Christmas, New Years, Sugar Bowl. One of the busiest weeks of the year for New Orleans was by far my busiest and most profitable ever. I was out there every workable moment from an hour after my plane landed up until the end of the next weekend, seizing the opportunity and keeping the momentum rolling. It’s incredible what progress can be made performing ten shows a day for seven days straight. My show has been toned and tightened through rigorous repetition, and now that the rush is over I’m free to experiment again with a foundation stronger than ever.
Since last Sunday I’d been gathering massive crowds over and over, continually doing great shows and pulling in fat hats. After a few consecutive days of this, I could feel my expectations being raised — never a good thing in street theater. What used to be great pay for a show was now my average, and whenever I pulled below that I could feel a distant pang of disappointment. As soon as I became conscious of this pattern I would remind myself not to depend on expectations, but it still continued.
By the end of the week I’d grown accustomed to having flocks of spectators, so if I didn’t build a huge crowd right away I’d feel myself slipping back down that slope. My ego would pipe up “You people have no idea what you people are missing! You’re passing right by an incredible memory and you don’t even know it!”
I could also feel the money going to my head. I had my first $100+ hat (not counting $100 bill shows), and I broke my single-day earning record twice. Making $110 for fifteen minutes of “work” can make you feel just a little bit like a badass the first time it happens. Confidence is crucial to this career, but humility is the golden ticket, and a big part of why I’m writing this is to keep myself in check. I’m quite aware that business is not always going to be this good, and that’s why I pushed myself past exhaustion to make the most of it. I also consider it back-pay for all the times I’d spent several hours out on the pitch with very minimal pay. The things I learned in those slow times definitely helped my productivity this week. All told, for a week’s worth of hustle I made just under what I paid for my motorcycle. This experience has given me a newfound appreciation for what is possible as a professional street entertainer.
The streets have taught me more than I’ve ever learned in any other environment, including college. I’ve been surprised though, to notice where the most growth has occurred. Intuition would say my performance ability has grown the most, but in reality it is the content of my character. I don’t mean my stage character, I mean the deep down composition of who I am as a person.
Street performing has ripped me to shreds, chewed me up and spit the remains into the coals of a blazing fire. I’ve learned to be looked down upon, looked past, and looked up to. I’ve learned to endure hardships and forgive judgements. I’ve learned persistence and patience, learned to trust myself and others. Yes, I’ve become a better performer, but I believe I’ve done so because I’ve become a better person.
I threw in the towel half way through Sunday, recognizing that my mojo had been completely and utterly expended. It was a beautiful day and there was decent traffic, but after seven full days I could not manage the eighth. I did one show early in the day and then couldn’t get another one started. I made several attempts before acknowledging that my energy was not right and that I was only harming myself by continuing. It’s important to define the line between pushing your limits and acknowledging them, lest you become burnt out and bitter.
Success comes and goes, emphasis on the “going” part. Street theater will lift you up, but it will always knock you back down. You may rock a record high show, but sure enough, you will fail to get one started sometime after that. We all start by playing the fool, but if you keep at it, eventually you feel like royalty. Keep at it, and you’ll certainly find yourself feeling foolish again at one point or another.
I just finished my first TV interview for the local New Orleans station WGNO News with a Twist, check back for updates on that. Now for a few days rest before hitting it hard again next weekend.
Thank you all for reading, I appreciate you very much.