It's not easy to dumbfound a New Yorker. But drop a juggling tightrope walker into the middle of the financial district, and you can count on plenty of double takes. Next month, the juggler — along with more than 200 other street performers — will participate in Buskers Fare, a free festival held each year in Lower Manhattan to entertain tourists, residents and weary office workers alike.
Started in 1993 by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to celebrate the city's downtown neighborhoods, the Fare (this year, it runs June 10-14) showcases artists and acrobats, magicians and stilt walkers, puppeteers and knife throwers, from as far away as Spain and British Columbia. What's in store? Scenes from last year's Fare are leading comedic indicators. Stressed-out stockbrokers could sympathize with the member of San Francisco's acrobatic comedy troupe Los Payasos Mendigos (The Beggar Clowns): talk about a piercing head-ache. A member of farcical masked puppet group Big Nazo (a corruption of the Italian word for "nose") strikes a pose at the World Trade Center Plaza. And the women of Pink, Inc., an "art-in-motion" group from New York, provide some musical dividends as lip-synching girl group the Fortunettes.
These buskers (British slang for "street performers") follow in a long tradition: for centuries, villages in Europe have hired entertainers to boost business for local retailers. So keep your eyes on the Dow Jones Industrial Average once Buskers Fare '97 has played Wall Street.