Here is a log of my experiences of the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. It fundamentally changed my work as a circus performer.
Thursday, 8 August 2013 at 07:55
Day 1: First show was lovely by all appearances, but I was shaking on the inside! I was so nervous! It was as usual, wee little girls with pig tails loving it & laughing. Second show was much harder on the mile – I was in a sound bleed from 3 other acts that were bothersome, the act before me got off the pitch late, so my music schtick didn’t work & it was hard to “keep” my crowd. All an all a balanced day.
Thursday, 8 August 2013 at 18:48
Day 2: I had more control over my crowds, and more slots, but less hat. I find this place the exact opposite of Denmark (and Canada). It is loud, competitive, boisterous and difficult for this quiet act to give the audience the moment of peacefulness that Goldie often gives. My audience really enjoyed my show, but I couldn’t get them to tip…
I think tomorrow I am going to try my show without paint & with more talking. Let’s see how it goes.
Saturday, 10 August 2013 at 08:07
Day 3: First – Goldie is now in her box for the remainder of the festival. She hinders me because of her passivity. The jubilation this brings me is indescribable. The words that describe the day were : confused and inspiring. I missed my actual slots because I got my slots mixed up. I sat on the stairs on the waiting list because I was frustrated with myself, and then for the last 2 hours, I got a spot after spot on the mile. It wasn’t that busy – the crowds were tapering off, but it was great to get an actual chance to work the crowds and feel it out! I walked home writing a whole new show.
photo by Andrew Brown
Sunday, 11 August 2013 at 09:10
Day 4: Pre-show mind set was negative and difficult to get out of.The sheer talent here can be humbling. (in the means that I was telling myself I was shit.) I got over it. Even if it’s true, there is only one way to fix that – do it!
Tried the new show. “30 minutes of material” really translates to 15. I need to work on the hat routine (Never done one before). I was too shy to say my actual hat line and went with some fluff instead – again only better. I received some good feedback from a friend who happened to see it from the start. This is where the solo show will really work itself out.
Also did the “only contact juggling” show to music in the grass market in the evening. I was lucky that I was the only one there. I learned that if I control the environment, then I have an easier time connecting to people. This helped the previous issues of “I’m shit” turn into “This is a new and different environment that I am adapting to. My old show still works when it’s right”
Sunday, 11 August 2013 at 22:04
Day 5 : at the draw I had an early show, and in a scattered way I attempted to eat and put my make up on. After 5 minutes I checked…
where is my phone?
I had it a second ago, I checked the time. My sleepy distracted state placed it in my hoodies (easy to reach) pocket.
Did I drop it?
Did I get pick-pocketed?
Doesn’t matter – I need music.
Did the “stare at the ball for an hour show”
Good vibe, low hat.
But Ewen from In Isolation came up and gave me some pointers, as well, I brought him out for coffee. Nice to know him
Morale was killed so I cancelled my other slot and went home.
Start again tomorrow.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 at 09:21
Day 6: Burned out.
Got Winning Wendy ready for her debut on the High Street, playlists, ideas on how to play it.. etc.
Tried to get all the information to find my phone. IMEI OOOOO
(just called again- it’s at police headquarters! Hooray!)
had a 5 hour nap?!?
Saw the Lady Boys of Bangkok show – and yes, it was inspiring.
New goal – 1 show a day for the remainder of the fest.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 at 08:22
Day 7: My MP3 player failed to be what I wanted it to be, and it was discouraging. Went to the draw. Late slots at the draw meant I could do the trek to get my phone from the police station. The first police station gave me wrong directions (East Fettes is not the same street as Fettes lady!), and Dawn is lost on the streets of Edinburgh again. I received my phone after asking 3 different people where I was.(win)
4 hours later (for a 30 minute walk), I get back to the mile, and I had almost given up on performing. My phone is dead, energy wasted on being lost. Yet instead, Tom saved my butt with a “oh, a Samsung galaxy 2? I have a spare battery for that”. So I drag my bags from the storage bins and start preparing again. (someone says “you look like you’re carrying those to work!”).
So I do my slots, wearing just black, and my crowds were huge, appreciative, stay with me and watch for the whole show. I nearly made my financial goals in a short time and I finally remembered: contact juggling is nice on it’s own. Goldie was an answer to fushigi and it limited my ability to perform contact juggling properly. It’s been 3 years since it happened and I lost my ability to appreciate CJ. I am re-learning my old show. A child walks up “Can you balance that on your head?”
“Oh, right,” I say ” I can!” (the wig was in the way, and I forgot). Head balances, back in the show.
Winning Wendy is on hold while I appreciate this idea (and make some money).
I contact juggling. I can’t believe I forgot.
(I also love my phone, but less so).
Thursday, 15 August 2013 at 08:37
Day 8: Nice day, low hat. I am remembering bits from the old show, and adding in new things I hadn’t really tried in a show before. My 2 ball & multiball has increased dramatically since the old show was performed, and so that has the most impact. I am realizing that because I have music, I am actually performing a “dance” and that some repetitions are allowed ( and even appreciated). Specifically, Ewan gave me some tips that isolations are actually beautiful, and that since I have a decent isolation I should focus more on them than body rolls.
I need to work on the hat lines, they were a bit nervous yesterday and I think it showed.
I went to see CIRCA – Wunder Kammer with a former West Coast cast member Melissa Knowles. Last I saw her was in 2007 when she wanted to be a professional acrobat – and here I get to see this marvellous show of hers!
My friends are super inspiring.
Friday, 16 August 2013 at 09:04
Day 9: Okay, the nightmares I have been having for the past couple weeks have been getting to me, and I arrived at the draw in tatters. Good draw (3 slots), bad mood – worst I have had in 5 years. I started taking the low hats personally, and it fueled much self-destructive thinking.
Good thing, I know the cure. Do it again, only better !
The start to the first show I had tears in my eyes. Shaking and emotionally distraught, I tried to focus on the ball to get through the show. This isn’t a time to “try something new” “To look at the audience” This was a “get through the show” show, and I did it. “If I can do 5 slots today, I can make my financial goals”, I thought.
Dropped my ‘easy’ finale tricks. Often there has been full speed-skater rolls with the acrylics as the finale. I only did the half version, knowing I was shaking, and I still dropped.
The ball is okay, my ego hurts a bit.
I get through it. My mood improved drastically. waiting on the steps all day extra pitches, I get one, but it’s raining. I do it anyway. I proud I manged to stick around at all.
3rd, was my own time slot, and this is where my confidence comes back, but my speaker runs out of power. At least I have made more money than I did the day before and I still have more time, I thought. 4th and 5th show was a full hour block – reasonable and fun, I almost make my goals. It’s still a relief.
The walk home with Brian brought me some insights to my show. Focus on “Dawn” the playful person – who I (used to be) am. It’s hard to bring her out – I’d sacrificed her long ago for a boy – one that never accepted who I was, and I still struggle to get her back. Some days I actually come out of my shell, and it’s noticeable. I can’t wait to find her again. Of course I will feel terrible if I deny myself, myself!
Contact juggling doesn’t have to be mysterious and stoic – although it’s nice, it’s just not my style. I am fun, playful, silly – and contact juggling can be these things too. Just because I am the only one I know who plays it that way, doesn’t mean I am doing it wrong.
(Did I mention busking is a mental game with yourself?)
Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 08:33
Day 10: half way through.
Last to draw, last slots of the day.
It was all good, the new crowd build seemed to be working, happy and ready. Then sound fails. I do a small version of the show. Another busker helps me “it’s not your speaker, it’s your phone jack” – mp3 player is dead, no more using the phone.
Great, get a new build – this is getting easier to do. My happy, giggly old self came out! Nice! With Goldie, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t smile. I remember this old show – giggling used to win me points, and they do again. That totally is fun and it works! Then, the warrior statue with the dreaded beard and a kilt chases his new prey with a sword through my show screaming in terror…
Ok, ok, we got this…build a new crowd, they like it, drop, they all walk away. rawr.
New build, crowds are good, they build, they like me, then the guitar guy comes up and plays loudly drowning out most of the sound.
Then pockets phones dies too.
I know I made more money, relative to how much time vs. dealing with problems – so that’s good feedback.
out of 10 days, 2 Goldie came out to play, 1 was a day off, 4 had major technical issues with sound and 3 days were decent (yesterday counts a decent day, all in all, it just started badly with my own mindset.)
I still might make the financial goal – and I really hope I stop having these stupid issues…
Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 08:05
Day 11 : Windy, rainy, blistery day. Tired from the night before, there was a street performer party (which was very fun!) , I went to the draw. Pulled out in the middle, 3 slots, past 3pm. I thought to myself, should I go home an rest, do well-needed laundry, groceries and other self care? or, do I go see the show my friends are going to: Tangram, with Stefan Sing and Cristiana?
I decided to go see the show.
I am not sure how honest I can be about it, but I was horrified. Triggered my PTSD kind of horrified. The political implications of that act are enormous, and no one else sees it.
That is what I will say publicly about that. PM me if you care to know the details of why.
I met them afterwards with my friends, which, as far as meeting my “hero’s” was concerned, was the worst timing. I was quiet, to the point where my friend asks if I am ok. “just tired” I say.
I go back to the mile. Every 5 minutes the whether changes, rain, sun, rain, sun, wind, wind, wind. I wait an hour to see if it will clear.
But I couldn’t get through it. I had to go home.
Try again tomorrow.
p.s. the sun came out the moment I got home.
Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 21:43
Day 12: Okay, this rollercoaster is getting a bit much. First show, painful – my sound failed for different reasons. A bagpiper set up 5 feet away. It was awful. I went an bought a new amp in the 30 minutes I had between slots. Immediately upon returning, a extra slot opened up and I took the amp out of the box on the pitch. It wasn’t much better – but at least they could hear it “Dancing to contact juggling isn’t much when they can’t hear the music!). They money certainly was better. I dropped, a lot. This is unlike me, but my nerves have been shot this week. Flustered, but at least the “feedback” was good in that way. Went for lunch, during this time I slipped a note under the door of the Pleasance Dome to meet Stefan and Cristiana. He emailed me and we have coffee to talk about his show tomorrow *eep*!
3 & 4th shows almost worked – still worked up, my confidence has now been pretty rocked, but, the shows worked “reasonably” (not within my control but…) The amp was still too quiet and the sound bleed was awful. Nick helped me at the end of the day, apparently, I had been plugging into the wrong imput. *doh*.
I should have bought that amp last week.
At least, when I got off the pitch today I felt “I have a show”
photo by Andrew Brown
Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 22:42
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Monday, 19 August 2013 at 14:21
I just finished a lovely coffee date with Cristiana and Stefan Sing. They were very open to hearing my words! Very nice people, and an honor to get the chance to talk with them!
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 11:27
Day 13: Win. I have a show. I have an amp that works, a phone that plays music and some structure.
It is amazing how difficult it is to get out of “bad” Goldie habits. I am realizing here that the difference between being a statue and a circle show is incredibly different in the minutia of how to work your show. Don’t “bow” when you do something nice (As Goldie did) – your audience is looking for any excuse to leave. Get a solid hat line, I am stuttering through it, as I am unsure of how to explain my worth. Being covered in pure gold sure has it’s own power in this regard. People are there to see me as a person, not my skills – although they are nice. I am allowed to talk – it is not “wasting time” I need to learn this with my transitions so I can go smoother between multiball, double ball and single ball. I have 15 minutes of material, but can’t hold the audience that long yet. Maybe I can hold them 10 – it’s the details in my confidence, in my own stature and belief in myself.
Of course, my confidence has been a bit rocked by this new learning curve, but it’s certainly coming through. I was doubting if I should have given up Goldie, but because I am about the create a new show in France, I am happy I did. Although the money is an issue – whatever – the learning is more important, and I wouldn’t get an easier audience than here in Edinburgh. By easy I mean – they are interested in watching interesting things. There is also 8000 other performers here, so I have to be on my game. They see I am not on my game, and fair. I am learning my game. I had no idea how hard “Goldie” would be to break. I “know” the formula, logically, but actually doing it is another story.
I always say that to people “You only learn busking by busking”
I am excited that I went through that painful moment this week. I look forward to now having a show that just needs improvements and not the basic formulations.
Also: meeting Stefan & Cristiana was an amazing experience. Very humble people. Of course their show was meant as playful and my experience of it was specific to what I saw. I still had to tell them. They were open to it. I am so happy I got that chance. The juggling world is a place where you can invite your hero’s for coffee and they will say yes. #grateful
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 08:31
day 14: day off – I went and watched some street shows! there was a really cool slow motion dude I really enjoyed. He even isolated a child from the audience! He did a bit of a matrix theme. Awesome. I also re-made my busking playlist & I hope it works. There are 3 contact jugglers all using Amelie, and I have got to change it up. If anyone else knows some melodic piano (that are movie sound tracks that muggles are familiar with) please let me know!
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 13:12
If the rain stops – you can see my show live from Edinburgh in 30 minutes. Www.partyoncam.com
Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 12:04
Day 15: This festival is hilarious. The first show of the day, onlookers saw me set up, get ready and then a blind women and her dog run around in circles right in front of my hat and balls.
“Do you need help” Charlie asks.
“My dog just needs to go to the bathroom” she replies
And then he poops on my pitch. The buskers and red shirts look horrified and humored.
“Clean up on variety pitch”
I get about 5 minutes of actual show before I am completely rained off.
More rain all day, the partyoncam website broadcasts my next show live – I am lucky the sun came out for a moment to complete that show.
Then I go home – I can feel pins in my lungs, a sign that if I don’t lie down soon, I will get bronchitis and be out for who-knows-how long.
I did my budget, my dreams of living in the castle to create my letters routine is still viable, but barely.
I’m going to do it anyway.
Saturday, 24 August 2013 at 08:51
Day 16 & 17: Days off sick. I saw the Gandini’s though. What a strange act! It’s great seeing so many jugglers together, juggling at the same time. I really enjoyed the smashing bit. I wasn’t a big fan of the misogyny, but I believe it was intentional and had a point to it (although what I cannot determine). The 1950’s style & passive-aggressive clown-like facial expressions were hilarious.
Otherwise, it’s been sleeping & organizing for the next leg of the journey. 3 days left of the fest, then I am off to London!
Saturday, 24 August 2013 at 16:01
Day 18: Awesome day. The show is working. I am able to get a small crowd, before I start juggling. My music works, I know it well. My audience gets big, they tip. I stuttered through a few of my hat lines, but nailed a few too. My double ball is the work I am the most proud of & has come the farthest. My multi-ball is starting to look smooth again. Nearly hit all targets & I would work harder if I wasn’t sick. I was curious “should I push it harder today? it’s the last bit and I am not feeling well”
Then someone came up and said “you look really tired” and decided, it’s been good, I can rest tonight.
Invisible man and Charlie Chaplin arguing over a pitch
Day 19: All of the buskers are dragging at this point, many of them will not return tomorrow – so it’s some goodbyes, and some plans for the week. Where is the next city is the main topic of conversation. How do all us street performers plan to spend a winter? Did we save enough to make it through? Are you going to a warm country or the other hemisphere to make it? Autumn has already hit Scotland, really, although it was a nice fall day here today.
A couple of shows today went well, I am slow & steady – good circle crowds, my hat line finally formed, I am comfortable with all the cues & happy with my earnings. I am also happy I formed it on my own & did not give in to temptation to copy the others hat lines – we already all chose similar music, and it’s hard enough to stand out from the contact jugglers where there are so many. I am used to being the only street performing contact juggler!
No drops – finally – a steadiness within myself, plus not having anyone walk through my circles really helped. Being secure with the next move, the next music cue, and the ability to look my audience in the eye while performing complex juggling tricks also helped.
This morning I looked at the bottle of gold paint, and I was so grateful I did not have to put it on. When I arrived here in Edinburgh, I thought I would be here for the money, but my goal changed and instead I was here to remember how to create a circle show.
It was worth it.
Last day tomorrow!
Sunday, 26 August, 2013
Day 20 (The final day!): An incredibly warm day, with sunshine (we hadn’t seen that in a few weeks). I drag my butt to the draw, trying to get through those last moments, see the last of the smiling faces who are left at the festival and see what the Royal Mile feels like at the end. I am still ill, and pushing myself hasn’t been helping.
The feel of the street was quiet and slow – unlike the bustle of noise and attention seekers that had been there the previous weeks. All the indoor shows were ending, and the flyer-er’s weren’t out any longer. You could walk down the mile at a normal pace. The only freaks left were us street performers – half of us ill (or hungover).
The first show was too early, the crowds weren’t out yet, and I was competing with the Taiwan acrobats. I had trouble with people walking through the show because I couldn’t hold the crowd. Fair enough, Taiwan acrobats are super cool.
I had to wait 2 hours until the last slot. It felt like an eternity with the exhaustion and illness, and I wasn’t sure I would make it through to that part of the day, I didn’t know what I had left to give my audience after 20 days, but I stayed, and I am glad.
It was in the tiny alcove, in the sunshine which makes the acrylics glow in the sunshine. I had great & large crowds, who were impressed with contact juggling and clapping spontaneously. They laughed at my hat lines, they tipped generously & a larger percentage tipped than before. It was probably my best show of the festival.
It’s a sad goodbye, and I really hope I get to come back and do this another year. It was a lot of learning, and I know I am stronger for it.
Thanks for reading & supporting everyone – it was nice to have you with me on this ride.