Here comes a
couple, one pushing an empty baby-cart, the other holding a baby in their arms.
A robot performer, who has an exaggerated afro and wears sunglasses, rushes to
them and yells with horror, “Sir, you are crazy! You have an invisible baby!”
He stares at that couple as if his eyeballs are coming out, trying to touch
that “invisible” baby. Everyone laughs at his exaggerated expression and
That is Robot Mike
who shows up at around 4 p.m. every day in front of H&M’s gate at 16th Street
Mall. He is a street performer who wears a red and black robot suit, including
gloves and shoes, with different kinds of pipes surrounding his arms. He also
has knee-pads equipped on legs. Robot Mike imitates a robot closely enough, and
there are a lot of people asking for photos with him. Most of people don’t pay
him, and he doesn’t ask for any money. If someone gives a dollar, he’ll put it into
his small waist bag with a smile. Audiences get more than they pay for by
enjoying Mike’s show, especially after their workday. They can relax and forget
those annoyances for a while by watching these street performances.
“Why do you do
this job?” one member of his audience asks.
“I was an actor
years ago, but Hollywood
didn’t want me,” Robot Mike laughs. Why did he become a street performer? Every
street performer may have a long story to answer this question. As for Robot
Mike, he is not validated as an actor and not professional enough for Hollywood.
“Simba, come to Mufasa. One day, you’ll be the king
and all places will belong to you.” This time Robot Mike imitates one character
in “The Lion King.” He shakes hands
with a little girl, using the other hand to point to the ground, with a smile. The
child laughs at his exaggerated performance. Later she gives him some one dollar bills.
“Thank you, my
Simba.” He puts money in his small waist bag.
There still are
many people choosing to ignore Robot Mike’s shows. They walk by hurriedly with
eyebrow knitting in a frown and lip curling. Sometimes Robot Mike follows them
and tries to do some exaggerative actions to amuse them, but they even don’t
look back and give him any chance to do that.
people take comedy performance as an entertainment tool and think it is just a
cheap job. Street performers make little money and gain little respect from
people. However, these performers really care about how their audiences feel as
well as the smiles they bring out in them, not just about the money that might
be thrown their way. They immerse themselves in this great art-atmosphere. Audiences
on 16th Street also relax and enjoy dramatic shows there, but they aren’t even aware
of how much happiness is brought by street performers and they also don’t
realize how important this happiness is.
Half an hour later, a crowd of people of differing
ages are laughing, standing in that blank space again. Colin, a magician, is
presenting a supernatural show, including topsy-turvy bottle and straight
jacket escape. He first began to learn magic from his uncle, a professional
magician, when he was six years old.
Colin begins the “straight
jacket escape” part and jokes that “I learned it from Madonna” by winking to beautiful
women in the crowd. He lets two strong persons help him fasten the jacket with
both arms tied crossed. “Watch closely! Watch closely!” He twists his body and
tries best to raise crossed arms over his head. “This is the hardest part; I’ve
practiced for a lot of years!” Later, Colin’s arms get stuck by trying to round
back behind the head. Then he walks to a woman and gets a high-five to finish
the last step of this show. The
whole show is done. He succeeds. This
show exhausts him.
Now he performs six
shows a day. Doing these street shows is his only job. Lots of people prefer to
go to theater to see a famous show instead of enjoying an almost-free-show
given by street performers. They may think there are no “professional
ingredients” in street performers’ shows and they don’t want to recognize them,
but actually these performers have practiced skills for many years.
After the show is
finished, most of audiences leave without tipping. “If you don’t give me tips,
I won’t judge you!” Colin sits on his suitcase, sighing.
Later, a little
boy comes and talks to him. Colin is almost out of breath, but he actively pleases
him by performing how to let a coin disappear in his palm and then suddenly
appear in his pocket. He really love street shows, because he can give audiences
laughs and connect with them closely.
On this 16th Street in Denver, there are many
street performers devoting themselves to their careers. They need to make a
life first. Then, they can get a wider and bigger stage to excite more people.
At last, they can be approved, appreciated and thanked by people. They keep
moving forward to this dream, closer and closer. Even though they have a long,
hard way to go, they enjoy this process to bring happiness to others. However, audiences take happiness for
almost nothing and for granted. Street performers create a comfortable
atmosphere for people but gain nothing recognized from them.
As darkness sneeks up on 16th Street, some pianists come out
and play colorful pianos. One of them is “Eggplant,” a 19-year-old homeless
girl, whose real name is Lorra. She has sung for six years and played piano for
two. Her singing is like a period of melody, floating in the sky.
There are several
women being attracted by her songs. They stand behind her and listen to her
silently. After she finishes one song, they applaud and tip her several
“Thank you. Have a
good night, ladies,” she continues singing. That is her first tip tonight.
“I surely have a
dream. I want to do this to make more money and excite more people.” Lorra
Everything else on
16th Street is falling asleep, but Lorra is just starting to play.