Dana Smith Harlequin Street Theater from 1978
My approach to street theater has placed particular emphasis
on words. It is the power of the spoken word when combined with visual
elements, and situational moments that can be one of the most effective tools
when building a successful show. In the vernacular of the showman it is called
patter. For comics it is all set up and blow off, premise and punchline.
We paint pictures with our words. We create illusions that
our audience holds in their imagination.
“Everything was going fine until we lost our band in Pocatello, Idaho…”
I’ll sometimes say.
It talks of travel, of touring, of a whole cast, of mishap,
hazard, and the inevitable chaos of touring.
Some acts just want to be funny, at all times. It isn’t the
only way to do things. You can drive a show by playing it straight, you might
rely upon charm, it could be you even do something dramatic.
Al Shakespeare used to do a short piece with a whale being
harpooned by a whaler. The whale’s soliloquy was heartwrenching and audiences
weeped over the puppets death.
The veteran street act generally paints from a pallet of
many colors. The show experience is not so range bound. The experience becomes
more fully human. The audience feels a wider range of emotions.
The single most important part of the act is the finale. How
you get there, and what you might do to wind up the show is a matter of
artistic choice. Laughter is helpful, but a seasoned variety act begins to
trust the multiplicity of possible human variations of emotion.
Here is one of the closing salutations used in my show circa
Closing time, calling out
Last chance for a dance
To the tune of trumpeting
From table to table
The ending of a fable
Is a warm violin
The making of new friends.
Closing time calling out
And the wanderer walks
Peddling to the next town
Some circus tricks, magic
And an acrobatic clown
Who sees in his frolic
The savory embrace
Of your souvenir face