‘That was a tough present’: Avenue performer escapes tough scenario in Saskatoon

Stand-up comedians, musicians, and actors are used to being harassed, but the disturbance a street performer faced on Monday afternoon in Saskatoon was rare.

“That was a difficult show. I was pretty shocked,” said escape artist Tianna the Traveler in an interview after her show.

Tianna had just started her gig on Broadway Avenue when the trouble started. The crowd of several dozen people was standing right outside the circular rope boundary on Broadway Avenue when a seemingly drunk middle-aged man stumbled into it.

The Edmonton-based performer tried to ignore him. This proved impossible as he walked into the middle of the stage when she was about to crack a long whip. Tianna also seemed to be protecting the young female spectator next to her.

Escaped zip ties, straps, ropes, chains and pulled off this show despite the drunk locals.– Tianna the traveler

Tianna gently held the man’s hand and encouraged him to bow. She tried to lead him off the stage, but he wouldn’t let go of her hand. He tried to dance slowly with her. Finally she was able to walk him out and put him on a chair.

He returned with the chair, sat in the center of the ring, and scowled at her.

This pattern continued several times when he came back to try to hug or touch her. After about 15 minutes, she called two other street artist friends for help. They persuaded the man to go with them.

An official from the Nutrien Fringe Festival said they are doing their best to ensure the safety of performers and viewers and that they will review security measures after the incident.

A volunteer bystander wraps straps, chains and other ties around escape artist Tianna the Traveler in Saskatoon on Monday. (Jason Warick / CBC)

Despite the disturbance, the show went on. Immediately after the finale – the escape from a combination of industrial-grade ties and locks – Tianna had a message for the audience.

“I’ve met people from all over the world and I’ve learned something from everyone,” she said. “I escaped zip ties, straps, ropes, chains and pulled off this show despite the drunk locals.”

The appreciative crowd rushed to thank her and to put money in her collection bag.

Fringe Communications Manager Sara-Jane Keith said there is a new organizing team this year. She said private security and police teams are present, but not always.

She said they are aware of the incident on Tianna’s show and are “learning to deal with these challenges.”

It is important to protect the performers and the audience, she said. Getting help for people with addictions or mental health problems is also important.

“This is a bigger, bigger topic,” said Keith.

Dealing with disruptions

In a post-show interview, Tianna said that a small minority of viewers can be rude or disrespectful, but it is extremely rare for anyone to step over the rope line.

It is almost unknown for anyone to repeat this.

She said these situations require quick thinking and empathy. She doesn’t want to stop her show either because that’s how she makes a living.

“I wanted to be gentle with him. I wanted to respect him, but protect everyone and still move the show forward,” she said.

“I think it’s important to de-escalate the situation.”

As a solo street performer, she’s heard every possible sexist remark. She said she works hard to develop a relationship with her audience early on so they can help her when it gets malicious or dangerous.

For example, in London, England, a man came from behind and grabbed her buttocks as the show ended.

“I said to him, ‘I’m a street performer, not a street worker. If you liked the show, put your money in the hat.’ And I stared at him until he put in some money. The whole audience clapped and cheered for me. Then I said, ‘Now get off my stage.’ And he did. “

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