Busker HoF 96 – Allison Williams Interview

This Episode proudly sponsored by:

This episode is proudly sponsored by Dolphin Creative – a company who is proud to support street theatre and all of the incredible characters who make up this world. Where ever you perform: Dolphin Creative salutes you! For more information please visit DolphinCreative.org – Huge thanks to Stuart and his team for sponsoring this episode and two more to come!

Episode Notes: 

Comments: There’s a theory floating around that suggests that it takes about 7 years to get really good at something. Getting good at anything takes drive and determination of course, but it goes back to the idea that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to become proficient at a skillset or profession that you’re passionate about. Street performers often seem to accelerate this timeline a bit because the people who are drawn to this style of performing are often the type who have greater drive and greater passion for achieving the goals that they’re after, not to mention the fact that buskers aren’t usually the type of people who wait around for opportunity to knock, but are rather the type who proactively create the opportunities that they’re after.

Allison Williams is an incredible example of someone whose drive to achieve and succeed has been virtually unstoppable. She’s been successful in the world of education, successful in the performance arenas of circus, renaissance festival and street theatre, successful as a producer/facilitator, successful as a writer. Her laser focus allows her to set goals, achieve them and then move on to whatever’s next, all the while serving her larger ‘life mission’ as though each venue, each discipline is simply a chapter in a much larger story.

After four years of failed attempts, David Aiken finally got the chance to sit down and discuss the various periods of Allison’s varied career as someone whose driving life mission as a performer and organizer has been to facilitate the experience of joy and enlightenment. It goes without saying that within each phase of her journey, Allison has has some pretty incredible adventures and influenced a generation of performers. 

Bonus Materials from Allison Williams varied career with commentary from Allison herself –

Allison’s first recorded circus performance, age 1. Ringling Brothers started their tours in St. Petersburg then, and my grandmother always took me for my birthday. Great timing!

As a stunt, the Ottawa Citizen took the Roughriders’ new quarterback, Ken Hobart, to have his fortune told at the CNE. Since the guy who owned the fortune-telling booth only did one spiel, repeated verbatim to each client, it fell to me. I told Ken I’d grown up in Tampa Bay, and if I could believe in the Buccaneers—at that time the losingest team in the NFL—I could believe in him.

Tongue transfer with an audience member at the Ontario Renaissance Festival. They had terrific owners and management, who really supported artistic growth and trying new things. Also a no-hat show, which let us introduce quite a few new acts. First place I did whip-cracking in a show.

The hardest part is not breathing while the dude is up there. Ohio Renaissance Festival—my then-partner Todd Espeland and I had moved into teaching full time, and were commuting six hours Friday afternoons and Sunday nights, to be back for class Monday morning. It was a tough 8 weeks, two years in a row.

As Commedia Zuppa, Todd Espeland and I taught mask and movement theatre and directed shows in universities and schools around the USA. He studied at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre, and now serves as Artistic Director of the Fort Wayne Youth Theatre.

Having a custom plate helps avoid parking issues—they always know we’re with the festival.

Aerial Angel Marina Petrano (now with Cirqa Brava) taking a break on the drive to…somewhere. We did a lot of driving. So. Much. Driving. 

Aerial Angel M.A. Wyatt (now Flexy Lexy) at the Ottawa Busker Festival, the year we were voted Audience Choice. I was also in a writing competition that year, and was sitting in Sparks Street coffee shops between shows, pounding out drafts while watching the pitch outside to see when we were up.

Photo by: Fehmi Comert – Aerial Angel Zay Weaver at Covent Garden. It was deeply scary to perform in such a storied venue, and Sparky Mark and the other street performers were incredibly welcoming and kind. It’s a place you can really feel your lineage as a performer. 

Working with Circus Island’s then-fledgling aerial program, M. A. Wyatt and I found time to tour Iceland’s Golden Circle. This is at Gullfoss, and behind the camera-holder are a busload of perplexed Chinese tourists.

Aerial Angels M.A. Wyatt and Madi Ward at a wedding in the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary. Madi is a solo trapeze artist in Austin, Texas.

Photo by: Dan Lines – An 8-person tongue-to-tongue transfer in Stand Up 8. L-R, trampolinist/Aerial Angel Christianne Sainz, trampolinist Max Wesley Hatfield (of Cirque Mechanics), M.A. Wyatt, clown Sam Brown (of Midnight Circus), Zay Weaver, rigging designer/whip artist Brett Copes, Aerial Angel Kimberly Craig (now with The Street Circus), me. The best gang of circus people I’d ever want to lick. 

Photo by: Dan Lines – Whip-cracking act, with Brett Copes, in Stand Up 8.

Photo by: Alex Kahler – Aerial Angel Sora Sol and her trapeze partner Disa Carneol at the Chrysler Family Day event. Rigging by Brett Copes. Sora now leads CirqOvation. This was the first gig where I knew I wasn’t going to perform, and the most people and highest budget I had ever assembled at that time. Zay Weaver had a binder with pictures of all the Board of Directors so we could greet them by name. 

Chrysler Family Day, we were a layer down from the money, so we made a new brand name for the day, Circus Angel. It helped so much to have seasoned street performers – Russell Qwirk, The Checkerboard Guy, James Jordan and Trulee Odd carpooled down from Canada, Renaissance Festival veterans Moonie, David Ballard, and Jim Greene, my former students including the very talented ringmaster James Warfield, Michigan circus performers and people from New England Center for Circus Arts and Cirque du Soleil. All my worlds intersecting beautifully.

Photo by: David Aiken – I’m a little hands-on at the Dundas Buskerfest. We do a real site walk and I point out merchants to be aware of encroaching on, potential sound and light issues, and the good coffee. I really enjoy making sure everyone has what they need to do their best show. My least favorite part is there’s always one audience member who complains about a woman making a sex joke…even though male performers make the exact same joke and I don’t get an email. My favorite part is how generous the more experienced performers are with feedback and advice for the local performers just starting their careers.

The circus I still do is Starfish Circus. This is teaching the first day of silks at the Douglas Anderson Center for the Arts in Jacksonville. 300 kids auditioned, 100 in the show. 

I was honored to be invited to teach mask and movement work at Monaco’s International Community Theatre Festival. Here we’re doing an exercise with Laban Qualities of Movement.

Chatting with writers after a rooftop reading in Varanasai, India. Mid-reading, a troop of monkeys came over the parapet for our leftover snacks, and the waiters ran out and shooed them away with sticks. The poet who was up kept reading like nothing unusual had happened. 

Photo taken by my mentor Dinty W. Moore at the Kenyon Writers Workshop in Ohio.  This is what I want to be doing—sitting in a beautiful room, sending words into the world. 

Wedding Selfie!

The YouTube video of  some highlights from ‘Sleepwalkers’

Cartoon that was mentioned ‘Seven Lives’

Writing Projects:


Hippocampus Magazine

Kenyon Review


Podcast – Snap Judgment

Find out more about sponsoring this podcast by emailing cbg@BuskerHallofFame.com

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One Response to Busker HoF 96 – Allison Williams Interview

  1. Owen Anderson says:

    Good listen.

    Saw Allison perform several times at the long-gone Milton, Ontario, Renaissance Festival as half of The Daring Devilinis.
    One time, at the conclusion of some fire eating, it seems she had excess fuel in her mouth.
    While her partner set-up the next bit Allison took a few steps back and stuck her head thru a curtained upstage doorway long enough to expel it.

    She then turned around, did a very slight curtsy to the audience, and re-joined her partner.
    I’m guessing I was the only one who noticed this lovely moment of stagecraft.

    I’ve only met Alison the person a couple of times but I fell head-over-heels for Allison the performer with that darn curtsy!

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