September 7, 2010

Soap Bubble Sounds

If you see old news footage of hippies in the 1960s and '70s, whatever the event: a folk or rock concert, political demonstration, street theater or just something called A Happening, somewhere in the crowd you'll see some hippie idiot blissfully blowing bubbles. I was one of those hippie idiots. There aren't too many scenes that couldn't be made brighter by the flow of lightweight iridescent spheres.

I'm not sure what the other bubble blowers from those days are doing now but I ... well, I kept going. I found a number of bubble tricks and those tricks eventually took over the street show that I'd picked up along the way. I had a puppet show aimed, not at children but at an older audience.

My show was all right, it entertained and amused conscious college students and others back in the day but … I wasn't a great street performer. I could entertain them once I had their attention but for a theatrical performance the art of street performing includes the opening act, which is that of gathering a crowd and turning them from unrelated passersby into an attentive audience.

Those who are good at street performing make a clatter and a clash, hollering out to get attention and then, assuming that people want exactly what he/she has to offer, they get right to it. I was too shy for that. I'd stand with puppets on my hands in New York's Central Park, San Francisco's Powell & Market or college campuses anywhere and I'd speak to passersby *suggesting* that they might want to wait around to hear what I would say. "Excuse me, I have a show and .... hello, would you like to hear a ... does anyone want to see ..." useless … people kept walking.

Once I'd developed a few interesting bubble tricks, though, I wouldn't need to talk to them at all. I would blow a smoke bubble and occupy myself in bouncing it from arm to arm. I didn't even need to look at people, just bounce the bubble and they would call others over "Hey, come here, watch this guy, watch when it breaks." When there were ten or twelve people I'd catch a smoke bubble on the wand, jiggle it and then, touching and breaking the film within the ring of the wand the smoke would escape in a straight column as the bubble rapidly deflated … the volcano bubble.

Seeing that, those who had gathered made a sound together. With that trick it's a combination of a laugh along with a sort of mild fireworks oooouuuu and aaaaahhhhh. But it didn't matter WHAT sound they made, it was the fact that they made one sound together. That made them an audience. I wasn't shy about talking to an audience, it was only the individual passersby who had given me the willies … But they were an audience and I was the center of attention:

“And Now Folks for Tom Noddy and the Travelin' Puppets, Political, Social and Spiritual Satire with Puppets.”

I'll write more as the mood strikes … sometimes it'll be more about me and what I do but, mostly it'll be about the world of street performing, the New Vaudeville movement that we gave birth to as well as the European Varieté scene and other interesting observations from my travels around the world.

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