing exactly the opposite.

Equally, if we claim that street performance has such high value and is so needed in society that we are willing to transgress the social norms that prohibit many from embracing it and allow the conditions of that decision to dictate, often in quite a radical way, our lifestyle (with regards to travel especially)... does that need suddenly dissipate because it gets a bit colder?

Is street performance so flimsy an art form that if you don't have x number of people in an audience or make x amount, or have the performance conditions be at least x degrees hot, that it loses so much value that its practitioners deem it not worth while to continue until x changes?

I am not specifically targeting anyone with these questions, they are points of consideration that we all (myself included) 'need to' (if you want to, I'm not telling you what to do lol) contend with as performers within this medium.

Any thoughts on any of these questions would be much appreciated Smile
NYCTwister
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Quote:
On Nov 28, 2014, noland wrote:
My experience is that people in my area (Washington DC) won't stand around in the cold for very long to watch a street performer. I personally detest and cannot abide the cold. Call it a meeting of minds.


What noland said.
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
noland
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Quote:
On Nov 28, 2014, magicalmilton wrote:
The point that you make is very valid, it is also in my experience the number one reason performers give for not working in the winter. However it does raise some alarming questions about where we place the value of street performance. If there is not a large enough audience (or an audience that is simply too poor) to make enough monetary gain for the work to be financially worth while, does that mean that the performance is not valuable?

Most street performers, in my experience, say that the work is still valuable regardless of the money it receives. Equally most street performers, in my experience, whilst preferring to perform for as many people as possible, still claim (a claim that I agree with) that a show for less people holds a similar or the same value as one for many.



My experience is that on cool days, let alone cold days, I can wait and wait and wait before anyone stops, if at all. If someone does eventually stop, they split in no time. Mine is a talking act, and I've never figured out how to perform absent the presence of an audience. In addition, I personally find my hands get too call to handle props, let alone perform sleight of hand, if it's cold. That's me.

If you can gather an audience and like to perform in the cold, you should go for it! The one advantage of the cold, is you won't have to compete with too many other buskers for a spot or an audience!
magicalmilton
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If you felt that you could gather an audience (of any size), would it be worth while for you to perform in the winter i.e would you feel it was valuable?

I think most street performers would agree (though it would be fair to challenge me on this) that winter has a different ambience to summer in terms of societies moral in general (i.e people tend to be more upbeat in the summer), might it be worth considering developing a winter act that responds to this change/difference in a way that is not inhibited by the inclusion of hard slights or hard prop work?

In my experience this is the second most prevalent reason given for not working in the winter, that the cold physically inhibits the performance.

Again this raises more questions, if we are the curators/creators of our own acts, can we creatively find ways to overcome these physical difficulties?

If we cannot overcome these, what is that saying about the limits of street performance?

as above I am not specifically targeting anyone with these questions, they are points of consideration that we all (myself included) 'need to' (if you want to, I'm not telling you what to do lol) contend with as performers within this medium.
gallagher
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Nice thread.
Good question.
Great answer Noland.

I think Milton was thrown off a bit, though; by saying "...I personally detest the cold."
(me three!!,)

I believe one of the keys, to a sucessfull Show,.. probably anywhere,.. not just on the Streets;
is that the Audience is comfortable.
Forget about the 'Artist' here, for a moment.
The Audience definatly comes first.
If they cannot find comfort,.. be it cold,.. heat,. rain,... wind(!)...
good luck.

Even as "curators of our own act",.
( god I love that phrase!)
...we're unfortunatly prisoners of our environment.
,I believe.

How can we make it comfi for our potential Audience,
in the cold?

I'm not sure either.
but,..
I'm sitting in a cold city right now, Hannover.
Today, 0* Celsius.
I've seen the weather forecast, for the next 16 days. (Wetter.online,.. pretty good.)
The forecast is predicting slipping temperatures,... Minus 3 on Monday,..
then slightly 'warmer',.... Plus 5 by Thursday.
Still chilly,
but my experience is,
when there's such a fluctuation,
and it 'warms up' five degrees,...
the people "feel" warm(!).
We're planning on playing Thursday.

,as far as the 'Artist' goes,
we play shorter Shows,...
are more concentrated.

I'll let you know...
hey,.....and welcome to the 'Sidewalk'!
gallagher
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Many moons ago I use to work, both paid & as a busker, the Weihnachtsmarkt/Christmas Markets in Germany.

Use to do a killing at times.

But the weather can be very fickle and if it's too cold, snowy or blustery it can be near impossible to perform. Some years are great.

As for what you do.....I had to totally revise my show. I would wear a very heavy (but classy) full length coat plus scarves & gloves. This eliminates a lot of technical stuff but there's a ton of stuff that you can do fully dressed. I would do the linking rings, Chinese sticks, and self-working stuff.

The markets would get incredible crowds in the Christmas spirit and thus so would I.

However this is not actually 'Street Performing' per se.
magicalmilton
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In terms of audience comfort (and please excuse this excursion away from street magic but still within street performance/theatre) two names spring to mind that have done some very interesting things for audiences seeing their winter shows.

Simon Chatterton, who is a programmer for a theatre in the UK, ran an outdoor season (not a busking season, the theatre paid the street performers) and when each audience member arrived they were given a small cushion so that they could sit down without getting too cold on the ground.

Carabosse are a street installation company, their most famous show being 'the Fire Garden', a huge set of burning installations. The work itself is so hot that it keeps the audience warm.

I am just throwing these in as examples of how some performers are keeping audience in mind and contending with the cold conditions for their audiences as part of their shows (kinda).

Equally, Outdoor Ice-Rinks (which are literally freezing cold) are very popular and common during winter (especially during the festive season). I know that we have now stepped out of the realm of street performance completely in some peoples eyes (although you could say an ice-rink is a form of immersive performance) however an Ice-Rink attracts an audience to be and stay outside in winter.

This is just to lightly offer or open the possibility that maybe an audience might be happy/be made happy to be at a street show in the winter and that the cold might be, instead of an excuse not to perform, an interesting element that can be creatively overcome?

unless, as I originally asked, there is anything inherent within winter that stops it being conducive for the creation/performance of high quality street magic?
NYCTwister
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Quote:
On Nov 29, 2014, gallagher wrote:

but my experience is,
when there's such a fluctuation,
and it 'warms up' five degrees,...
the people "feel" warm(!).
We're planning on playing Thursday.

gallagher


I've noticed that also.
For instance today in NYC it's mid 40's, cloudy amd windy, so it feels much colder i.e. uncomfortable. It just isn't worth it for me to go out and 'play'. (BTW, Love that word Gallagher. If you're doing it right it should feel like playing.)
Tomorrow it will be around 53, a small change, but it will be sunny and the wind won't be a factor, so I'll be out early.

In the summer everyone is out strolling leisurely. They're comfortable and unencumbered, so they're much more willing to stop.
Now it's exactly the opposite. They're hurrying from place to place wearing heavier clothing, so the odds of getting a group of people to stop drops dramatically.

If the real question of this thread is - can the cold be an adavntage, or a non-factor, then I say no.

It's always better when it's warmer.
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
magicalmilton
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So is street magic only really a summer activity?
Mortimer Graves
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I've performed in the same city year-round, for many years. I like to joke about working it in winter: at least the coins stick to my palms more easily.

It can be a horrible thing having to work it all day and night to make the money you'd be making on a warmer day, because yeah, a lot of people just won't stop to watch, but then again, there's always the occasional Canadian tourist... nothing phases them.

When it's cold enough to feel your breath freezing onto your face, and you see the group of people walking around in t-shirts and shorts, rest assured, those are your people. Ask if they're from Canada, and they'll hail you as a psychic!

And although a lot of people hate busking during the holiday season, some people can be extremely generous, especially when you're the only one out there in the cold. Sometimes sympathy plays bigger than skill.
'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See? Nothing hap-

...and if we rub each other the wrong way, let's try going in another direction. - Pokey the Porcupine
Dick Oslund
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Hello again,Mortimer!

I just wrote you a note in the New to Magic forum!

I'm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the "other" gulf coast!). It's almost too cold to do any busking in July, up here!!! --and, there are no towns up here that have the foot traffic.

I got a kick out of your last sentence above. (Sympathy and skill) The only busking I've ever done, was a very brief period on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. I did it just to see if I could "cut it". I could! Of course, when I was a teenager, I had worked in a sidehow, so I knew how to grab a tip, hold 'em and turn 'em.
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Mortimer Graves
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Aw man, busking is like the most blessed curse I ever put on myself, really.

When I started out, I didn't even realize that busking and ordinary magic shows were so fundamentally different. I made 7 dollars a day for almost a year.

When I met Jim Cellini my whole attitude changed, but it was still a long time before it really paid off in any way for me. That man could summon a crowd of hundreds out of thin air, it seemed, and I practically had to beg people to stop and watch me.

Even Sonny Holliday, as scary as he could seem sometimes, could pull down more on a humid Tuesday with nobody in town than I could on a Saturday during Mardi Gras.

It finally came down to survival; I had to learn or die. I'm still not as good at working an outdoor crowd as a lot of guys who are newer at it than I am, but when it comes down to it, I can at least get by.

Oh, and thanks for the welcome! It's nice to be noticed when you're new somewhere, so hey! I appreciate it!
'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See? Nothing hap-

...and if we rub each other the wrong way, let's try going in another direction. - Pokey the Porcupine
JoeJoe
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Quote:
On Nov 28, 2014, magicalmilton wrote:
Is there anything inherent within winter that stops it being conducive for the creation/performance of high quality street magic?


Snow.



-JoeJoe
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
Mortimer Graves
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Quote:
On Dec 7, 2014, JoeJoe wrote:

Snow.

-JoeJoe


I will add to this: when it's too cold to snow. When it's this cold, just pack it in and go ice fishing.
'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See? Nothing hap-

...and if we rub each other the wrong way, let's try going in another direction. - Pokey the Porcupine
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