Page 22                                             Spring 1987


San Diego Streets, Stages and Stars


San Diego, Calif. - some say it's the best because of a reputation for producing top quality performers such as Mark Nizer, Edward Jackman and Jon Held. Some say it's the worst because of poor street performing conditions, limited opportunity and an overabundance of performers. What is San Diego really like, and who are the top variety per­formers who work there?


"It's a war zone," says San Diego veteran Ben Decker regarding street performing at Balboa Park. "The only two places to street perform are Seaport Village, which is privately owned and is essentially closed to any new performers, and Balboa Park, where people spend the night to get a spot that's mediocre at best. "


Permits are required in Balboa Park, the area where performers have traditionally developed their acts, and are issued daily on a first-come, first-served basis. Once a permit has been obtained for one of the three prime spots, the next step is doing shows for an audience that is conservative both in reaction and donations.


"I've seen great jugglers from other cities who were used to making well over a hundred dollars per show make less then $20 here," says Decker. You can imagine what it is like for the beginners who often make less than $10 for a 20-minute act.


When asked why he continues working the park, street magician Jim Hershey said, "I can make double or triple my average hat somewhere else, but after five years in the park I'm established enough that I don't have to worry about someone taking my .spot. "


Hershey and juggler/rope walker Dan Wiles have become well-known in the San Diego area from their years spent street performing. Dan's highly technical routines are performed with a European style that has been influenced by his experiences traveling with one-ring circuses in Mexico and Europe.   Some highlights of his act include jumping rope while a ball bounces on his head, two ping pong balls with his mouth and five fed to his mouth using his hands, a five-minute routine of solid rope walking, and his amazing finale of riding a unicycle on the slack rope and juggling three torches.


San Diego's other street performing area, Seaport Village, is a tourist shopping area with a Disneyland appearance and a beautiful bayside location. Out-of-town visitors often take a break from browsing through the high-priced specialty shops to watch a large variety of entertainment provided by .the mall. Most acts are paid on a one-time basis and rarely appear at the mall more than two or three times a year.


Two jugglers, however, are regularly featured. David Kell can be seen the first three weekends each month doing a straightforward juggling show that emphasizes technique and educating the audience about the skills involved. David juggles fire, clubs, four basketballs and three through six balls, including a very stable five ball shower (he's working on six between shows!).

Ben Decker, the San Diego box stacker

Ben Decker, the San Diego box stacker

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