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:!