Classic Street Theater

The Classic Chicken on the Head

I studied Shakespeare. I was a ballet dancer. I started out working in theater. I was trained in the classics, at least to the extent that my brain would permit prior to my stomach starting to bellyache about it. Aristotle, Plato, and later Cervantes I discovered had discovered most of what I was discovering.

I learned that Sinatra learned his phrasing technique from Tommy Dorsey and no doubt Dorsey got his training in jazz while studying classical music. Modern art is the result of classical art. Classical art at one time was the contemporary art of the day. There is nothing new under the sun and we really have to constantly reinvent ourselves even if we want to remain stuck right where we are.

Street theater is nearly as old as the oldest profession in the world. In the 1960’s when street theater re-launched its product line, entertainment headed back out onto the sidewalks and public spaces where it could escape from the suffocating conventions of legitimate theater. We were free, and then we were not free. Besides passing the hat more than a few acts began studying commedia del arte in Blue Lake, California. Next, a group of silent clowns began imitating Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. It was all so predictable.

Try this One....

Then, someone dug up this old world word “busker” and that pretty much was it. It was no use by the middle 80’s we simply called ourselves New Vaudeville.

All my renegade friends gave up. They got health insurance, signed up for credit cards, got a mortgage, married, had kids and decided to be happy. It was like really? They still did shows, but now they were paying their bills and doing things like staying home and watching a movie with the wife and kids.

That's what it looks like when a busker gets into hot water

I decided to hike into the mountains along a trail and take a dip in a wild hot spring, just like the ancients back in the day, before this whole Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian thing got out of hand. Next thing I know after a long soak in the middle of the wilds ofBritish Columbiamy guide into the wilderness takes me down along a rock wall along the edge of an ancient lake where he directs me to look at a four thousand year old petroglyphic depiction of people enjoying a good soak in the hot spring!

People the world over are all looking for something new. They want a new relationship. They want a new car, new job, a new place to live, and some even want a new way of life. Then, they get it and just like that turns out in the end to be part of the same old thing. It’s like a broken record, like computers were supposed to make our life easier, and then the thing crashes and for four hours you’re standing around while a technician untangles the mess you’ve made of the time you were supposed to have saved that has now been lost. And this all happened because you thought that this time it would be different. It’s enough to drive a man to drink, but I’ve heard that won’t do you any good, you’ll just end up right back where you started.


“Nothing was going to stop me from sailing, not a storm, not money, nothing… not even Jackie.” Lenny shook his head and rolled his eyes as if to say: ‘what was I thinking?’ “I determined a long time ago I was going to go sailing, go cruising, the whole thing. Then, while I was preparing my boat, Jackie and I hooked up, had fun, it was great. Then next thing I know, we’re a couple. I’m not going sailing; we’re going sailing. No doubt, only way it could go.”

“And then she gives up. Can’t take it. Can’t do it…”

“I don’t know,” There was regret in Lenny’s voice, “five years, thousands of open ocean miles later, whatever I thought was going to happen never did.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

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