October 26, 2007

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.

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