Preview: Buskerfest

BUSKERFEST on Yonge between Queen and College, Thursday to Sunday (August 27-30), Thursday-Friday noon to 11 pm, Saturday, 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday 11 am to 8 pm. Pwyc.

This year’s BuskerFest, the celebration of street performance in support of Epilepsy Toronto, features over 70 acts from all over the globe – plus one that’s out of this world.

Jenny Jupiter, the retro space age living statue, is a visitor from another planet. Don’t be surprised if she stops you to ask for directions!

“This is my first time doing a festival of this size in the city I live and work in,” says Jupiter, who studied acting at Ryerson and goes by her character’s moniker professionally.

A costume party five years ago was her inspiration to get into the living statue game, which also includes local legends Silver Elvis and Kate Mior at the fest. 

“I was looking for a really interesting Halloween costume and saw this can of stone spray paint in the hardware store,” she says.

“It brought back this memory of seeing a stone statue performer in Bath, England, when I was a kid.”

Since then, she’s developed a diverse cast of characters, but her silver cyborg is the most popular so far. 

“I am a huge sci-fi and fantasy geek, and I remember looking for ideas in vintage periodicals from the 60s with illustrations of space women on the cover,” she says. 

“I also draw inspiration from Data, the android on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I spent so much time watching that series growing up. The idea of wanting to be human and trying to embody humanity stuck with me.”

She’s sure her character is from somewhere in the cosmos, but not from Jupiter.

“That’s a name someone stuck her with after she arrived on Earth,” she explains, laughing. “She crash-landed and can’t seem to get her gear to work. There are so many possibilities playing an accidental tourist from space. I can be interested in everything around me.”

Her machine-like movements are based on years studying mime with teacher Giuseppe Condello, as well as watching old space operas. 

“I incorporate elements of corporeal mime, which is related to the segmenting of the body and the independent movement of each part, with various forms of muscle control, but some of it is just based on watching those old sci-fi robots – you know, the ones that are obviously a pile of boxes with a person inside shuffling across the floor.”

One of her most striking accessories is a ray gun that lights up, a meticulously modified toy Nerf gun dubbed the Destructo-Ray, Mark II. And there’s a funny story about what happened to Destructo-Ray, Mark I.

“I was at the airport last month, coming back from Buskers On The Bay in St. John, and without thinking I packed the Destructo-Ray inside my metal tip jar. Airport security were not too thrilled to see this weird cylindrical object containing a gun with wires and batteries coming out of it.” 

Airport SNAFUs aside, Jupiter says she loves the gig and gets the biggest boost out of curious kids. 

“I had one girl make up a whole complicated backstory for my character right there on the spot. That was the coolest thing ever.” | @jordanbimm

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