Posted 2015/08/17 by jeremy in On The Street

Outside the Fringes

Buskers’ ball takes performance outside – for what it’s worth

Flaming hockey sticks, trapeze, hip hop hilarity, juggling, magic, heckling performers and audience participation – welcome to the “most democratic” form of live theatre performance, as outdoor performance manager Paul Bezaire describes it.

As soon as you walk onto the Fringe grounds, you’re surrounded by entertainment choices, the kind that will literally walk up and grab you. Or roast you a marshmallow with a Bic.


It’s no wonder many people come just to stroll the grounds and take in a few busker shows. While live theatre is the heart of the Fringe, there’s one special difference that sets the outdoor shows apart, explains Bezaire.

“It can be hard at times to follow your own creative path in the theatre industry; these guys get to create their own shows and play by their own rules,” says Bezaire. But that freedom comes with some risk, Bezaire acknowledges. “The audience has the advantage in that they pay what they think the show was worth, after the show is over… if you leave halfway through and don’t pay anything because you didn’t like the show, that’s okay too.”

Although Bezaire has toyed with the idea of busking himself, he says, “If that was my only source of income, I would be terrified.”

Like the indoor shows, the Fringe’s outdoor shows are chosen by lottery and draw from among the best in the world, so performance calibre is traditionally high. “We’re known as one of the top international festivals to play, so we don’t have any difficult attracting top talent,” says Bezaire.

Fully clad in hockey equipment from head to toe (even skates), poking fun at pro hockey and team loyalties, and juggling flaming hockey sticks, Paz’s “Hockey Circus Show” seems perfect for this town. (Oilers fans could probably use a good laugh or two after last season.) But the L.A. native spent 20 years perfecting his craft before finally launching this show, just within the last two years.


“It’s been a learning experience. It wasn’t exactly the road I thought it was going to go but it’s been great,” says Paz, the 20-year circus/theatre veteran, who used to play professional tennis. “It gave me a reason to watch a lot more hockey, so my girlfriend isn’t wild about that, but she gets it.”

“Every single entertainer I know has given me something, there’s a lot of fresh ideas. Territory people haven’t gone to.” Plus, he adds, he’s had some interesting brushes with hockey celebrity along the way – once unwittingly drawing Andrew Ferrence into a routine, and another time getting a phone call from Grant Fuhr (Paz’s childhood hockey hero).

“I just love being at the Fringe,” Paz adds. “It’s like no other place for street performers – we get to see so many of our colleagues, so we’re all just learning from each other.”

Bezaire notes there are several different audience types, “We have those who specifically come for the shows, and we have a fair ground audience. There’s probably some crossover too.”

But in the end, whether you come for the busking or for live theatre or just to soak up the atmosphere isn’t really the question. It’s the atmosphere that brought you here, and it begins before your foot even touches the festival grounds.