Playing for Librarians

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by Jan Seides
Friday 5th February, 2010, 10:26pm

All the local and statewide libraries are looking for artists of all kinds to lure unsuspecting children into the libraries during the summer about now. I say unsuspecting because the kids think they’re there to have fun, whereas the librarians hope to inspire a lifelong love of reading. I can sympathize on both sides, as I had a strong aversion to being lured to anything by any adult. But I have loved reading my whole life — first, because it was a great way to escape from my whole life, and second, because going to the library meant I was not at home doing chores or schoolwork, or listening to the ever-growing list of my shortcomings.

My friend, Sue, and I both took our shows to San Antonio to entertain the librarians and perhaps book a show or two for the summer. There were seven or eight acts there, but some had already made their presentations before we arrived. The first act we saw was a collection of animals: a porcupine, an otter (I think), a snake, and a few others. When they were done leading their animals around for everyone to get a closer look, they were followed by a puppeteer, Bob. His opening statement was: “Never follow an animal act,” but he was still very entertaining. He had a ventriloquist’s dummy he claimed to have owned for 40 years, and he held a pretty funny conversation with it. Then he sang a song with it (It sounds impossible, I know, but he did.) As they sang, the dummy began to lose segments of himself, until all that was left was his mouth. He kept exhorting the puppeteer to “Keep singing!”, which Bob did. I have no doubt that kids will find this hilarious. I found it a little disturbing.

I went up after Bob and his dismembered dummy, and I was followed by a very good, and very funny magician. Quite dynamic.

Sue went on next, and then there was another magician, also quite good. At the end of his set though, he began to discuss prices with the audience. This is normal, Sue tells me. But he offered his show at staggeringly low prices, and all the other presenters commented on it. Perhaps he had his finger on the pulse, and we’re all just slow to catch up. Or he just does his act for the love of it. Didn’t have a chance to ask.

He was last, so now it’s time for the librarians to talk turkey with the presenters. All of the librarians MOB (I’m accurately describing this scene) the animal act. Then they turn to the magicians. Bob complains that one librarian who usually books him told him that she had no money this year. Then she proceeded to book the animal act. Bob is incensed and not terribly discreet about it. (Though he helped me get my equipment back to my car, so I see him as a very kind and deserving fellow indeed!)

From my point of view, the librarians are doing an admirable job, considering their funding has been cut repeatedly for the last decade. I may just find myself donating a show or two to a needy community — my own, perhaps. Even so, it takes time and money to present a show, even for children at the library, so I’m hoping this devaluing of the arts doesn’t continue much longer.

Category: Music, Music Biz

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