Cambridge Tab, page 4

August 1998

For 'Eight Foot Bride,' mime is money

Street performance has taken on a new art form in Harvard Square this summer. While the performance is typically associated with musicians, jugglers, puppeteers, poets, magicians and other moving, dancing and singing acts, one Harvard Square resident has begun capitalizing on the art of the still life.

Perhaps you've seen her posing on the sidewalk outside of Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square. She stands on a pedestal in a long white vintage lace wedding dress. She dresses herself in white from head-to-toe, including a painted white face. At her feet rests a milk tin for a cash box. She has dubbed herself the Eight Foot Bride, but since she's a mime, she probably hasn't told you. In her other life, her name is Amanda Palmer.

Several nights a week, Palmer can be found in her statue state in a range of dramatic poses. She doesn't budge until someone places money in the tin. For the few viewers who do so, she comes to life, makes eye contact with the spectator and hands them a daisy.

"A lot of people walk by and don't even think I am human," Palmer said. "I usually get a mixed reaction from kids: some are scared, others think I am a big doll, others just start to cry."

Palmer, 22, was inspired to create her street performance routine after a visit to Germany. While studying performance art and theater, she watched a group of street performers doing a similar statue routine. The mimes there stood on boxes and wore white sheets. Each time they were given money they, too, would change a pose.

For an emerging performance artist, Palmer says it's not a bad gig. In Harvard Square, she typically makes $30 per show.

Does she ever get bored standing in the same spot in the same pose for an hour or two straight?


Palmer pledges that she just takes in the whole crowd scene - which is always a different group of Harvard Square revelers and tourists each night.

"It's never boring. The crowd is so interesting. People's reactions are so varied. It created this space around the statue. Total strangers start talking to each other: someone will say, 'What the hell is that?' or 'Do you know who she is or what this is?'" Palmer said.

But perhaps the best part of standing in one spot on end is being able to eavesdrop on conversations that have been triggered because of her quirky routine, Palmer notes.

"It makes people talk to each other, and I listen, and people know that I am listening. But in a way, they forget, because I seem so still and so lifeless," Palmer said. "People make all sorts of assumptions. They try to guess if I am a man or a woman. There is always something to listen to."

Harvard Square is not the only spot locals have seen Palmer in her act. Earlier this month, she performed in Somerville's art festival in Davis Square, ArtBeat. At the open air street festival, she and other mimes dressed up as "living statues" and were painted in copper. Each stood on a different street corner.

But if Cantabrigians want to catch her in the act, they have to do it soon. Palmer is headed back to Germany in the fall, where she has garnered a scholarship to study music at Stuttgart.