Page 16                                              Fall 1986

Southernmost Street Performers

by Nancy R. La Re


From Shakespeare to show biz, in every country in the world, street performers have used nothing but the ground as a stage and the sky as a backdrop. For over a decade, Mallory Square in Key West, Florida, has been known internationally as one of the most picturesque street theatres. Every evening as the vivid hues of the sunset deepen over the harbour, the dock comes alive.


There are many types of acts at Mallory Square - mimes and magicians, tight-rope walkers and tap dancers - but almost all of them incorpor~te juggling. In fact, the Cultural Preservation Society (CPS), an organization formed by the Mallory Square performers and artisans, considers learning the cascade as part of their initiation!


Like many street scenes nationwide, the occupation of Mallory Square by artists and craftspeople beginning in the early 1970s has not been universally welcomed in the community. However, in the past three years, according to Bounce the Clown (Steve Margil), the authorities have left the artists in peace. The CPS has been a strong political voice in maintaining the property for performing. The 200-yard dock is now crowded from end to end with performers, craftspeople and tourists for 90 minutes before sunset each evening, especially in the busy months of December to April.


To celebrate the rebirth of street theatre, CPS has organized the First International Street Performer's Festival-Busker's Fest, Jan. 14-18, 1987. The CPS hopes that a large turnout from all over the world will create a Mardi Gras-type atmosphere that will rival Key West's other highly successful festivals - Fantasy Fest in October and Hemmingway Days in July.

Most of the Mallory Square regulars will participate, including festival organizer Will Soto, a CPS board member and regular at the pier almost since its inception. Soto is a big crowd pleaser on the square as he walks a wire suspended over the harbour and juggles sabers and torches. Strong tropical breezes occasionally make the stunt very tricky.

Will Soto entertains a sunset crowd at Mallory Square

Will Soto entertains a sunset crowd at Mallory Square

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