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Odd Jobs: Street performer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Street performer

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Life is a balancing act for John Stork.

"Everybody watch. These are special circus chairs; I got them from an old Russian acrobat," said Stork.

He juggles flaming torches, performs tricks atop stacks of chairs and finds room in his act for comedy.

The 28-year-old street performer has been entertaining crowds on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace for the past eight years.

"It's ups and downs. You know, when it's going well, it's awesome. When it's going badly or I feel like there's something I could have done better, I'm pretty hard on myself. Every show is kind of like walking that tight wire," said Stork.

Maintaining upper body strength-- necessary to doing Stork's signature handstands-- demands daily practice.

"Presses take more strength than jumping but they're safer," said Stork.

We caught up with him during a training session at the Barre dojo where his career began. Stork started in martial arts at the age of 7. By 10, he was a black belt.

"It was great. I didn't really like school very much. I didn't really fit in really well. I fit in great here at karate," said Stork.

The budding martial artist was home-schooled to allow more time for training. And by 15, Circus Smirkus took notice. Stork toured with the youth production over the next two years.

"Oh, it was the best time of my life, by far. It's like all your best friends. You're doing shows every day. You're traveling around in the summer. I think a lot of people look at circus performers and say oh those guys are freaks, which is partially true, but they're also very, very friendly, warm, accepting people," said Stork.

The circus is where Stork felt most at home. It's also where he learned the bulk of his tricks. He attempted to teach me the basics.

"It's just basically for hand-eye coordination and balance," said WCAX Reporter Jennifer Costa.

Turns out I don't have a future in circus performing.

Stork: So whichever way it falls you want to get under it. Yeah, yeah that's good.

Costa: Ahhhh. (Laughs) You moved far less.

Stork: That's what you work up to.

Costa: When did you know you wanted to be a street performer?

Stork: I still don't really want to be a street performer. It wasn't what I set out to do.

The plan was to earn enough doing shows like this to one day fund his dream of developing his very own circus act. But in 2007, Hollywood stepped in. The Plainfield performer was cast for the Syfy channel's reality series "Who wants to be a Superhero?" The series pits would-be good guys against super villains in real-world challenges.

"I was surprised by how hard they tried to actually keep things as real as possible. I thought it would be the opposite," said Stork.

Stork was a crowd favorite, but tied for second in the Season 2 finale.

"I was bitter for a while afterward because I wanted to win, but looking back on it it was a great time," said Stork.

The real-life action figure went back to work on the street, performing full time in the Queen City.

Luckily, Stork says he's never been seriously injured, but the danger's there.

"It's not as dangerous as it looks, but it's definitely dangerous. I think it's also easy to forget how dangerous it is when you're doing it and you're immersed in it," said Stork.

Costa: Is it hard to earn a living?

Stork: Yeah! I mean it's getting easier now, but I struggled for a long time.

His show is always on the move. The marketplace doesn't allow performers to stay in any one spot for more than an hour. And as the shops gets busier, performance space shrinks and the money dries up.

He depends on generous spectators to make a living, but mums the word on the industry's earning potential.

"Yeah, street performers, as a general rule, they like to kind of keep it quiet because some of them are making so much. I have friends who own multiple houses. I do not own a house," said Stork.

Whatever he makes, it's not quite enough to keep Stork in the Queen City. He's taking his Odd Job on the road.

The street performer is leaving the Green Mountains behind, chasing dreams of bigger crowds and more cash in Boulder, Colorado.

When Stork is not performing he keeps his creative mind busy writing anime screenplays and comic books.

 Click here if you'd like to learn more about Stork and where you can catch his show.


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