I performed my first street show of the season today at Seaport Village in San Diego.
I got off to a late start this year for a few reasons:
May was supposed to be my retooling month but I ended up putting in a million extra hours at my “real job“.
I have been dealing with some colds over the past couple of weeks so I haven’t been at my physical peak.
Acclimating to my new clubs threw me off more than I thought it would.
Despite these factors I decided to go out today no matter what. Sure it’s a Thursday afternoon and no one will probably be there. Sure I haven’t practiced much lately and my show might turn into a drop-fest. Sure I could be spending my time getting my car to pass smog. But no. Today was the day.
And it turned out surprisingly well! I did one show (did the old “quit while I was ahead” routine) and had a healthy crowd of about 75 people stick around for 45 minutes. They crowd was fairly responsive to the show, I had less flubs than I thought I would my first time out for the season, and a little kid named Esteban ended up stealing the show.
I’m very pleased with the first show of the season and look forward to tweaking it for the summer days ahead.
(By the way, the picture above isn’t my crowd. It’s just a shot of Seaport Village to show you where I was.)
I developed my juggling show in college. I worked on different skills, I practiced performing, and came up with a show that has worked pretty well for me over the last few years.
It’s a solid $200 show.
What does that mean?
Good question. Let’s put it this way; I feel comfortable that if someone hired me to do my show that I could fairly charge them up to $200. If I charge them less they’re getting a deal, but, given the production value, the skills I demonstrate in the show, and a few other factors, something wouldn’t feel right charging them any more.
But it’s a new year. And it’s time to increase the value of my show.
So, in 2009, my goal is to produce a $500 show. I imagine this will be a process that takes most of the year, beginning with an interesting thought exercise about what ads value to a juggling show.
Some of my initial thoughts:
Props: A $200 show can get away with dirty, old props that look like they’ve been juggled over rocks for 10 years. A $500 show would have clean, high quality props, that look like they’re kept in a hermetically sealed carrying case.
Skills: This is the difference between flashing 5 clubs and having a fully developed 5 club routine. It’s time to step it up a notch and put in some skills that could even impress other jugglers.
Production Value: A $500 show should have music, should have smooth logical transitions, should have staging of some sort, and in general look like a team of producers spent years crafting a solid piece of entertainment.
Shtick: My current show has some funny stuff in it. But it usually comes out off the top of my head. Although a $500 show would have plenty of breathing room for ad lib, it should also have a solid script that would be proven to reach all audiences.
Financial Investment: It takes money to makes money! What is a logical investment to produce a show that would be worth $500 a shot?
I know no one likes to talk about what they make, or what they charge for their juggling shows, but I appreciate you letting me open up like this. I’m excited about this challenge and welcome your input about what you think makes a show worth $500.
I was excited to go to the gym last night. After a day at work, all I wanted to do was throw up 5 clubs a few times and let the stress of the day fall to the floor. But my excitement was quickly crushed after I walked into the gym. Fifty young children covered the gym floor running back and forth with basketballs. A charming community center scene but crushing to a hopeful juggler.
Sure, I could have staked my claim in the corner and went along with my practice in spite, but I could already hear the comments from the parents and kids in the room–Where are the chainsaws? How long have you been practicing? How many is that? Can I try? Can you do 7? Do you do parties?–and I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.
Defeated, I left the gym.
But on my way to my car I made a discovery. A gated soccer field adjacent to the gym was emitting a soft glow. No one was on the field and yet a few of the lights illuminated small pockets of grass around the corners. Surprised that I had never noticed this field at night, I searched around until I found a way in and walked across the dark field to my very own piece of grass. Feeling slightly victorious, taking a deep breath of the cool fall air, I took out my clubs, threw them up and had a great, refreshing practice.
Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of putting a juggling routine together that would be set to music. This is something I’ve never done. I’ve stuck to the street juggler’s perspective that personality is your best tool to sell your juggling show and that people too often rely on music as a crutch to help them perform. But as I get a little older, and as my technical skills have progressed, and as I’ve noticed that every time I do a show I lose my voice for three days, I think it’s time to have at least one musical routine in my repertoire. It will be an interesting journey trying to pick music, to pick tricks, and to put an act together that will be entertaining, show off my skills, but not make it look like I take myself, or my juggling, too seriously.
Here’s one routine set to music. This kid picked a good song (you can’t beat U2), presents his skills in a nice progression that mixes well with the progression of the music, ads some dramatic movements, and, even with fairly “elementary” skills, seems to really connect with his audience.
My dad taught me and my brothers how to juggle when we were in elementary school. He could do a decent 3 ball cascade and thought it was a good learning experience for 3 growing boys. He probably never thought that a few years down the road I’d be a performing juggler. Now I’m trying to get him to learn three clubs so we can pass. It’s fun watching him learn and go through the same frustrations and triumphs that I went through when he taught me the basic stuff. Oh how the tables have turned!
Here’s one juggler teaching her Dad how to juggle. Maybe it will inspire you to teach your dad some new tricks. Happy Father’s Day!
Memorial day has come and gone making it officially street performing season. If you’re a juggler and you’ve never experienced the thrill of trying to make money on the street you are missing out on one of my favorite parts of the juggling subculture.
It always surprises me how many talented jugglers are unwilling to bring their juggling to the street. I’m a firm believer that anyone, at any skill level, with any performance style, can put together a successful street show and even make a little money on the side.
If your interested in street performing but don’t know where to start let me recommend Street Theatre a DVD put together by Peter Shatalow. I’ve always thought that the best way to build your own show is to watch as many other performers as possible. This DVD allows you to do just that with clips from 22 different street acts (including my favorite The Jim Show) interspersed with tips and advice from the performers.
I had my first street shows of the season last weekend and all of the drama, the nervousness, the thrills, and, ultimately, the satisfaction of performing on the street has all flooded back into my veins. I can’t wait for next week!
Get out there and give street performing a shot today!
There’s something about this trick! I’m getting pretty good with 5 clubs but I can’t seem to stick this three club standard! There must be some skill I’m lacking. Or maybe it’s an inner ear thing with all that spinning around. Somehow, despite my years of trying, I can only land this one every once in a while. I’d love to put it in the show. I’d love to be able to land it every time. BUT I CAN’T!! Yaaaaaaarrg!
If you’d like to see the trick I’m talking about click here (yes, even this little kid can do it!!!) or for a goofier example click here.
When I was a younger juggler I lost a potential reoccurring gig at a local San Diego hotel because I couldn’t afford liability insurance. I just wish that the IJA had offered this affordable liability insurance for jugglers back then.
What a great opportunity for any performing juggler.
I ran into my friend Daniel yesterday who I haven’t seen much since we went to the same church youth group in high school. He introduced me to his wife (they got married a few months ago) as “the guy who taught me how to juggle.”
It’s fun to realize that, after all these years, he thinks it’s cool that I taught him how to juggle; that I made a small impact on his life in that way.
I like being the “guy who taught me how to juggle.”
I love my wife. She’s awesome. She’s hilarious, she’s quite the gourmet chef, she can run marathons, and she’s super hot. I’m a pretty lucky guy.
There’s just one thing my wife refuses to do; learn how to juggle. She’s just not interested. Sure she’s seen my juggling show a million times and spent hours watching me practice new tricks but she just seems immune to the juggling bug. How do some people do that? So many of us jugglers learned to juggle because we saw someone do something amazing, thought in our head, “I could do that,” and then couldn’t rest until we mastered it.
Juggling is so addicting. But my wife won’t go near it. And somehow I admire her more for it.