Saturday, June 19, 2010

Kate Awesome is moving...

Hey everyone!
Due to the overwhelming amount of spam here, and, the desire for a more unified set-up, I've moved my blog over to where it will reside from now on.

It just makes sense for everything to be all together, and with such a busy summer season ahead of me, I simply have no time to update this and that, here and there..

so, all my regular readers, please feel free to join my RSS feed over there!

...and all the spambots, you can stay here and party!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ask a Busker has moved!

As per a previous post, "Ask a Busker" has a new home!!

Check out the latest post, the first in a weekly series for the Burgeoning Busker.

Over the past two weeks, my inbox has been flooding with all sorts of questions from beginner buskers, ranging from the well-thought out and the stupid. Expect a hilarious cross-section for your (and my) reading amusement!

As for a personal update: summer tour is firming up. If you're in Toronto, book off the long weekend in May to come out to the Toronto International Circus Festival, down at Harbourfront! It's going to be a great time, and fun for the whole family. Best of all, it's free!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Busking in T.O

Hey folks! Happy holidays, if you celebrate the sacred day of chocolate-eating and the resurrection of Cadbury creme eggs!

For the first time in... years, the weather in Toronto has been so good this holiday, that, naturally I have had to take advantage of the warmth and get back to my regular pitch down at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto. I can't recall the last time I could busk in April and not freeze my butt off!

If you are around the Toronto area, look for the big, giant angel who is back around the city! Since I had to leave half my gear in England, I am operating on half-capacity, but I guarantee the shows will be awesome. Plus, if you leave a tip, it'll help me get my stuff back in time for my gigs this summer. I'll leave you with a nifty photo taken during yesterday's show by Toronto artist Alisa Varlamova! You can check her out as Notorious Girl on Deviant Art.


For the summer months, on, I will be posting "Picture of the Week", from all of the submissions I get from photographers in Toronto. This will be a post dedicated to the best shot of my shows taken by YOU, the photographer. Check out my website to see if your photo gets selected for Picture of the Week! What do you win? A link to your website and the envy of every other photographer taking pictures of buskers out there! :p

Happy holidays guys!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sierra Leone

Hey everybody!

Wow. What a wacky two months! Premiering a new show in Italy, street performing in London, England, and going to Sierra Leone to teach workshops in circus to ex-combatants. Where to start?
Suffice to say I had quite the adventure in West Africa and despite experiencing some amazing sketchiness, I would totally go back in a heartbeat. I even managed to pull off a super short street show in Freetown (that one went out to my friend Lee Nelson). I will probably recount that adventure on for him later on.

I rolled in the night before last and hit the ground running, with a performance in Zero Gravity's 5oth Lunacy Cabaret last night, showing off a bit from the new show. Suffice to say, I'm super tired.

So.. Sierra Leone was a big long adventure. Any ideas of how you wanna read about it? I was thinking either a synopsis each of Freetown and Koidu, or one long post, or several posts of some of the more hilariously unbelieveable stories. What say you, dear readers?

On a side note, while I was away, I received the most wonderful birthday gift: Ask A Busker now has it's very own home on the internet! All your burning questions are answered now on the site, conveniently, you can email directly from the site! Previous topics discussed are archived in a really organized fashion, too. Many many thanks go out to my amazing partner, Matthew, for making it happen! I rarely talk about my personal life here, but, I just want to say that I am so grateful to have such a wonderful and supportive partner, and it makes coming home all the more sweeter! :)

Check out the new "Ask a Busker" website!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Milano Clown Festival

Hi everyone!

I'm writing to you from sunny (rainy?) Italy where I have just finished premiering my new show in the Milano Clown Festival. It was... interesting to say the least! Not the weather I was expecting for Milan this time of year, but over-all, I gotta say, it was the best place to premiere a new show, for sure. I love performing for the folks in Italy; they are so enthusiastic and really get into the shows, as audience participants.

Going from kick-ass strolling and world-class walk-by to a new show was a very humbling transition, but after three days solid of show after show after show, I've come out of it with something wonderful. I'm really pleased with the experience overall.

Right now, I'm currently holed up in Friuli-Venezia Giulia recovering from a terrible flu, hoping to feel better enough to get back out on the street before I head off to London for a week. I'm thinking of heading up Verona or Firenze pending on the weather... if not, I will be street performing in London for sure (again, weather permitting).

From London, I'm traveling to Sierra Leone, where my project with Accountable Development Works is finally underway! I was fortunate to receive partial funding from Circus Without Borders and donations of books and circus gear from the Big Little Caravan of Joy to bring with me. Colour me thrilled! It's going to be an intense ride, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I'm also just happy that this trip is finally underway; with so many hitches and glitches along the way, it's just a relief to get there!

Since I'll be with spotty internet connection from March 7th-24th, I won't be answering any 'Ask a Busker' questions, but thank you all for your emails. I still have a couple I need to post, hopefully before I head out, plus some stories from busking here in Europe and hopefully in England once I'm feeling better.

Hope you are all doing well in internet-land. Talk soon!

ps. It's my birthday today!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ask a Busker: Dealing with the Pooolice

Hey everyone!

I'm on the open road again, heading back to Toronto after a weekend FULL of gigs at Winterlude (c/o The Cowguys. Thanks, Brian!). It's a beautiful sunny day, I've got some Tom Waits on the ol' personal music-machine, and since I've got free wireless on this trip home, I have some time to spent answering another "Ask a Busker" question before I head off to Italy and then Africa (where I will have VERY limited email access). Our question today comes from a magician in Israel, asking about Europe. Which is convenient, since I'm heading into Europe in about 9 days to perform in a country I absolutely love doing shows in, even though I've had some hilarious experiences on the street there. Fortuitous, no?

Dima Zabuta asks, "I'm not a European it [obtaining a permit] a problem? What happens if i get caught without permission (I don't mind a little bit of embarrassment, i DO mine get a fine or kicked out of the country). I saw you were kicked out of Venice, i'm curious to hear more about it."

First of all, thank you, Dima, for your question. I've never been to Israel, and I'd love to one day! Maybe I'll give you a spot on "Ask a Busker" to answer my questions about performing there! :)

I will answer this question two-fold; what the permits are like in Europe, and basic police etiquette in the event you don't have a permit, or the police decide your permit is invalid (which is what happened to me, which you'll read about when I talk about being kicked out of Venice).

Now, let's talk about Europe. While I admit, my experiences busking in Europe have been limited to Austria and Italy (this year I plan on working in other European countries during the summer, so I can make an addenum to this post after touring), Austria seems to be in line with the rest of Western Europe and Italy seems to just do it's own thing. But, it's Italy, my Other Mother Country, so I can relate.

In Salzburg, Austria, I obtained a permit via the Tourism and Information folks who directed me to the proper person to speak to. They were AMAZINGLY efficient and even managed to hook me up with a permit while I was still in Italy. A far cry from the red-tape I had to go through in Venezia. Permits are still granted to inernationals but the regulation is a bit differently structured; instead of a yearly permit, or even monthly permit that EU citizens and residents are invited to obtain, permits for internationals are usually granted for up to maximum of 2 weeks. At 14 € a pop, that can add up, for sure... but don't forget: you're also *making* the Euro, so when you return home it can add up. Truuust me. ;)

Pretty cut-and-dry, right? Yes, you can get a permit if you are an international, but it can get a little pricey.

So if you decide to employ the "it's better to beg forgivness than ask permission" tactic, and you DO get caught, how do you avoid getting a fine?

Well, it can be pretty easy if you're an international. Follow these simple rules and maybe you'll get off without a fine, if the police officer is cool.

1. not talk back
2. Smile a lot and apologize profusely.
3. Suggest that you had *no idea* you needed a permit in the first place.
4. Offer to pack up and move on
5. Ask questions: where CAN I obtain a permit? Where would I be allowed to play?


1. Draw the officer into your show and make fun of him/her.
2. Argue back. Unless you actually have a permit, this will getcha nowhere fast.
3. Refuse to move to "make a statement"
4. Move to another location within the city limits. If you're caught (and most European cities are smaller by comparison to N. American cities), you will likely get fined or arrested.

Now, the "don'ts" I should qualify. I mean this for ONLY when you're in a city with cut-and-dry laws. If you're working in a place that has blurry lines and hazy laws around busking, do whatever you want. In the past, I've been known to argue and draw the cops into my shows to ostracize them if I know they have no legal right to ask me to move on. I don't really encourage this type of behaviour at all, though, and it really only serves to exacerbate the situation. We're trying to be diplomatic so everyone can get what they want in the end, after all! And you attract more flies with honey than vinegar! And sometimes you just HAVE to move on to the next town.

Now for the Venice story. This is a FINE example of why the "Don'ts" don't work. While in Italy, I decided that the best place for a living statue would be, duh, Venice. The home of Carnivale and Commedia! The sinking city! The gondolas and mask-makers needed me, clearly. I did a scope-out visit one day and marveled in the size of the crowds there. It was a goldmine. So, I went to the local Commune to get my license. It was somewhere outside of the St. Marco square, down some sketchy side-street, in a building suffering from severe water-damage. There was nobody on the main-floor; I had to take a REALLY sketchy elevator upstairs to some dusty room with low-lighting, and finally found somebody who could issue a permit. I paid my 14
€, got a permit that asked me to tick-off what kind of act I was. I ticked off "circus show" since that was the closest thing to what I did, and got my permit. The next day, I took my gear into the city, stole a milkcrate (I didn't travel with a pedestal at that point, and I felt bad about stealing. Please don't do that folks. Be a pro and travel with all your gear) and got rained out. The NEXT day, I went with my newly acquired milkcrate and gear and found a great spot in a little piazza. Ten minutes into my show, the military police show up and shut me down. I tell them I have a permit, they tell me I couldn't possibly; living statues had recently been banned from performing due to a problem with foreigners buying masks, posing as statues, and stealing from tourists. I showed them my permit, which they said was invalid. I grew angry since I didn't want to be out my 14€, and asked if I could just do an hour. They told me I couldn't. I grew angrier and more insistent, and we clashed. They accused me of being a 'gypsy', I showed them my passport, they insisted I stole my passport... it got a little hairy, but eventually, I was taken back to the train station and put on the next train out. I went to Verona and worked there instead (which, incidentally, is an AWESOME place to work).

The situation could have been avoided if I just did what they said, but really, if I was issued a permit as a mistake by the commune, the least they could have done was apologize and refund my money. Lesson learned: suck it up and just move along.

So there ya go.

I hope I've answered your questions, Dima, and I hope my readers have enjoyed the story from Venice. I'm excited to be going back to Italy soon and performing in what I've been told is one of the best festivals in the country. I'm bringing a non-statue show. It should be interesting.

Until next time, folks. Stay safe!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Upcoming Travels

Hi folks. Well, it's been a very VERY interesting month here in Kate Awesomeland. First of all, thanks for all your emails asking questions to "Ask a Busker"; right now I'm super swamped with work and I will get around to answering your questions hopefully before I head out on the road again, which is apparently really soon!

This upcoming weekend, I will be in Ottawa for the grand opening of Winterlude. I always love visiting and working in my nation's capital, so it should be a really fun time! In two weeks after that, I will be performing in the Milano Clown Festival in Milan, Italy. I'm really looking forward to being back in the land of awesome pizza, grappa and yoghurt (seriously.. the yoghurt in the North of Italy is probably the BEST yoghurt I've ever had!!). Oh, and prosecco, of course. I will be premiering my new street show "Rag-Maninoff" which is both exciting and very nerve-wracking. After the festival, I'll travel to Friuli to visit my family, since, I can't go to Italy and NOT see them while I'm there and, how else shall one spend their own birthday?! I'm looking forward to this experience greatly! :)

After Milan, I will be traveling to London, England for a few days to catch up with friends, check out the street scene and get my visa for Sierra Leone. We have finally been given the go-ahead for the project I've been involved in for the last year or so. While in Sierra Leone, I will be hosting workshops in juggling, mime, and various other circus disciplines with some wonderful kids in orphanages in both Freetown and Koidu. I am immensely looking forward to traveling to Africa to realize this project fully. It's been a long hard battle to get to Sierra Leone, and it looks like it is finally happening in March. Hooray for Karamazov!

I am gracious to be the recipient of some funding from Circus Without Borders to be able to get circus equipment that I can leave in Africa with the kids and film a little documentary about the experience and journey. It's going to be a helluva ride and one that while I don't think anybody could ever really prepare for, I am ready for as best as I can be!

I will be publishing my press release on this blog regarding the upcoming trip that will have further details.

Whew. What a Birthday-Month.
Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Website Up! FINALLY!

Hi everyone!

The rest of my visit to NYC was pretty hilarious and awesome, and I am back home in the best city in the world, Toronto.

I've been working hard on my show and getting my promotional material together for the upcoming year and FINALLY got around to making a better-laid out website. There is still a lot of work to do to make the site more personal and less sterile, but overall I'm happy that it finally has content. Video will be put up soon, but for now there's lots of pictures and media and such. Feel free to check it out at:

I love feedback, so let me know what you think/what you'd like to see/etc. It's going to be way more interactive and friendly since, well, interactivity is all part of the fun! Once we get the RSS feed up, please feel free to join it to keep updated on my adventures and touring schedule!

I have a couple of questions for "Ask A Busker" that I need to get around to answering, which I totally will once I finish submitting some festival applications that are due next week.

If you are in the Toronto-area, on the 19th I will be performing in a cabaret at Mitzi's Sister! Come check it out!

Hope you are all well, and chat with you soon!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Show at Birdland

I'm tearing up New York City sufficiently as only Kate Awesome can.
It's been a lot of fun seeing old friends, meeting new friends and experiencing the awesomeness of the city. I've been super impressed with the buskers I've seen in the subways, and while it's just too cold outside for street shows, I've met some circus folks down at the New York City Circus Arts School and got to train a bit. The community is really fabulous down here!

Last night, I performed in a cabaret at Birdland, the closest I'll ever get to Broadway unless mime shows become all the rage! My friends invited me to an open-mic cabaret there, which turned out to be mostly showtune singers and Jazz musicians looking for a place to workshop and rehearse their work. It was pretty neat! I decided to put my name into the queue after already sitting through the acts, and put out a rocken impromptu show on the fly, performing bits from my new show! The audience really enjoyed my act (considering it was classical music) and I felt AWESOME about performing a segment from a brand new show at say, arguably the most important jazz club on the planet. Ha ha! Allegedly I was the first classical pianist (and mime) to perform on the Birdland Bösendorfer. I performed on the piano Michel Legrand, Monty Alexander, Bill Evans...pretty much ALL the Jazz greats have played. It was a moment to savour, for sure (and holy crap!! that piano is to die for--the tone is AMAAAZING). If I'm ever in NYC again on a Monday night, you can bet I will be there performing again!

Afterwards, I sat with my friend with whom I'm staying in Brooklyn, as she painted in her studio, and we chatted about how enthusiastic the response was from the audience and staff; the owner of Birdland and I chatted about his friendship with Oscar Peterson, and how much he loved the concept of my show and was looking forward to seeing more of it some day, to other people (who were famous in their circle, but I couldn't tell you who they were) asked for my business card. Essentially, I stood out last night. Among all the jazz standards, broadway ballads and original musical theatre songs, not only did I perform a different genre of music, but I performed a funny routine, and something I pretty much made up on the fly. And even if I didn't play flawlessly, I was unique and entertaining.

My friend had asked if I was nervous or scared about a) performing something I had never really done outside of rehearsal spaces and b) playing it at a legendary club such as Birdland.

To be honest, I wasn't nervous at all. My take on the whole situation of performing is: I'll most likely never see this crowd again, so the worst that can happen is that they forget who I am. The best thing that could happen, of course, is that they love my act, laugh, and thank me afterwards for a great show (which they did, so I guess I got the best-case scenario there!) And really, I have no dignity to care about failure as deeply as I probably should.

But, seriously: if it's one thing I've learned in show business, it's that crowds are forgiving. People will forget a bad show, but they never forget a good show (although sometimes they do that, too). And there is always room to grow and learn from bad experiences, if things go poorly for me. And one of the most important things I've learned is that being unique and having your own style is what makes you stand out and memorable when you do succeed.

One of the reasons why I like to perform when I'm not at home is that it is quite literally easy to walk away from your crowd; you'll never see them again, so you can do ANYTHING in front of them. I've workshopped some of my best stuff overseas in front of people without a care in the world about whether or not I'm gonna fail. Any time I am concerned about whether or not my crowd will like me, I curl up in a fetal position and freak out. There was a time where I used to compete as a pianist, and perform publicly quite often. Eventually one day, I snapped from the pressure of trying to make my work perfect, and I couldn't go back. The thought of playing piano in front of people petrified me.

In the last year or so, I've decided to get over that fear and build this new show, and so far I'm doing very well! I've realized that I needed the separation between me the person playing piano, and me the character artist performing, and it takes that pressure off and allows me to play beautifully. As well, with a character it's easier to assume that audiences will like whatever I do (and I admit, now I have a lot more material to work with), and for the most part it works. I do bomb occasionally, as all performers do, but the severity is less than it used to be. And I know from every failure grows an amazing piece of work. It just takes the confidence. And that grows over time.

In the immortal words of Frank Herbert, in the littany against fear, from Dune, "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration."

And, I suppose, a lack of dignity helps, too! :p

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ask a Busker: Weirdest Experience with an Audience Member

Hi folks!

Welcome to the year Twenty-Ten! Every time I say it out loud, I try to make it sound like I'm narrating a mental hygiene film from the 1950s. I hope you enjoyed your holidays. I sure had fun in Utah. One high-light was being put on the spot to do a show for a billionaire Mormon and his family of twenty. I tell you, life is never dull! I came back to Toronto to give some rocken performances and rang in the new year in true busker fashion with an impromptu street show right in front of my house!

But the life of a touring street performer is hardly quiet (okay, okay, it usually is in January and February), and I'm currently in a Greyhound heading towards the Big Apple, the city paved in gold, the place that, allegedly, if you make it there, you'll make it anywhere.... and I have free wifi so, I figured what better time to post up another question for you all to read!

Over the holidays, somebody sent me a link to a film made by Neil Gaiman called Statuesque. It's basically about something I deal with on a daily basis: creepy living statue stalkers! Well, it's supposed to be a cute little love story, but, instead of making me feel all warm and melancholic or whatever, it instead got me waxing upon some wacky experiences I've had with strange fans and such, and coincidentally, I received a question in my email from a Malpingu (that's the internet handle, folks) asking, "What is the most bizarre (and/or inappropriate) behaviour exhibited by someone towards you whilst performing as a living statue?"

First of all, thanks for the question, Malpingu! Clearly, I had to answer it due to the proximity of me watching this film and you asking the question in the first place. Secondly, do I want to know what Pingu did that made him so angry?

So.. what is the most bizarre behaviour I've experienced? Whew.. jeez. This one's a toughie. For the most part, I have WONDERFUL experiences working as a living statue professionally; I take joy in knowing that I am probably the only person on a busy street corner who gets to watch all sorts of little narratives play out, and notice minute details about people that is often lost in the shuffle. I guess you can say it appeals to my sentimental side, as a result. Among the amazing experiences, however, I have had some really mind-boggling bizarre shit happen.

This is a bit difficult, however, because I want to avoid the obvious acts, like folks who like to goose me, or touch me inappropriately (although in the last year or so, people have totally convinced themselves I'm transgendered so I hardly get manhandled these days...), which has happened in the past.

The first thing comes to mind is the time a dog mistook me for an actual statue and tried to pee on me in front of my crowd. I scared him, and as a result, he continued to pee, this time out of fear. Hilarious.

In Toronto, there's a local figure who went by the name Zanta, who used to terrorize the downtown core with push-ups sans shirt in sub-zero weather, and his trademark "yes yes yes!!"
since Zanta had to be retired at the insistence of the city of Toronto, the guy formerly known as Zanta sometimes takes advantage of my regular pitch to talk about the evils of whatever. Occasionally, it's entertaining, but more often than not, it's irritating.

One time, in Europe, I got into a turf-war with a Charlie Chaplin. If you ever street perform as a living statue in Europe, you'll realize there are a lot of Charlie Chaplins out there. In fact, in the city I was working in, there were TWO (one of which I coined, "nice" Charlie, the other, "dick" Charlie). We got into a little bit of a fight over crowds (kinda like that one Pixar short 'One Man Band') and eventually it almost came to blows. The idea of seeing a Marie Antoinette and Charlie Chaplin punching each other on an old cobblestone street is funny enough, but I can only imagine what the poor crowd thought. Embarrassing, but still hilarious.*

*for the record, this was on the street and not in any festival whatsoever. If, y'know, any booking agents are reading this blog!

Hmmm. What else can I talk about that's strange and/or inappropriate... I often get REALLY bad poetry in my hat. I think only once I've received a poem that totally impressed me (for the record, dear readers, while my writing often does not express this education, I did study literature in University, however briefly, and I am known to read Russian lit on the can). I get some AMAZING stuff in my hat, from type-written letters asking me out on dates, to photos people took the year before, but this is not really a post about Stuff I Get In My Hat...

I think the most inappropriate thing that ever happened to me, though, was at the hands of another performer. This will totally lead me into a bitchfest about sexism in the workplace and all that fine crap I thought we'd have already put to rest, seeing as how we are now living in the Year Twenty-Ten.. but apparently we still are having these discussions. Unfortunate, really. Once, at a festival, another performer, who was NOT in costume, planted a kiss on my lips right as I was performing for a television spot. The interaction leading up to that point was my resisting his attempts, but the comedy was lost on me when he actually did manage to do so while I was performing. Not. Cool. Maybe I was being over-sensitive, but I read very deeply into that action and I definitely made my position known at the time. Now, if the guy was in costume, I would have thought it to be a part of an act and totally would have played along; but, how can i distinguish some creepy schmuck from a well-intentioned performer if he's not clearly in a costume? far, that's about all I can think about. I may re-visit this topic when something else super noteworthy pops into my head, but as for now, I'm totally drawing a bit of a blank because I'm tired and hungry... Hopefully what I've written is entertaining as it is! I'm gonna eat an orange and start reading some Archie comics I got for Christmas.

Thanks for reading, everybody! And remember, if you gotta question for our resident expert, please send your questions for "Ask A Busker" to:!