Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Living Statue: Therisa Barber

Therisa standing still for 5 minutes (just so you know she can do it)

Therisa routine (watch what happens when you give her a dollar)

Interview with Therisa - How she got into miming and what it's like to stand still for hours at a time

Interview with Therisa - What it's like to performs on the streets of New York

Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

Therisa standing in Central Park

Distant Still
Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

A full shot of Therisa

href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7239598@N02/454217951/" title="photo sharing">
Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

A group of people around Therisa

Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

Therisa taking a bow

Artist: Therisa Barber
Medium: Living statue
Location: Central Park Cedar Hill (Performance), Central Park near 59th St entrance (Interview)

Interestingly, mimes have a lot to say once you get them talking.

Therisa Barber is a ballet dancer from England which, depending on if you recognize a person on point, may or may not be apparent from the video. Therisa has lived in London and Kent but left it all for “the Great White Way” (Broadway to the uninitiated). Unfortunately, “that didn’t work out too well” but Therisa had fallen in love with New York at that point and decided to stay on. After seeing a living statue/mime in the subway she quit her waitressing job and went to go work for him at $7/hr. After about six weeks of understudying he said “why don’t you give it a try?” and a career was born.

Therisa resisted being a statue at first stating that the profession conflicted with her love of dance. After a little harassment from her mentor, though, Therisa came up with a compromise: a living statue on point (standing on its toes as ballerinas do).

Therisa's First day
Therisa set up at Times Square out side of Madame Tussaud's and people were not being to pleasant. After 2 hours she quit and went to Central Park so she could practice. Ironically, Therisa chose the oft-visited Cedar Hill and “all of a sudden, like magic, there were mothers and their children, and their fathers and the dollars were happening and I was like, this is like an absolute miracle…from having zero in my bank account at the end of my first week I had my rent paid.”

Therisa has been miming for 2.5 years and has done it at a variety of venues, including a play, private parties, expos and the New York street. Although a rigorous endeavor, Therisa is nonchalant about the physical stress of standing still for hours saying the first 20 minutes are the hardest but after that "you get into your rhythm." You just sort of stand there and let your thoughts go. You think about your next step in your career and how to improve yourself. She adds that as a performer there’s a certain pride that prevents you from giving up in the middle of a show. However, Therisa has had her share of difficulties including bees landing on her, cops yelling at her and even a fellow in the subway smacking her around with a newspaper.

Despite these hassles, Therisa likes performing on the street. First, she says, aside from a few obnoxious people, New York is an amazing city with a massive turnover of tourism, lots of options and a reputation. Therisa notes that while it’s a bit cliché “if you can please a New Yorker you know you’re a damn good entertainer.” And she knows she's a pleaser because she’s got her own fan base at Cedar Hill. Second, Therisa loves being her own boss and being in charge of every aspect of her own show. She also likes the fact that there’s no barrier between her and the audience except self-control.

Therisa got her start training in ballet at the age of 5 and although the discipline and skills she learned have served to make her a successful and unique living statue routine, she still wants to dance professionally and cites her passion for dance as her inspiration for everything she does. Therisa’s abilities have taken her in many directions, from cruise ships to the stage and 35 different countries. Given this experience Therisa comments that “New York, it’s tough but it’s rewarding…the world of an artist, if you don’t keep growing you get stale. [New York,] I think it makes you grow.” Clearly Therisa has no intention of leaving the city and although she wants to push her career, wants an agent, and wants to move into dancing more than miming she observes “there’s some kind of magic just taking it back to the streets. I think no matter how far I went I would always wanna do just once in a while for fun.”


Steve said...

Hi, I'm Steve, and I'm a friend of Therisa! You did a fantastic job - on the videos, the pictures, the interview, everything! I've written an article about her and I hope to get it published soon. She told me about this blog and her interview, so I kept an eye out for it. Again, a wonderful production! :-)

Anonymous said...

Therisa is wonderful! My girlfriend and I walk our dog everyday in the park. Everyone is always so delighted to see her. She puts a smile on everyones faces. Thank you for doing this terrific interview.

Anonymous said...

Therisa is very brave: getting out in front of typical New Yorkers. I wish you good luck in the future. KEEP ON IT!

Steve said...

A correction and a comment:

Therisa said she performs at Cedar Hill. Cedar Hill in Central Park is north of the Conservatory Water; Therisa performs on the hill just to the south of the Conservatory Water (also known as the model boat pond). That hill is called Pilgrim Hill because of a Plymouth Pilgrim statue (a real statue! :-D) nearby. Maps on signs in the park itself indicate this. I know there is a plaque in the footpath where Therisa performs referring to Cedar Hill, but it is in fact Pilgrim Hill where you'll find her.

Plus, the Waldo Hutchins Memorial Bench - a beautiful half-circular granite bench dedicated to the memory of Central Park's first commissioner - is just to the right (Therisa's left), so tourists have a grand concert seat from which to watch her. :-)

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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