And over this huge landscape I have only seen tap dancing around this subject, so in this article today I thought I would drag out the elephant in the room and talk about the pros and cons of canned shows, self written shows, and which is easier for character development and handling street problems. I will also be talking about building shows for world travel or for local use.
First it should be understood if one has a Character the street problems seem to just melt away, but let's say you haven't found your Character, what is the strongest type of show to handle Hecklers, Roaches, drunks, criminals, tough pitches, and people thinking your unprofessional and unwanted in the area.
The strongest way of handling this, is with a show you have written yourself. A tailored fit show is always best. The weakest way of handling this is with A Canned Show. Canned shows are less versatile and notorious for undue problems.
Don't get me wrong, Canned Shows are effective, just the least effective in the present, and more importantly ineffective in the long run of the performer's career, for a variety of over looked reasons, over looked, because the beginner is only thinking in the now, for a quick fix.
So what is a canned show?
The Canned Show.
A Canned Show, is a show that you copy word for word and then recited to the audience like an actor would. This show can be purchased by a professional Show Writer, or can be obtained by permission from a teacher.
Some teachers use canned shows as a method to give their students a base to which to learn show structure, or sometimes they are handing over their own show to their students to carry on their legacy after they're gone.
My students and I generally do not practice this. Our legacy is carried on by mere glimpses and shadows of influence, put into our self written shows from our fraternity.
Canned shows can also be obtained by stealing the show of a real performer who wrote their own show, so believe it or not this has to be said, if your the type of person who would steal another performers show, you are not a real artist, and it should be obvious to you, that you are entering the wrong industry, and you will be reminded of this fact for the rest of your life by everyone in the industry and it will cost you money and reputation.
If you are not a real artist spend the few bucks to have a writer write one for you, this will save you thousands of dollars and your reputation. Not only that but you will have an original show.
It is my opinion that the street performer specifically, should write their own show, because they will have to make adjustments to the canned show anyway due to the nature of the unpredictable streets, and if they wrote their own show, they would have already mastered this particular skill set. If they write their own show they will be able to reinvent themselves when ever need be.
So what's the difference, whether we write our own show or let someone else write it for us?
The difference is, it's personal. The audience smells fake a mile away. The audience feels like they are making a new friend when they watch your show and every relationship needs to be authentic. You need an authentic character. The Character is the most important aspect of your show. If your show falls apart, the only hope for you, is that you have a Character to pull you out of that mess.
Finding Your Character When You Write Your Own Show:
The self written show is written by the character themselves, you are starting out with the character, and the character knows better what the show should be about. If you don't have a character when you write your own show you will find your Character in the writing of your show.
Self written shows make the Show's Character emerge, because they were written by your Character hiding inside you. A Canned show was written by someone else's character, or at best, someone who was trying to imagine your Character, but they can't know your Character as well as you do, because your Character is apart of you. And if you choose, your Character can even be you. It's personal, and someone else shouldn't write that, right? Your worth more than that. You're good enough to do this on your own aren't you?. The whole point of busking is doing your own thing. So do your own thing.
What are the advantages of a canned show?
The Pros Of A Canned Show.
It will make you money, it will give you a basis to understand structure, but that is super super unlikely to lead to an original show, this is always the pitfall of the beginner, they think they'll sellout now, and fix it later, this almost never happens. Usually they stay trapped for the rest of their life glued to that show. I met someone who broke out of this rut, but they had to relearn street performing all over again. It cost them time and money. Of course if you are taking over the name and legacy of your master, this problem does not apply to you, because this was your intention, but it does apply to you if you want to make your own name.
Another advantage is that Sometimes if written by a pro, or designed by a teacher, it can work as a generic fix all. But It always suffers the fatal illness of not being yours.
So how does an original performer pick up these advantages? By understanding Local and Universal Shows.
The Local Show.
A Local Show, is a show that has been fine tuned for one pitch. It works on the premise of cultural assimilation. The community in that pitch have adopted the performer as their resident Magician, because they feel he is one of them, he really gets them. The town loves him because he brings in tourists and the tourists love him like an ambassador. The Resident Magician has incorporated local culture, humor, language, phrases, costuming, or what ever to fit that pitch. Resident Magicians are usually the masters of that pitch and may even be able to work an impossible spot where everyone else has failed to even get a crowd. You want to learn how to busk? Go watch him.
The Universal Show works on the same premise, cultural assimilation.
The Universal Show.
A Universal Show, is a show that was written by the performer that can play anywhere in the world. The core of the show always remains the same, while bits and pieces are changed around depending on where in the world the performer may take their show. It is crucial for the performer to be liked, so he may add a Spanish phrase when in Spain, or make a funny comment about food unique to the area, etc. The longer he is in town the better he will get at it. He will also try and play up the advantage of being new and bring the appealing things of his own culture from back home. But the longer he is there the more he will need to try and assimilate to stay in good standing with the locals. It isn't as necessary in super high tourist areas, but it's still there believe me.
This type of show picks up the advantage of being able to work anywhere, and still remain original, with the added bonus of already being in gear to assimilate and put up roots in one town if the performer wants to.
I can't tell you how many places I've been where there are several guys doing the same canned show, I coast through it, but it never ends well for them. The town gets sick of them.
Well, I'm going to end there.
I have been working hard on my new book.
Please be looking for it.
And thanks for your time.
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P.S. This article was brought to you by the gracious donation of my good friend Mr. Pitts a fellow busker.