Hope you are well today.
I have a tale to tell.
So, I used to be a "hardcore busker" (I suppose, technically I still am), but in the last couple of years I have been working mainly the festival circut and of course, the corporate circut instead (ie. "getting soft").
This year, I decided I was being lazy and booked a trip to Italy to gain some international street experience (international festivals are not an accurate expression of the street vibe, I've been told). I chose the North of Italy for a few reasons:
1. I have family there if I get screwed (and I speak the language in case I get in trouble)
2. It IS the self-proclaimed home of street performing, after all!
I only booked a month because I had no idea what I was getting into, as well, I have already been booked up for festivals at the end of May and did not want to back out of them. In retrospect, despite the fun time, I am glad I wisely chose to come home.
What can I say about Italy? Obviously, as the rumors say, Europeans are SO much more respectful and enthusiastic about street performing. They treat it like the art it is. However, there are a few things to look out for. I'll break it up into "general busker information" and "Italy-specific information".
General Busker Information
-Permits: Always, always ALWAYS get a permit, especially if you have an act like a circle show or do site animation which is challenging to exit stage left in. It also covers your ass when you get approached by the police (if that happens--and believe me, it happens). I managed to perform without a license in Verona, but that was due to luck and also due to point number 2. You may have to wait a few days for your permit to clear, so budget that time.
-Don't ever trust government offices or city informational websites for your street performing information: talk directly to other performers. They will give you the heads up on the depth of police involvement in monitoring performers (whether or not you are likely to be checked for a permit or shut down). And while you are at it, tip them, too. Good karma goes a long way!
-Be friendly and respectful towards the "competition". Remember, you are on their turf, and they are probably worried about you sitting on their pitch or taking it over. Avoid turf wars (if you can, they still happen because, let's face it, some people are jerks and look for a fight) by telling people right off the bat you are just passin' through and ask them for ideas on where good pitches are. Sometimes they will mislead you (see above "jerk comment") but overall people are generally friendly and willing to help out a stranger.
-Represent your country! People love it and it makes you feel good. Also remember, as you are representing your country, you are also representing your country's street performers. Other performers should be encouraged to come and visit, so be inviting.
-This may sound like an obvious one, but if you are like me and like to live dangerously you may not do this: for the love of God, bring enough money to get you out of trouble if you land in some hot-water. I wanted to light a fire under my ass, and thus, did not bring any money with me. It was fun and adventurous, but there were times I was seriously worried, and I was kind of stuck in a crappy city for a few days longer than anticipated because I was not making enough to get out. It was scary for a while, but luckily a good day got me out.
-Stay away from Venice!!!
In the last year, they have cracked down on street performers and run a tight ship. As of earlier this year, mimes, living statues and circle shows have been abolished due to ridiculous reasons. The only performers allowed to work are musicians and puppet shows. In respect to the first point I made, don't trust governments: I managed to get a license to perform my acts (living statue and mime) without them telling me I am not allowed to perform! Being shut down was fun times.
-Verona = Love. Awesome city, awesome people and great vibe. You can get away with doing a circle show in the main piazza in front of the arena. I did, it was fun. Of all the major cities I hit, Verona was the nicest to work and the most laid-back.
-The season in Italy begins a month early: April 25th kicks off the festival season. There is a LOT of work between then and autumn. Don't be afraid to hit up festivals and ask for busking rights. Generally, they are thrilled to have "international" performers at their wine festival, or polenta festival, etc. Just make sure you have a translator on-hand to help out with the details!
-Don't be assertive/aggressive with regards to money. Unlike in N.America where I find performers have to educate their audiences in how to respond to street performing, Europeans know the score. Any mention to money on signage, or reminding the audience to pay up will result in people feeling offended and leaving your show. Even hat speeches need to be worded a bit delicately.
That's about all I can think of for now. If you got through reading all of this, you are rewarded with ( pictures!Collapse )
Hope you found this informative, and let me know if you yourself have traveled to Italy, and if so, what your experiences were like!
(x-posted to cirque_enciel and others)