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With Guide, No Longer Just Faces in the Crowd

Street Performers

By Jonathan M. Berlin

While Harvard Square street performers have been spending much of their time recently at City Council meetings promoting new legislation, a new publication authored by longtime Square musician Luke Hunsberger attempts to return the focus to what the performers do best.

Hunsberger and several performers said that the 23-page "Guide to the Street Performers of Harvard Square," which provides biographies and photographs of 26 local performers, is the first of its kind in the area.

The author said he developed the idea of writing a guide in April, when the City Council began consideration of a bill permitting amplification in the Square. He said he had thought a performer guidebook would enhance the resurgence of street performing that would be ushered in by the new law, which was passed by the council last week.

"The atmosphere was definitely changing," said Hunsberger, a former mathematics section leader at the College. "I wouldn't have done it if there hadn't been hope on the horizon."

"I was toying around with the idea of doing a Harvard Square newspapaer, and it seemed too narrow just to do that," Hunsberger said. "I wanted it to be as impressive as it could be."

Hunsberger said he would make a small profit if all 500 printed copies sell out at the $5 price tag, but he stressed that his primary goal was to have people "realize that the street scene in Harvard Square was a good thing."

Area performers praised the guide, saying it will help alleviate the anonymity that prevents them from establishing a regular following among the often fleeting audiences in the Square.

"A lot of performers don't even know each other," said Alexander Feldman, a local juggler, adding that not having to refer to someone as "the guy with the long hair who plays guitar" would improve relations among the artists.

The performers, most of whom said they had never been portrayed in a publication of the guide's scope, said they appreciated Hunsberger's effort on behalf of them, most of whom are not as well known in the area as the author.

"A lot of people think of [Hunsberger] as an excellent performer," said John Kenney, a guitarist in a local band called The Ethnics. "I think a lot of people like the idea that he's counting other people in."

Hunsberger's colleagues' only complaint was that they might have included more Square newcomers had they been writing the guide. Except for Majestic Bellowphone player Leonard Solomon, described in the guide as a "one-man-band," who was upset that his photo looked excessively "serious and strange."

Hunsberger said he is unsure whether financial considerations will allow him to produce another booklet to include those left out. Still, the other performers seem to be clamoring for a continuation of the tradition that Hunsberger has begun.

"It takes someone with initiative, and often we street performers are juggling a lot of things," said Feldman, who juggles musical instruments. "Hopefully, this is just a start."

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