Millbank Metro Business of the Month - Millbank Street Performers Collective
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Written by Millbank Daily-Weekly   
Saturday, 19 July 2014 14:40

Millbank Street Performers Collective (MSPC)

MILLBANK – According to Jay Finnian, Head Juggler and board member of the Millbank Street Performers Collective (MSPC), Millbank was once a lawless war zone, where rogue flutists battled sword swallowers for supremacy.

“Busking real estate was a limited resource, and we performers can be really competitive. Sharing our art with the world is a selfless act, but that doesn’t make us selfless people,” Finnian, 44, explains. “There were some pretty heinous injuries, especially among the performers who worked with fire and/or monkeys.”

However, beginning this year, the Millbank City Council and the Millbank Boosters Club has begun to work closely with local street performers in order to provide innovative and engaging entertainment for the public while limiting the amount of bloodshed. The Millbank Street Performers Collective (MSPC) is the result of this collaboration. MSPC is made up of veteran local street performers, who coordinate their performances and administer the new performer licensing system in accordance with civic codes.

The MSPC comes about just in time for Millbank’s premier event, Taste of Millbank, which is scheduled for August 15-24 this year. “We definitely wanted to avoid the mishaps of the past,” explains Emma Bartlett, president of the Millbank Boosters Club. “All that fighting, backbiting and lewd balloon sculptures did not reflect well on the community. These street performers are like savage children, let me tell you, and obviously need a rigid structure to coexist with us normals.”

Beginning this summer, street performers must obtain a street performing license, which requires an application and an audition in front of the MSPC board. Once licensed, performers must abide by seven and a half pages of rules, which govern everything from the volume of the performance to mode of dress to how much space each performer is allowed. Performers must sign up at least 2 weeks in advance for a performance slot, and there is much competition for the best pitches.

“Some pitches, such as right in front of Adolf’s or the Klatch, are really valuable to street performers, because they attract the right kind of audience, happy, interested, with lots of loose change. We want to make sure that the performers at those spots are really representing what the Millbank performance scene is all about,” says local living statue, Hank Hutchley, also known as Rodin’s The Thinker and also Giant Cookie Monster.

Hutchley, 25, does not deny that there is a natural hierarchy among the street performers. “If you do something really artistic, of course you are going to be higher in the hierarchy than a contortionist. Contortionists are just exploiting their own bodily malfunctions for money.”

Local contortionist Ellie Burgato, 24, disagrees heartily. ““My art is about being human, harnessing the energy of the streets and sharing my soul with perfect strangers. Those living statues are just a bunch of inflated macho egos who want to hang out in creepy costumes all day.”

Both Hutchley and Burgato agree on one thing, that clowns are at the very bottom of the heap. “Just about anything can be considered street performance as long as people find it entertaining,” says Hutchley. “No sane person finds clowns entertaining.”

“The clowns and caricaturists always get the pitch outside of the Out of Bounds,” says Burgato. “They always get beat up there.”

Interested in becoming a local street performer? Contact Jay Finnian at the MSPC headquarters (the alley outside Adolf’s Irish Pub) to learn more.

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