by: Stanley Allan Sherman © September 11, 2014
There is a little war going on in Time Square New York, NY among the public vs Corporate Costumed Harassers that get the public to pose for photos with them, then demand money vs real performers honing their craft and art. These Corporate Costumed Harassers are being called Street Performers. They are not Street Performers. You could call them Corporate Costumed Harassers or anything – but never Street Performers. Street Performers are in a class of their own and performing in the street is vital for the growth of artists in our entertainment industry.
Developing, gaining real performance experience, developing your act, artistry, learning and a way to make money as you are developing yourself for your breaks and dreams. Performing artist make their own breaks. Yes, I’ve performed a lot in the street, doing mime, clown and juggling in the 1970′s. My cities, started in Tel Aviv, then Paris while I was studying at Ecole Jacque Lecoq, performing in the streets so I could eat. In Paris, Philippe Petit was on the next block and we were both pretty bad to start out with, but we got a lot better quickly. We had to in order to make money passing the hat in exchange for our shows. Cannes during the summer of 1971. Then Portland, Oregon where I grew up and finally New York, NY. Was also doing inside theater shows in Portland and NY most of this time. But a lot of survival money came from my Street Performances. Plus the experience and knowledge gained one could not learn anywhere else. This knowledge became vital as my life as an artist developed.
New York City, auditioning, licensing, banning street performance would put many artists development in jeopardy. Night Clubs, Not for profit theaters, comedy clubs, fairs and other organized places to perform are not a replacement for the Street Performance. The Street has been where great artists of all types have gain a performance edge you cannot get in any school or organized theater. This is a small list of performance and visual artist coming from the street. Doing a little research into this there were some surprise names, one big surprise.
Pablo Picasso – discovered in the streets of Paris, France where he sold his paintings
Robin Williams – performed in front of the Museum of Modern Art on 5th Ave, NYC
Marc Weiner – a friend of Robin William also performed there and went on to do his own TV show for children, films and he is still working.
Paul & Micheal – Big Apple Circus, there spot was Washington Square Park, NYC. If it had not been for the freedom to perform in the NYC Park who knows if Big Apple Circus would be. They developed and refined their art and the connections with other street performers. Then they fulfilled their dream starting The Big Apple Circus. Their first show was made up of mostly Street Performers.
Bill Irwin – his city was San Francisco. When he appeared on the Jonny Carson Tonight Show. Jonny asked him, how he learned how to do this. Because you only learn this from experience and the Vaudeville houses are closed. It was the street. Bill has moved on to Broadway and Television.
Stanley Allan Sherman – my spots were #1, Wall Street & Nassau in front of the Federal Treasure Building. A natural theater. Who came to watch me, presidents of major Wall Street Corporations. One day after finishing my lunch time shows, one fellow in a suit started walking with me and asked me. “I have all the money I could possibly dream of, yet I am not happy. I see you performing, your passing a hat making a little money and I see your happy with joy. Can you tell me how to be happy?” Another person left a photo of me performing mounted in an envelope in my hat one day. It had a note. “This photo is on my desk and it is what helps me get through the day. Thank you.” #2 Washington Square Park, Battery Park for the Statue of Liberty Ferry Boat Lines. #3 Central park mall and sail boat pond. I went on to have very successful tours of my solo show and did 41 different show comedy bits with the team at Late Night with Conon O’Brien and Off Broadway for 3 ½ years.
B.B. King or Riley B. King as a child – played on the street of Mississippi.
Bernie Mac – for two years performed on the Streets of Chicago. In one article it said it made him fearless.
Pierce Brosnan performed in the street of London doing a show spitting fire.
Benjamin Franklin the founder of our Freedom of Speech for our country. As a youngster in Boston, Franklin would perform songs and read poems he wrote that commented on current events, which he’d then sell prints of to his fellow colonists.
Put this small selection of street performers next to the Corporate Costumed Harassers and you see there is a major difference. Street performers are growing and making a living performing. One usually does not go out of theater school and land a corporate entertainment job with a good union contract. Street performers work insanely hard, putting everything on the line, having fun, bringing joy to the public.
It says in Babylonian Talmude Ta’Anit: and I thank John Towsen for turning me on to this passage. “One day when the Prophet Elijah was standing in the marketplace, a friend came up to him and asked: “Is there anybody in this multitude who will have a share in the world to come?” Elijah looked about him and with a sigh answered, “no.” Then he looked about again and pointed to two men who had just entered the market place and were making their way though the crowds. “These two men will have a share in the world to come.” “What is their occupation and what have they done to deserve it?” Asked Elijah’s friend. “They are clowns,” replied Elijah, “and when they see people troubled in mind or heavy with sorrow they make them laugh, and when they meet people who quarrel, they make peace between them.”
Yes there were street performance during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is what they did, just as most of the street performers did in the 1970′s and today. Corporate Costumed Harassers do not fit the Prophet Elijah’s definition.
Note to NYC politicians. If the Corporate Costumed Harassers are a problem, these characters and everything they do are owned and under copyright by major entertainment corporations. Unlike original street performers who own all their original work and take responsibility for everything they do. Just write or call these entertainment corporations and tell them to please get control of their property walking around harassing and demanding money from people in Time Square.
Please feel free to use any part of this to speak, write etc… your local political leader, as NYC is now looking hard at passing some kind of law dealing with this issue.