October 26, 2007

Poignant Performing Pointers

The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

I've had some small opportunities to perform over the years-- a little mime, a bit-part in a movie, commercial voice-overs-- but in the last ten years, more regularly. Beginning as a balloon art performer in restaurants or parties or a clown for special events, hospitals or fund-raisers, I migrated to using mime, balloon art and banter as a street performer.

I'm not a professional by any stretch of imagination. I can't do magic, perform acrobatics or juggle. However, I've developed a routine that works for what I do-- fun, fruitful and functional. I enjoy entertaining, or just mingling and meeting folks to communicate my favorite subject-- God's love for them.

During over 2000 hours 'on stage', I think I've gained even more than I've given. In this short series of posts explains a bit about how I started and what I've learned-- costumes, performing tips and more.

You can see a narrated series of photos of my performances in Fukuoka, Japan here:


And here is a 'balloon art' how-to' site:

Airigami, the art of folding air in specially prepared latex containers.”

read more on Larry Moss' site: http://www.balloonhq.com/

Step out today, outside the boundaries of conformity;

If it will make a way, for love to work in its enormity!

Next: Mime, Make-up and My Costume

Mime, Make-up and My Costume

The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

[Go to the first post in this series]

For my particular style, less has been more-- more fruitful. I've found that a 'full-blown' clown puts off a sizable percentage of people, especially in circumstances outside of the 'normal'-- parties, performances for audiences etc. I've found that since most of my work is on the street, dressing as a performer rather than a clown has been best for me.

The same with make-up, without either the clown make-up or the mime's white face, it is easier to be more flexible and not be stuck with having to stay 'in character'. I can more easily go from mime, to speaking-- and I don't have to use a 'clown' voice-- although I do use a bit of whistling at times-- to emphasize something or even provide my own 'back-up' music.

I started using mime years ago, first acting in skits for small audiences, and then on the street. I had found it difficult get people to take a tract or poster from me if I only offered something and said, 'Hi!', 'Excuse me' or 'This is for you.'

I found that the most effective method was to get some eye contact and firmly offer whatever I had with good timing. Then, when we added some funny antics or wild costumes, we'd have even better success.

I'd tried some 'clown' voices, but one day I tried using just mime. I would simply get eye contact and hold up my hand, signaling, 'Stop'. And it worked. They didn't just grab what I offered as they passed by, forcing me to then try to then stop them-- they stopped, wanting to know what I wanted. I then pointed out the title, for example, 'Somebody Loves You' and if they read it, I'd direct them to the prayer and, if not and they seemed ready to go, I'd show them our brochure or appeal and they'd help-- or not-- but I did my best with this method.

One girl read the tract and knelt down in the middle of the busy walking street to pray the prayer out loud, got our phone number and later came to our house-- and was surprise to find that I spoke-- ha! I eventually dropped my attempts at a 'performing' voice or at full mime. Honestly, I just wasn't that good at either.

My costume also evolved, from wild or even weird at times to quite formal-- almost like what a magician might wear. I used a tuxedo for a while, then dropped the jacket and stuck with the tuxedo pants, vest and formal shirt with a black bow-tie and black shoes-- topped, for a long time, with a red cotton fisherman's hat. I still use this hat in the summer, but now, when it's cool enough, I use a wool-- hence, the heat-- Charlie Chaplin-style bowler.

Next: How It Works-- The Act

How It Works-- The Act

The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

[Go to the first post in this series]

On the street, I'm a roving performer, often for strolling couples, but also one-on-one or for small groups. Only slightly different is when I go to parties or table-to-table in restaurants. The basic elements involve mime with some kind of story-telling or audience interaction – asking them to say or do something to participate in the act, usually with balloons as props.

With small groups or parties, I'll sometimes also teach them to make a simple balloon shape or animal. If I do anything well, it's make balloons fast. And I need to if I have a small group.

My first object is to either get them to stop, if they're moving, or to get their united attention. I use a variety of methods to do this-- and learn new ones all the time-- but normally I wait until someone shows interest, then smile or, alternately, look exaggeratedly surprised. I then motion for them to stop and hand them a balloon-- finished or not.

I utilize mime here, usually, motioning for this person to wait while I blow up and distribute a second or third balloon. I try to gauge who is most interested-- or in the case of two or three couples, I just give the first balloons to the ladies. I try to have several long balloon 'sticks' or circles already blown up and tied so I can move quickly.

Right away, I go for a reaction. If there is a couple, I'll make a heart and get them to each hold a side. Or, if it's a bunch of guys, I'll have the 'toughest' looking one blow on the incomplete tail of a balloon puppy and make a bubble pop out at that moment- the others laugh to see the biggest guy startled by a balloon-- ha!.

As soon as I get some kind of reaction, I move into high gear getting balloons into three to six pair of hands, moving quickly back and forth completing bits of each creation to keep them all interested. I use a combination of mime and a few words to help keep things moving-- more mime and less speaking if I'm not fluent in their language, of course.

I try to finish each of the 'creations'-- a heart with a puppy or lovebirds, a dog on a leash, a flower etc. around the same time. If they are couples, I'll line up the guys-- using mime to motion and demonstrate where and how to stand-- with the girls opposite-- give the guys the balloons (usually hearts or flowers).

Here I'll mime, 'stand straight' and model passionately presenting their gift to their love.

Most Japanese guys will just thrust it forward mechanically, so I quickly whistle or just shake my head and motion 'no, no, no', and give the balloons back.

I then mime, 'relax', take a big breath and show the 'passionate presentation' again before I motion for them to 'try again'. Sometimes I whip out a bandanna to wipe their brow to show how difficult it is.

The second time is usually an improvement-- but even if not, I enthusiastically applaud. The girls love it, and sometimes even the guys. Even so, the guys seem to react, 'Hey, you made a fool out of me and made my girlfriend happy-- pretty good!' And they'll sometimes offer a nice tip too!

I end by presenting each with something to read-- telling them that it is a message of love, from a God of love-- and, very often, I'm able to point out the printed prayer and pray with everyone.

What I do with couples and individuals is similar, although I can go a bit slower and be a bit less 'dramatic'. I can often be more flexible, talk more and get to know them-- sometimes developing into longer and deeper talks.

Other times I don't find out the effect until later--- as in this email:

Dear Bruce Hi! I met you at Nakasu Bridge with my boyfriend. Do you remember me? I want to say 'Thank you ' to you, because when I met to you, we were having bad feelings toward each other. After, we made up. Thank you so much. I think to meet you there was destiny. If you return e-mail, I will be happy.

I will also be very happy to hear from you with any comments, questions or just to say, 'hi!'

You can send a note to me by clicking on the little envelope at the end of this post-- or you can also use my @gmail.com address, just type bruce(dot)japan before the @mark. (written this way due to spam robots that read web pages, sorry)

Next: 'Banter' To make a routine work well, it helps to have some fun things to say.

Things I Say-- The Banter

*Banter [Good-humored, playful conversation]

The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

[Go to the first post in this series]

The street act mentioned in my last blog has been the foundation of my performing in Japan for nearly four years. However, I first used balloon art starting about 10 years ago by helping with mission project fund-raising activities and paid performances at parties and restaurants.

None of this happened in one day-- in fact, it started one day when I dropped off supplies to a volunteer clown (now a missionary in Chile) who, motioning to the long line of kids waiting, told me to inflate and tie balloons for him. Well, sounds simple, but in a short time I'd broken two of his pumps (my present identical pump has lasted two years) and I struggled with the concept of tying the knot for hours-- oh, well.

But I enjoyed the reactions of the kids-- the parents too-- so I agreed to volunteer to do the same and plugged along learning how to make the various shapes. However, to do this well, I also needed a spiel, banter or lines to keep people entertained while I made the balloons.

'What's the bravest animal in the jungle?' ('A lion?') 'No, he has big teeth; he doesn't have to be brave.' (Slight pause as I finish the animal) 'A giraffe... because he really sticks his neck out!'

I heard this and many others from other clowns or ballooners, made up my own, and some I got from the people I meet, for if you tell some people a joke, they try to top yours with another. Getting the audience involved is helpful.

"Guess what I'm making.'

--or having them count the number of bubbles as I make a lion's mane.

Some things I've tried have worked, others flopped. One story developed from making a heart-shape with two kissing birds-- Next: 'A Love Story with Balloons'.

A Love Story with Balloons

The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

Here is the version of a story I tell as I make a heart balloon with kissing birds for couples who speak English. It's the basis for a routine that I use in Japanese with fewer words and more mine.

I first ask if they want to hear a love story. Then, as I tie a balloon in a circle I say,

"Love, the real kind, lasts forever. It's like a circle that has no end.”

(for married couples I'd add, 'like your wedding ring')

"Sometimes, people even 'tie the knot' (get married) — to the boy: “Don't worry.”

Married couples often reply, "Oh, we've taken care of that", or something similar.

"Even the path of true love isn't always straight,” as I shape the circle into a heart.

There is sometimes a bit of friction”, as I rub the two sides to make them even.

But love always wins in the end,” as I show them the completed heart.

I then get the couple to each hold one side, pausing to say,

'Ahh' -- as in, 'Lovely'. Then I tell them,

Now, a bit of magic as I make two birds from one balloon.”

Since the completed bird's beaks are touching, I'll look, pause, and say,

Oh, they're kissing!” before I attach the birds to the heart.

I usually, have the guy present the heart to the girl-- modeling it with passion as I described in the 'How It Works-- The Act' post, earlier in this series.

I always end with an introduction to a love that will never leave them and give them something to read.

You can find my favorite, Somebody Loves You, here.

Along with a wonderful variety of other inspiring reading.

[Go to the first post in this series]

October 21, 2007

Ta-da! A new baby!

Izumi Nora

Born to Aiko and Andi Foder at 12:30 AM, October 20th in Hungary.

Izumi weighed 8 pounds and is 22 inches long.

P.S. Don't tell anyone... I'm sleeping with a grandmother tonight.

October 07, 2007

Fukuoka 2005 Earthquake Story In Photos

As I promised in an earlier post, these are newly posted photos from our time in Fukuoka, Japan.
You can see the entire story in photos and text here
'Fukuoka hasn't had an earthquake in 100 years-- nor a major one for centuries!'

they'd told me -- surprising for this earthquake-prone country-- however, this changed March 5th, 2005, when our home in western Fukuoka shimmied and shook for nearly a minute. A major earthquake had struck just off the coast.
We survived with minimal damage, checked our neighbors and called our friends. One, alone with two small kids in a badly shook up top floor apartment, was panicking with the frequent aftershocks (BTW, they continued for weeks), so a few of us went to help.
On the way met a friend gripping newspapers with graphic photos showing nearly every home on her island destroyed. She told us, 'They had to leave without even their shoes.' and asked us to help.

At the shelter with a team of 'Family International' volunteers, they nearly turned us away, saying they'd provided everything, until the island's kindergarten teacher excitedly asked if we could do something for the kids...
You can also read more details on the quake at wikipedia

October 03, 2007

New Site Features Fukuoka Scenes

I've just set up a new photo site on Picasa called 'tipserve' with over 100 photos from Fukuoka, Japan. There are 12 albums now, mostly scenery. I will add photos of our activities and people from our three years there soon, but for now, enjoy...

The reason I've chosen to make another site is that, for now, the Picasa online albums won't allow me to 'nest' the folders-- folders inside of folders-- so it's difficult to organize. For now, I'll continue post current photos on the 'bruce.japan' site and post my photos from Fukuoka on the 'tipserve' site.