Splenda Lawsuit

Being a performer is like being a contractor in any other profession. You sign a contract, you go to the site, you do your job. However, as any plumber, landscaper, computer programmer or other professions will tell you, jobs are like trail mix. How you ask? It’s generally bag of flakes, fruits, candy and mixed nuts-often heavy on the flakes and nuts.

With items like town fairs, corporate parties, and renaissance faires –they are concerned with liability, they want to cover their assets and they want it in writing. Explaining these things to your backyard party planner  in a way that doesn’t get strange quickly can be a task. We have had private parties that were lots of fun (just did one that was a repeat performance) weddings that were a blast, and kids birthday parties that made us smile a lot.

But I suspect you aren’t you aren’t reading along for the “Everything was butterflies and kittens and we received a great tip” stories.  (As an aside, never take a job that is run by a “committee” unless you have a hard contract)

Two parties where it all went kind of sideways.
The goth club Halloween party

It’s never a good sign when carnies have turned down a job and then it is offered to you. Another non-written rule that came from this this is that anyone who hires you with less than three weeks to Halloween is probably not someone for whom you’d like to work. But one half of us were on our way to the Mobile faire and the other half stayed behind to do a scenarios at midnight. The troupe was the second act on the docket, the first being an NC-17  uhm “scene” with a lot of props and not much clothing. Our folks are pretty easy going and tried to be polite in a small dressing area but it was definitely distracting. Also distracting? The club had low ceilings and no one knew how to shut off the strobe lights. But the show had to go on, so our folks-in makeup, prosthetics and dodging table, patrons and working in a strobe did their thing. They tried a storyline and the patrons didn’t seem to get it.
*A scripted disarm and when one patron tried to grab the sword while smirking
“Nice fighting D’Artanian” our member dragged the patron AND the sword across a table to continue the fight.
* No one seemed to sense how much danger they posed/could have received in a cramped space with swords and limited light
* at the end of it someone yelled “You Suck!”

But it did end, our folks went backstage and the DJ/guy in charge gushed about how great it was and asked if our folks wanted to stay and do more (with no additional pay) When told what a lone member of the crowd had critiqued he said.
“That’s great, you actually got a reaction out of them!”



The Bridal shower.

This party is why we have a “no surprise party” clause in party contracts. It started out innocently enough when the Mother of the bride wanted us to stage a sort of ‘hero saves princess’  scenario for the bride and groom-with the couple’s full permission. Fenix typed up a script, it had an equally opportunity scenario for the groom and all the sword fighting would be done within our group. In fact, we had some fairly funny adult humor built into the fights and our players did such a good job that those who couldn’t do the job were sorry about it. We were double-booked for the day  and our most easy-going, funny players were doing the coed bridal shower while the rest of us did a festival.  After all, expectations were set and it was a happy occasion!

We had a signed contract, the Mom holding the party had made sure our folks would be fed, could stay for the party and she loved the skits. It was all good.
(Cue unsettling music)
So our “bad guy” (who is a giant marshmallow and a sweetheart)  “stole” the bride to another part of the party and our “crazed substitute” bride  (for you movie fans think either ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ or ‘Black Swan’)  the guest have a rollicking good time until it’s time for the rescue. Sadly, at this point it’s clear that 1) the groom cannot tell reality from fantasy 2) the Mother of the bride has set this up to show her daughter that her beloved is a possessive jerk with ISSUES  3) we have danced into this public mess and are now part of the drama playing out publicly.

Our members had their hands full keeping the groom from grabbing a sword and doing what he wanted. And then, when the ‘bad guy’ was brought to justice by our players, the groom had to be manhandled off our member and reminded that we are just actors paid to be here and he needed to cool his cajones.  Only an application of a strong arm seemed to get through. Needless to say, no one seemed to find this part humorous.

And nobody wanted to stay for dessert (imagine)…..and we received a better tip, but NOT WORTH IT.

So can you learn from our mistakes? Absolutely, contracts, listening to your gut and having other options are great. However, if you were starting out like we were you really can’t afford to turn down too many jobs. We’ve had some great private parties (and those are a few blogs forward) that were very lucrative. But being in a unfamiliar situation where you are at the mercy of an employer’s circumstances can turn quickly so be sure that you have good team mates, that you have it in writing, and have an escape plan!




turtle-in-shellI know that you really enjoy watching (insert “Being There” joke)  the acts at the faire but yes, you as a shy person or as an introvert (a person who needs alone time to recharge) or even a shy extrovert (A person who needs a social script but once that’s set there is no stopping you)  or and outgoing introvertmany of the people you see onstage are *just like you* the majority really are extroverts (that’s why they were drawn to this. )But like any slice of life, it’s not generally made up of just one type of person. With the success of books like “Quiet” it’s important to note that it’s not just the arm-flinging hams that have something to contribute to entertainment. And not just behind the scenes.

What an introvert does:
Because going into a situation is like a social obstacle course, most introverts are actually pretty good at reading people and they can especially do a low-key approach to personal interactions. Although a lot of folks are very good at being the center of attention, sometimes they can be overwhelming.  The introvert knows to bait the trap with an interesting hook, look or object that invites participation. This also lets the invited person set the pace of how much or little this scene will play out interactively. Although the extrovert gives permission to be  loud, the introvert knows how to target the more reticent audience member.

We listen to everything. And although the extrovert is funny, the introvert has been tweaking the joke for weeks and observing crowd reactions. The introvert saw the lady in row three wincing and the Bubba in row five cracking his knuckles. We are the ones who pull aside a main player and say.
“Dude, you need to stop doing ‘x’ it’s really getting to people.”
Sometimes that is the reaction you want, most times, even if it played well in Peoria, maybe not so much in Nantucket. (And that limerick is RIGHT OUT)

We make excellent “straight men” and “fall guys” because we don’t need the spotlight (usually)  We are happy to be the brunt of a joke or do non-speaking parts. We had an excellent introvert that told us
“Look I can never go on stage again, it was too much.” And we were all sad to hear it because he stole the show with gestures and mugging.  I think our hams were somewhat relieved. My super-secret power is being able to hit the dirt and sound like a sack of wet mice. And to “take a kick.” Sadly, we can’t do that any more because it’s too convincing. When you have to hold back a crowd after a stage fight, that fourth wall crashes in an unpleasant way. Now our fights have to be “less graphic.” Thanks pseudo-chivalry inspired by faires!

Often we are the more eloquent speakers-not because we are in any way better than an extrovert, but because we show our distain in a different way. Most extroverts are firecrackers-BOOM! Then it’s all over and they feel better. Sadly, a lot of damage can be done in very few seconds. Introverts (and well-trained extroverts) are accustomed to taking that extra few seconds to speak. Delaying the exact words “YOU ARE A DUMBASS”  and saying something a little less pointed can save jobs, lives and working. We  are the folks who are genuinely happy to have the show over. We don’t mind jobs like: watch my stuff, stay here and act as a point person, or be the unexpected quiet person that pops up unexpectedly at the sword rack when grabby hands think no one is around.  And generally we don’t have to tell everyone else what a rough day it was, because we assume everyone involved in it already knows.

So although we don’t get the loud accolades, knowing that it all went smoothly, that we had our moment onstage and people really enjoyed themselves, this is how we get our moments at the renfaire. And how we help the “hams” get theirs.


Guest blog by Fenix

There was a time about a dozen years ago where I thought we had killed an audience member.  The bad news is, he did die.  The good news, for us anyhow, was we didn’t kill him.

We had been hired to perform and entertain at the annual business meeting of an agricultural group.  Back in the early 2000’s we were very popular with that group and did a lot of shows for them.

We were doing sword fight demonstrations and there were about 20 or so people watching the show.

We had been specifically introduced to Howard.  He was their oldest member who was in his late 80’s and mostly blind.  He was very excited to have sword fighting done in their meeting hall and had his wheel chair pushed right up to the edge of our safety area.

My wife and I were doing our performance fight.  We’ve been doing it for years and can go fairly quick with it. (Still true now…)  There is one part where there is a series of high and low blows as we move around some.

The following all happened in a matter of a second or two.  But, it seemed much longer at the time.

As we went through it, I struck high and my wife blocked.  I struck low  and my wife blocked.  I struck high and my wife’s sword wasn’t there.  Her hand and the hilt were, but the blade was no longer attached to the hilt.

I had no problem stopping before hitting her, but looked to see where her blade was.

I saw it off to my right, slowly (to me) flipping end over end through the air, right towards Howard to the side of our area.

The rotating of the blade as it flew through the air worked out wonderfully.  The point dipped down in front of Howard and the body of the blade rotated over his head.

It did not touch him as it passed over and slammed into the wall behind him with a loud thud.

Time resumed its normal flow at that point.

All of the people in the room realized what had happened and EVERYONE rushed over to Howard.

“Howard, did it hit you?!?!?” people shouted.

“Did what hit me?!?!?” he shouted back.

“Are you OK?!?!?”

“What’s going on!?!?  I know something happened, but not what!”

The situation was explained to him and he calmed down.

We resumed our show, maybe going a bit less fast.

To our surprise they hired us again the next year.

When we showed up the woman who organized the event came up to me.

“You have insurance, right?” she asked.

“Yes.  I can show you the information if you need.”

“Because last year one of your swords broke.”

“I remember it quite well.”

“And, you almost hit Howard.”

“Yes, I know.”

“And, he died.”

Welcome back to the world of slow motion.

My first thought was “What will I tell the insurance company?”

Then, I replayed the events of the year before.  I could still see the blade spinning through the air towards Howard in my mind.  I could still remember him sitting there at ease because  he didn’t know it was coming.

I knew it didn’t hit him.  I knew he had been OK after it passed over him.  I knew he had sat there for the rest of the show and asked questions afterwards.  I knew we had let him hold a sword and see how it felt because he couldn’t see them.

I knew he had been OK.

“Howard died?” I asked as time once more resumed its normal flow.

“Oh yes, two weeks ago.  He was so looking forward to being at another one of your shows too.”

“That’s so sad,” I said to her.  Inside I was saying “IT WASN’T US THAT KILLED HIM!  YAYYYYYYYY!”

After the show the organizer came up to my wife and told her what a sensitive man I was.

“When I told him of Howard’s death, I could see it really moved him.”

“Oh yes, it did,” my wife honestly replied.
After 308 shows in 13 years, that is the closest we’ve come to hurting an audience member.  May that always be true!


As I mentioned in the last blog entry, for reasons not clear to me, people will go to the sword fighters before the EMTs. (Yes, I put my foot down and will *escort* certain people) And it’s true we do get injured but not for the reasons you think we do.

I’ve had performers be taken out of the roster by cardboard boxes(two in fact, one with blood poisoning, one with a concussion) but as that wasn’t directly related to a performance, I’m going to try to stick to the ones that happened at/because of a show.

Twisted Ankle; this one has happened so many ways that I’ve stopped counting
1) Stepping out of a van to unpack for a show
2) Getting caught in a gopher hole in a field
3) Running to a performance (We have an unspoken rule that goes under “be professional” that covers this. So when people run, they get glares)

Deep cuts from
1) the crosspiece (not the blade) that required a stitch
2) fence posts
3) Using a pocket knife while cutting rope (we now use either the whole rope or bungees.)

1) baking cookies for crew,  burned hands,  so had to call out of a show
2) This one gets its own paragraph.

At a show where we were exclusively doing fire, our most popular fire eater walked up and said
“Ithnant do the thow Ibumm ma mouf”
Yeah, I didn’t understand either so with some pantomime and charades I figured out that she had burned her mouth and couldn’t do the show. It stumped me-I hadn’t seen her practicing and she had a cast iron mouth with no gag reflex. I had to ask how she’d burned her mouth. How, you ask? On a perogi. Not a torch with white gas, a perogi. And it had been hot enough to damage her lips and mouth  so she couldn’t do the show. (At least not that night)

And then there are head injuries
When using swords, we are *very* careful about these because first of all your brain is in there! And then head injuries bleed like Niagara Falls.
1) Doing a recovery roll into a truck ramp (Ta-Da!)
2) Stepping into a tree
3) Hitting self with own hilt

Anyone who tells you they have never had a ridiculous injury must be wearing a bubble-wrap suit. I’m not saying that if you have a red marker on your personal insurance as “hazard” that is a good thing, I’m just saying every show that you do takes you another percentage to doing the unexpected. And all the safety training in the world will not survive contact with Murphy’s Law. It will only help your percentages. And this is a great way to bond with other performers and to help people sort of unthaw around you if they are intimidated. My partner, always the silver lining guy, will grin and say
“Sympathy tips!”

And if you enjoyed the image above-eelslap.com


I am NOT a multitasker, I am a person who focuses and so when I have to switch gears, well it’s ugly. So I will try to put into words the brain-states I have that do not cross over well.

The first one is “Boss Brain.” That means the person who makes lists, assigns tasks, double-checks everything and worries about every little thing. This bashes heads with people who are all “go with the flow” and responsible only for themselves. Boss brain will sit on my head just before falling asleep and asks
“Oh hey, are you sure you bought the brand of paraffin the fire breather *really* wanted?”
When it is, of course already packed in the car. Boss brain will read over old blog entries for a past show so that I’ll remember all the hazards/problems we had at the last show. Boss brain has to make schedules ten weeks in advance so that when we have the bigger shows we can make sure that we have wiggle room for rehearsals in case of weather/flood/dogs and cats living together, what have you. And boss brain hates props, hates them so much. And knows that if they aren’t in rehearsal by week three then they aren’t happening, no matter what the performers say. Boss brain is an asshole and boss brain has to pack the car so it doesn’t explode when it discovers that ‘X’ was not packed. Boss brain is not agile.

Performer brain, I’ve had to cultivate this brain-it doesn’t come naturally to me . Performer brain has to listen to all the muscles, take in in all sights, senses and people. Performer brain must be intention poured out into the universe.  Which means in many ways, to boss brain it is stupid and feely.  I tell new spotters and booth babes
“Your job is to be the performer’s brain, because as of now, they don’t have one.”
And that is not a joke.  I ask support folks to take aside our talent and, just like kindergarten, tell them where everything goes and confirm everything. Why? Because I could not count the number of times a performer has arrived a show and been surprised to find-they did not have something as simple as a sword to do a show because they were so focused on getting psyched up, into character and working the audience-that they forgot they needed a backsword for their show. I’ve done, it, that’s how I know. And although I’d like to think it will never happen again…well that’s why I rely on our support people. It’s also why boss brain makes mini laminated fight lists with safety pins and we put them on our fighters.
Fire Brain-the rest of the troupe has learned not to have idle conversation with me when this brain is tasking. Of all my brains this one needs to internalize, visualize, walk the perimeter and will not notice anything that does not pertain to the fire show. Naked people could be dancing and swinging flags but I won’t care or notice because they are 1) not my people 2) on fire.  This one is tricky because I definitely hate multi-tasking here but often end up doing just that.  But because I am also the person who writes up the performance list, I can write it to my advantage. Hey, I get to have SOME perks. I can’t say much about this brain because it is super-primal mixed with analytics with no in-between. The troupe members laugh when they ask what my favorite part of the  fire show is and I answer “when it is over.”   It’s not unheard-of for me to get post-adrenaline shakes and need to have a beer after it.  Some people find that fun and exciting, I just find it exhausting.

Stage and props brain-this is definitely the weakest of my brains. It is one of the positions that makes me the crankiest people on the planet because it forces me to interface with other people and their brains and we are generally not even on the same planet, never mind the same page.  I honestly could not count the number of times that I have set up props for people and then discovered they were missing moved or played with.  And often when I confront someone with WHY they moved the prop, the answer is usually
“I don’t know.” (see performer brain) So much as people want me to be a functioning stage manager, I don’t have the temperament for it. As my Partner says
“If this was left (exclusively) up to you, everyone would be dead or fired.”
 I’m bad at props brain don’t make me do it.

Common Sense Brain-this brain rarely is showcased in performance. To be specific, a lot is going on for people who run, perform and support faires and if we were all the arbiters of common sense we be doing accounting over webcams and have our groceries delivered. That is not the person that other people go to see  and with whom they interact. I’ve tried to figure out why this brain type is often the white rhino of the festival savannah and I have a few theories. First, if you are doing something that is traditionally considered “sketchy” by your culture (Renaissance actors, not well-loved) Chances are you are metaphorically sticking your head through a sunroof, driving with your feet and giving the double finger to your own society. Secondly, if we had common sense, we’d be stripped down to the basics and not suffering in a costume. You might make fun of the girl in the booty shorts but she’s not wearing skirts and bodice in summer heat,score one for modern society. Then there has to be a certain suspicion of belief, that yes, in the middle of our 21st century is a European Village with nobility and townsfolk, who were never touched by the various American Wars and 200 years is a long time for a building to be standing. The people of the faire have to chuck all that aside and be IN the magic for it to happen. Let’s face it, once you’ve cast aside most of what informs your view and personality(context)-what’s a little risk-taking? Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s getting sued.  But if you ask me if I had to run for an immediate  fix/help to an issue, I’d be bee-lining to the artfully placed Modern Cop or EMT. Just my opinion. For reasons not clear to me, many run to the sword fighters for a band-aid, and that’s not the faire staff, that’s the visitors so I have no overall explanation and stock a lot of first aid supplies.

What I’m trying to say here is that people at the faire wear a lot of hats(brains.)Some are more skewed than others but ALL of them have uses. No one way of seeing things is the “right” way of it-too much common sense would never get a faire started. To much financial acumen would shut out the folks at the art end of the spectrum and too much reality would not allow the visitors a special place to escape. The trick to to get people to pool that brain trust and use it to make magic-which to date, there is no one recipe or person to make that happen at the festival.

leaderThis weekend is Labor Day and my inner bear would like nothing better than to shut the doors, pull up the sheets and occasionally eat or watch movies. But that is not productive and won’t forward my skill level and there are people counting on me in Phoenix Swords. I’m sure the world would keep chugging along without fire performers and sword demonstrators but I think it would be a sad place.

So I get out of bed, ignore my car that smells like a cookout(fire tools after a burn), try not to think about my lost mileage to bags of swords and sundries and get my lazy butt to practice.

Biggest badass in your living room.   I laugh because there is nothing like being lectured by someone who never actually leaves the house to do physical activities. Your paladin may have cleaved his way through every expansion of World of Warcraft but chances are you couldn’t cut your way out of a plastic bag.  I’m not saying the activities are exclusive, but you do have expand your horizons and speak from your own life. Not who you know, not what you read on the internet, not what “everybody knows.” I will have far more respect for a five-year-old who will do her katas for me to show off, than a 50-year-old who hasn’t so much as picked up a steak knife.  That illusion is shattered when someone picks up one of my lightest blades and tires within seconds. Let me be clear, if you are still game to pick it up and keep going-kudos, it’s not a strength contest. But if you are “Master sword artist” and your first response is to almost put your own eye out-well, let’s just say I’m dubious about your expertise.

Learning never stops. Let me preface this with the sentence,” I loathe name droppers”  But I like to think in this instance it’s important to have context. Fenix took a class with John Waller, who at the time was in his 60s, and he was able to do leaps and rolls.   That is a life to which to aspire and I hope that even when I am using a walker, that I’m still willing to pick up a blade. It’s hard to remember when you are popping Advil or using icy-hot on your muscles that it’s worth doing, but then I look at people my own age who have trouble with stairs, I’m okay with it. Every time I get up, do my drills, work with others and keep reading and trying, it’s one step closer to being that person I admire.

The other side of that is that people who are new to things have a fresh perspective and I like learning things from them as well. At one time we were the new people and we had ideas and things to say. And there is nothing like someone asking a question you can’t answer (Like ‘why do you do it this way?’) that shakes out those well-worn habits and shines light on all the holes in it.

Don’t look like Crap. I get what I call “klutz days” that’s the day when from start to finish you are starring as a cartoon character dropping things on your own toes, finding every gopher hole and twisting your ankle stepping off a curb.  You have ‘brain farts’ and can’t remember your fights and you have to keep asking when your performances are because you can’t hold a thought in your head.   I am one of the few folks in the troupe who has to practice fights before *every* performance because I have a very tiny brain that can only hold so much. In fact, I have two fights that involve sword and buckler that I have to have secret signals from my partner to remember which one I am doing.    But with practice I can recover faster, or find a way to make it funny and just roll with the fact that I can’t maneuver my own feet that day. That bad side of this is when my sword partner thinks it’s hysterically funny and then it’s all over.  Practice makes a bad day into one where you connect with your audience and still give good show.

I’m awesome! (not) Folks who tend not to stay with the troupe long are the ones who have to tell us how amazing they are all the time, because it sure doesn’t show in their work ethic.  I know folks who have done fights together for *years*  who came back after a bit and found that no, they didn’t remember ALL of their fights. I’m one of the members who keeps a written copy of my fights and others because you never know when you may have to pull one out of cobwebs  and do it for a show.  I think it’s great that people can hold all their fights in their heads, but from experience, it means they don’t have very many to begin with. Be extra awesome and practice, because nobody I know looks good trying to do it cold, me especially.
Last but not least, we are all rowing together.  People who leave fight partners dangling tend to not keep fight partners long. People who won’t learn to be spotters don’t get to come to fire shows. When we have a small show with a limited budget, we’re going to choose the person who knows four fights, can do fire and can support other members. I’m not proud of this but we had a show with one last slot to be filled and two troupe members had to go head-to-head to explain to our leader which of them was the most useful. One extra body could cost us 500+ dollars so that body had better be able to bring it. And we have replaced people who don’t come to enough practices-because that is a safety risk.

But this blog is about why I find it important to go to practice. Well, when you help run the thing, it’s not exactly the best leadership practice to sluice off the work to the people you expect to follow you. I can be a terrible micro-manager and whenever I’ve missed a practice, even for completely legitimate reasons, I feel like 1) I’ve missed something important 2) Some things may not get done that I find key.   My partner and I have different priority lists, it can cause clashes but most of the time it’s a good mash-up.  And there are worse excuses for  getting in the car and spending three hours in the sun playing with swords and fire.  So although I have my grousing weekends, as a friend says, half the battle is showing up and being there.

safety Stop! In the name of love safety!

Every time I get a chance I say big “Thank You” s to the folks who support a fire show.   Spotters are the people at fire performances  who handle putting stuff out and keeping people safe. They have many duties and it’s a tough job.

One group once told me that having spotters obvious to an audience was a sign of unprofessionalism and I felt compelled to disagree.  It’s is absolutely dangerous and if I’m on fire, the closer my personal putter-outer is, the happier I am. Here’s an example of how it can go wrong-when the host of a kid’s program sets himself ablaze.

In the photo above is there a spotter in the pic for a Phoenix Swords show?  Yes, and we can all live with it.

For the first few years of the troupe, I was one of the primary spotters. Mistakes are part of the territory but prime spotters will be good risk-assessment people. I’d rather be doing a ‘derp’ moment for accidentally grabbing a hot prop with fingerless gloves than ever put a performer at risk. (Not a mistake I made twice) Here are some things spotters need to know.

Communicate ALWAYS.   One of the items we can whip up on the back of a napkin if need be is everyone’s job on the stage. We have a stage chart that is standard  for EVERY JOB with places for the primary safety person, performers waiting to go on, fuel and how to move onstage.  On the show-by show chart we break jobs down by person, tool, who is fueling, who is a spotter and who is in charge of music (excel spreadsheets are great for this) Before we go on, everyone knows what is what and we ask and we do dry runs. We even have a default spot for live musicians when we get them-out of the way!  We have protocols for “you’re on fire stop spinning!” and a number of other emergencies but sometimes people panic and we have protocols in place for that as well. Fire has particular issues that swords never do, not the least of which is night blindness and being physically unable to hear anything over roaring flames. It’s important to drill, drill, drill.

Be ready to take a faceful and stand your ground-don’t take it personally. I’ve had to fight with fire performers and  although they are ultimately responsible for their own safety in performance, I will do my bulldog impression if it means a safer show, regardless of how cool something might be alight. I’ve had performers bark at me because their favorite torch wasn’t in place when it was in their right hand. I’ve had people snap at me when I moved a hot tool so it didn’t start the grass on fire and I’ve gone to the mat about certain fuels.  I’m not here to be a servant, I’m here to be a safety and if you want to be a pain about it-that’s your prerogative.  I’ll be a pain in the ass right back, everyone’s security is riding on it.

You can’t be all things. My job is to support performers. Sometimes that’s hug performers, feed performers, wet down performers, massage performers, get their favorite tools and be a sounding board. But sometimes I get busy and my priority list may not be your priority list.  I have a particular stare I’ve been known to give when someone complains about the fuel I’ve purchased on short notice  or that their favorite fuel-dispensing  method has been changed. I try my best to wear a lot of hats in a short time if we have a small number of performers. And this gets a little more crazy if I have to go on stage as well (see excel spreadsheet where I’ve written your name!)  and I’m fueling my own tools.   Admittedly, we spoil some of our performers, but they give good show and that’s what we are here to do. But still not your mommy. Whine too much-be the subject of some good-natured ribbing from your fellows.


I include this photo just because it is one of my favorites of three excellent human beings who should avert their eyes about the next paragraph.

Fire breathers are a special case.   Fire breathers are often the center of attention in a room, it’s their personalities-they take fuel and light it on fire while blowing it out of a face hole. That they are willing to do that tells you about them in a nutshell.  Their levels of personal safety and that of others are in different galaxies and they are the ones I butt heads with most often.  When we do fire shows and do fire-breathing-each breather gets a personal, specially trained  safety plus anyone else who is free. We don’t combine fire-breathing with any other moving activity (note we’ve been known to have stationary fire carefully arrayed around them for a big finale) And I actually have  a special “fire-breather kit” that I put together for shows because they often arrive, ready to do their thing, without equipment or fuel. They say it’s because they know I’ll have it,  but there have been times I’ve had to do some last-minute improvisation because I hadn’t expected them to do the trick. Do I want to try it myself someday? I do.  I practice aspiration and expelling but just can’t take that last step! But if you are asking which of the fire performers I am giving the special eye? It’s these guys in the picture above..


Another example of “spot the spotter” blocking wind so a performer may fire-eat in high winds.

Least glamorous job ever but one of the most important.  Some folks might argue that one has to be a good fire performer to be a good spotter. I disagree. They have to aware of how fire works,  good safety and prompt responses. If anything, I’ve found that performers are a little more tolerant of risky behaviors and less focused. It’s a question of interest and thought process. A performer is watching the act, a spotter is watching bodies and fire. Good spotters understand night blindness,  how to spot restive audience members and are not interested in making nice.  I’ve rebuked spotters for being too full of themselves during a show, they are not the feature. But they are the ones who will carefully walk behind a performer who has left wisps of grass burning, putting it out without drawing attention to themselves.   Or reach around a joking performer and put out a clothing patch. And they do it for no glory, no tips and little recognition except for grateful performers. When you clap, be sure to think of them :)


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