IBJNews

Performers set to take to streets

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indianapolis has its occasional street musician or juggler, but the Super Bowl will bring out a new breed of performer.

Five members of the local collective Q Artistry plan to dress up as referees and stroll around Georgia Street singing football-themed lyrics set to classical tunes. Artistic Director Ben Asaykwee calls the act a “crazy version of caroling.”

performers Buskers, like this woman playing a hand saw during the IndyFringe Festival, hope street theater continues downtown long after the Super Bowl crowds leave. (Photo Courtesy Dan Axler)

Indianapolis theater troupe PaperStrangers has concocted a show that’s part theater, part parade, Artistic Director Michael Burke said. “The work will be big, loud, vibrant, fun and a bit scary,” he said.

The performers, who were hired by the Super Bowl Host Committee, hope to leave local officials and residents wanting street theater year-round.

“This is a perfect opportunity, when Indianapolis has opened its eyes to the possibilities,” Asaykwee said.

Police have looked harshly on street performers in the past, but there’s no law to stop anyone from working for tips, or busking. And since the city settled a case involving two jugglers early last year, the policy is to allow First Amendment activities, as long as they don’t threaten public safety.

The same goes for Super Bowl week, except for on Georgia Street and other areas that the host committee controls through its special-event permit, said Adam Collins, permit administrator in the Department of Code Enforcement. (Collins encourages any would-be buskers to call his office for guidance on the best locations.)

Yet the city’s lack of experience with busking has left many artists waiting for an explicit invitation, Asaykwee said. “I would never have thought I would last an hour without someone grabbing me by the elbow and dragging me away.”

The city’s policy on street performers has changed since it settled a lawsuit in 2011 involving local jugglers. Dave Henby and his cousin Ben Saxon, “The Amazing Merkin Brothers,” were doing their comedy-juggling act on Monument Circle in late 2008 when their flaming torches caught the attention of a police officer, who insisted they couldn’t perform on a public sidewalk.

The officer moved the duo along, but they returned the next April to take advantage of crowds from the Fire Department Instructors conference. Henby and Saxon performed about 15 minutes before the same officer—plus five others—descended.

The officer confiscated the jugglers’ limes, clubs, knives and torches and cited them for violation of three city codes—open burning, failure to screen off a welding or sandblasting operation in a public right-of-way, and private use of a public right-of-way.

Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Saxon and Henby sued the city, saying such broad application of the ordinances prevented free speech. Under the city’s policy at the time, ACLU attorney Gavin Rose argued, officials could have required a special-event permit for a pickup soccer game in a park.

Under the settlement, the city dropped the citations and agreed that Saxon and Henby could ply their trade as long as they didn’t overstep certain bounds. Specifically, they can’t take up more than half the right-of-way, or block building entrances and exits or handicap-access points.

Those general guidelines would apply to anyone, whether preaching, protesting or performing, Collins said.

City Prosecutor Helen Marchal said the city has changed its overall view of busking.

“We are opening the city up to more of those types of performances,” Marchal said. “Now, people are limited only in terms of making sure their actions aren’t injurious to somebody else.”

performers Two members of Know No Stranger perform on Mass Ave during the IndyFringe Theatre Festival in August. Street theater will be part of the Super Bowl festivities. (Photo Courtesy Dan Axler)

Henby, who has a day job, limits his busking to events like the Indianapolis 500 or IndyFringe Theatre Festival that draw a predictable crowd.

“It’s just not the best town for it,” Henby said. He added, though, that he’s hopeful about Georgia Street, now that it’s rebuilt to accommodate more pedestrians and special events.

IndyFringe Theatre Executive Director Pauline Moffat shares the same hope.

“This is just a great space to entertain people,” she said.

The gatekeeper to Georgia Street post-Super Bowl will be Indianapolis Downtown Inc., which the city tapped to manage maintenance and special events.

IDI President Tamara Zahn said she’s talked to the local arts organization Big Car about live, offbeat events that might be staged there. She’s open to discussions with other artists as well.

Though buskers have fought First Amendment battles in cities across the country, they gravitate to locations, or “pitches,” that weed out glorified panhandlers, said Brent McCoy, a circus-style comedian who has performed at the IndyFringe Festival.

“Street performing in summer is a major part of my living,” said McCoy, who lives in northeastern Vermont. He hasn’t returned to IndyFringe since 2009 because he’s so successful at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.

Among his favorite pitches are Church Street in Burlington, Vt., which requires a permit, and Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach, Fla., which doles out time slots for buskers.

Faneuil Hall, a privately managed historic market that’s a huge tourist draw, requires buskers to audition. Faneuil Hall also lets McCoy take up a 60-square-foot area, and it doesn’t disperse crowds of 100 or 200 people.

One mistake that some cities make is thinking the presence of buskers will drum up foot traffic, McCoy said. The people have to be there first, he said, and he generally doesn’t start performing until he can count 25 passersby in one minute.

“The reason people work in Boston [is], there’s so many people,” McCoy said. “Even if it’s miserable out, there’s people walking around.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The Affordable Care Act is not the reason for the slow recovery and lack of high paying jobs for low skill workers. This is a trend that has been going since the early 80's. The recovery is real in the sense that GDP has been growing steadily at a rate of roughly 2.5% since the recession ended in late 2009 (newsflash, the stimulus worked) and the unemployment has been steadily dropping. The reason issue we are facing deals with a skills gap (not enough workers with the right credentials / experience) and wage stagnation due to corporate America being focused solely on maximizing profits for shareholders and not caring about the American middle class. Why should they? Multi-billion dollar mutlinational companies keep offshoring their profits in order to avoid paying taxes (which makes our deficit worse) they convince Americans to fight amongst themselves. If you want to create jobs and reduce the deficit, raise the minimum wage and change corporate tax laws. Of course, if you want to continue to belive that tax cuts for wealthy create jobs (which they don't) and allow corporations and the wealthy to continue to make you cover more and more of the costs of maintaining infrastructure, funding the military and other government services, then keep voting Republican. Hopefully someday you wake up and realize what's been going on since Reagan took office.

  2. Helloooooo, my name is Kate. I am so joyous to share this wonderful testimony about what Dr. Osoijiakhena, a great spell caster, did for me and my family. I wedded a year and 6 months ago, we were very happy during this whole period, i really love my husband so so much. I started noticing changes when he started coming home late at night, he stop paying attention to me, i later found out that he was having an affair with another lady, i dont know what she did to get to him but she really got a hold on him. He started spending weekends with her, and threaten for divorce. I was so heart broken and devastated, i spent many night thinking on how to get my husband back. A friend took it upon herself to to introduce me to one Dr. Osoijiakhena, a great spell caster, who once helped her with a spell that reunited her family and helped her husband secure a very prolific job. Though i had my doubts and never believed, but i decided to give it a try because i was helpless. I contacted Dr. Osoijiakhena, the Spell caster, to help me reunite my family by bringing back my husband from that other woman and break whatever hold she had on him. He only just told me that it's a minor issue, once i provide and do everything he will ask me to do, then i will have my family back again. I did everything he required. And he did it!!!!! My husband returned back to me and pleaded for forgiveness, and i also secured a well paid job in a big company, just as the great spell caster, Dr. Osoijiakhena said. I am so so happy to share my testimony on this wall. I am using this medium to tell every one that has same or similar problem to try the great Dr. Osoijiakhena through his mail: drosoijiakhenaspell@gmail.com......he is so real!!!!! He can also help you with: (1) IF YOU WANT YOUR EX GIRL/BOYFRIEND TO RETURN BACK TO YOU (2) IF YOU WANT YOUR HUSBAND/WIFE BACK (3) IF YOU WANT TO BE PROMOTED IN YOUR OFFICE (4) IF YOU WANT YOUR MAN OR WOMAN TO LOVE YOU (5) IF YOU WANT A CHILD (BARREN) (6) IF YOU WANT TO BE RICH/WEALTHY (7) IF YOU WANT YOUR HUSBAND/WIFE TO BE YOURS FOREVER (8) IF YOU'VE BEEN SCAMMED AND WANT YOUR MONEY BACK (9) IF YOU ARE HAVING DELAY IN GETTING MARRIED (10) IF YOU HAVE A COURT CASE AND WANT TO WIN (11) IF YOU'RE A DRUG ADDICT AND YOU WANT TO REALLY STOP (12) IF YOU CANNOT IMPREGNATE A WOMAN (STERILE) (13) ALL TYPES OF DISEASES I advise you to contact the great Dr. Osoijiakhena, the spiritualist for solutions via his email: drosoijiakhenaspell@gmail.com

  3. Sergeant McNally is buried in Cathcart Cemetery on a hill known as McNally%u2019 Hill. The Cemetery is in a natural bushland setting and is very well maintained.The emergency department at Ararat Hospital is known as the John McNally Emergency Department. Cathcart is approx. 4.6 km from Ararat and is approx. 345 m above sea level.

  4. My spring chicken of a Mom is turning 75 years young. She is a big fan of Frankie and I think she would get a big kick out of the film. I wanted to take her to the Broadway play but am priced out. Thanks for your time and consideration. Oh yea, Wildwood! Joie

  5. I thought this company would go bankrupt in 2013/2014. I predicted that four years ago. I was wrong. It will take another couple of years, but they will get there.

ADVERTISEMENT