Fursuiting in public venues is a tricky subject. In this day and age, it is always wisest to get prior permission before appearing anywhere in a full costume. Even though some events and locations may seem perfect for costumes, it's far better to take the time to confirm that you will be welcomed in suit than to get turned away or worse, arrested. Legally, many areas may have laws about appearing in public (e.g. in public parks, on public streets, etc.) while having your face masked. Check with your local law enforcement for an explanation of the laws that apply in your area.
That said, many opportunities are available for the fursuiter who wants to get involved with local (and not so local) events using his or her personal character. Many small festivals and not-for-profit community events and fundraisers will be more than happy to welcome in free entertainment - you just have to talk with them ahead of time and make the proper arrangements.
For an in-depth look at how to find and land these kinds of gigs, please see Santa Fox's Public Performance Guide to Finding and Landing Gigs.
A lot of people like to do fursuiting/mascoting in private and wish to try and move into a more public arena.
However my observations and experiences will be mainly based on Australia, not the US. And I do know the level of paranoia going on re 9/11.
The first thing and most important - Never turn up un-announced at a semi private function. That is one that has been set up for a particular organization or benefit!!!.
Open tourist places are fine, scenic look outs and beach fronts etc. I'm not sure if you have a busker's license over in the US (A busker is a street performer) but if they do then talk to the controlling body to see what conditions are imposed. That could be a good way to start - and even though you don't have to accept monies - its a good start to making a name for yourself. If anything there would be a record of you calling and an observation that you have made an attempt to do the right thing.
Another good thing is to check with the local law enforcement authorities and see if there are any way to registers yourself with them as a way of a reference. So that they know who you are, why you are doing what you do (Like to entertain and make people smile etc)
Check in the phone book re performers, jesters, clowns etc and have a chat to a few of them. Explain what you want to do. Many of them are single performers and would be willing to offer advices. Also see if there is an insurance pool going. This means that for a very low fee you can get Public Liability insurance and THAT does open doors. - For example - singly I'd have to pay $1800 PA for insurance just to walk around in my suit. Using a pool that comes to $200 PA.
[Maintainers' note: PA is Per Annum, meaning per year.]
Also - see if there is a card one can get - we have one over here called a 'Working with Children' card. Its issued by out government to people who have had a police check re sexual abuse, criminal acts etc, and have been cleared to work with kids. That cost me $40.
I know that this seems a LOT of paper work BUT!!!!! - it will demonstrate to prospective venues that you are serious about doing things right, and not someone who might cause trouble.
I started by visiting open tourist places and entertaining as in waving, getting my picture taken with folks etc. I also carried a nametag on my wrist that said some important things.
On the outside in large letters was this
“Hi.. I'm Marcwolf”.
“I am a happy friendly fellow who enjoys putting a smile on peoples faces.”
Inside the tag was personal information and addresses/contact numbers including a picture of me outside of the costume, and this statement
“I am not selling or promoting any products.”
“Neither am I a busker as I do not accept monies for what I do.”
“I am a private individual who likes to have fun and entertain people for free.”
Now because this was visible I could quickly let store owners and officials etc know why I was there, and in most cases once they had established that I was not going to cause trouble they were fine with me. Of course if asked to leave - ALWAYS do that. Never create a fuss, but also ask politely if there is a person/s that one can talk with to get permission to perform.
If there is a location that you want to try in - find out who the controlling body is, and if there is a media or promotions person. Explain that you are a private individual who likes to entertain, and would like to appear at that location.
Its very good if you have a website where people can see your character and some interaction pictures (even if they are with friends ) - many people have a net connection at their fingertips and can look at your page whilst you are talking with them.
Many small charities and community events are often desperate to add 'filler attractions' to something. And often a roving performer will work well. The term most often used is a 'Meet and Greet' character - and that is what you do - wave, and get your picture taken. Its also a good way to develop your characters personality too!!
Again - look through the papers for up-coming events, or give the charities a call. Explain that you cannot donate monies but your willing to donate Your time and use of your costume to help promote.
Hospitals and childrens charities are a good place too. Many hospitals have a childrens ward and a call to them can put you in touch with the best person to speakl to. Explain who you are (and again a web site is great here) and that you were wondering if you could entertain the children. Many hospital are desperate for a distraction for the children and its also a good way to get references. Check to see if there are special camp/locations for children with terminal or long term illnesses (like cancer) Again the above applies.
Charities for animals and animal help centers are also a good place to call. They often have events where they are trying to raise monies.
I don't charge for what I do. - If asked I will sometimes say a small donation for maintenance of the suit and for transport. And most places are more than willing to give $20 or more for your time and effort.
But most importantly you have made a contact and a reference - and they go far in doing more things.
Just my own observations and experiences - hope they help.
From: Tibor Tiger
The only advice I can add would be to start compiling a resume that lists the events you have performed at in the past. If you can present even just a one page resume of previous gigs and provide some references, it gives a very favorable and professional impression. If you work a volunteer gig for a church rummage sale or some other civic group - instead of asking for payment, ask for a letter of reference. Once you do a handful of free gigs, you can accumulate enough satisfied “customers” that it becomes easier and easier for you to feel bold enough to ask to be PAID to do something you love to do .
If you have web space available (and permission from your references) you can do an online scrap book showing your character interacting with crowds and lots of happy smiling faces, and put a printable copy of your resume up there if you wish.
Another item that is good to have is a character business card that you can distribute to people while in costume. If you plan on (and have permission to) post photographs of an event - this is a great way to remind people where to look on the web after the event.
Other things to consider - get a dedicated contact email address for your “public” character so people can stay in touch with you about gigs and you can more easily keep your personal email and professional email sorted.
A Resume is a very good thing. I usually rely on my web page as my resume as I find that most people have access to the web. Especially if they are in a business or for some other organization.
If you are serious - a real domain name is often a good idea and get an email attached to it. I think you can get a domain name for about $20 a year in the US, and many places offer a redirection service to another server..
i.e. http://Marcwolf.org --> http://bigserver/somewhere/homepages/~something/piccies/fursuit.html
Thats make it easier to give you website over the phone. And it also identifies you with the website for easy rememberance.
Likewise an simple email address will do.
My own website is not the best (Badly in need of a overhaul) But it will give the general look and feel of what one can do.
Also - a note for fursuiters (and I classify myself as one) I know that some of our characters have a personal life, and hope to have a professional life as well. Its always best to keep them both seperate and with any photo's or articles - give them a good looking over to see if anything can possible give a wrong or bad impression. Sadly nowdays even a innocent picture of a group snuggle with friends can be misconstrued to mean something else. *chuckles* Yeah - I know - we live in cynical times.
Business cards - you don't have to be too extravagant there. I use MS Word to make up a table into which I have put a little pic of Marc, a mobile number and other contact details including the Web address. Very easily printed out on a ink-jet and you can fit about 10 or more to a page. Printed on cheap yellow paper they do the trick nicely.
i.e. (Piccie) MarcWolf A Big Furry Friendly Fellow Available for parties, charities, functions, anything Ph xxx xxx xxx xxx Or come at see me at http://www.marcwolf.org
Something else that I have done that works well - I have a good picture of Marc on a surfboard (I think I have posted it here sometime) I put about 4 of these on a page with a nice title on each one. Very good for giving to kid's as a souvenir to take home with them. When cut up they are about postcard size.
Tibors suggestion about taking pictures on yourself at events - definitely a must if you can, and post them. I do that and it helps becuase to some people - Marc can look a little scary, and being able to show them pictures of him getting hugged by kids and adults alike works well.
Also - many organizations have a post event news letter. Being able to get your pictures up on online fast (I have a digital camera and use a great thumbnail/web page generator) is also a good idea. One of the things that I do is to let the organisation know that the pictures are on line.. and offer them free pick of any of them for their own publicity.
Another things re getting started
Social Clubs.. My first gig was with a company social club that had a function/party. If you do work for an organisation that has a social club - have a chat to them. Often if they know you as a Person first, and a character second then it goes a long way.
I don't often come out with the line 'Hi - I'm a fursuiter and I'd like to show up to entertain”
However “Hi. I'm Dave and as a side line I do childrens entertainment - a Character Costume called Marcwolf. If you'd like him to appear and help with the entertainment then etc etc”
Alternately - “I'm hoping to get into mascotting and this is a way to build up my skills with interacting with people and entertaining the public” works well.
That form of intro goes far.. and later- once they have seen your performance and enjoyed it, they will often ask “Why the wolf etc” Thats usually the best time to drop a line like - “I've always been fascinated by wolves and thought it be fun to dress up as one. And this is a way of changing perceptions away from them being a vicious predator etc”
There are a lot of traps for the un-wary, but hopefully - with responsible fursuiters etc out there it will give the whole community a good name.
From: Yippee Coyote
It really depends how far you want to take it. It's a good think you're mindful of performing in costume, rather than just being somebody in a suit. Here's some tips off the top of my head, mostly general as a springboard for ideas.
Get to know your suit - your character. First off, if your character's eyes are not where you see from, be sure you know where they are. This avoids the problem of being asked to cover your “eyes” and your paws go toward the character's mouth, etc. Also know where your character is “looking”, i.e. if the eyes are lined up differently, you may have to look at someone's chest so the character appears to be face-to-face.
Know your limits and pace yourself while out performing. It's not a marathon; you don't get a medal if you're lying on the ground passed out from heat exhaustion. Don't go crazy in the first five minutes - unless you intend to only be out for five minutes! Knowing your limits comes with experience.
Back to the character - what kind of character is it? Does it have a particular personality? Is it happy/bouncy, sedate/cool, self-confident, imposing, angry, etc? These all come through the performance.
Posture and walk show a lot about the character. You may want to practice in front of a mirror, or have friends videotape you so you can see how the character looks given different walks. Is it a confident strut, a cocky swagger, a cool saunter, a perky sashay, a stealthy sneak? You may also want to develop some mannerisms based on the character and/or the source animal. A lumbering bear will act different than a spry rabbit or sassy vixen. Figure a character and stay in character while in costume. This keeps up the illusion that you are your character instead of someone in a costume. That's where the magic is for me - I'm just a grown-up playing pretend and it's great when people buy into the character I've created.
Most of my character experience has been with cartoony characters so I tend to exaggerate everything. If you've got a large fursuit head, it means activity should be exaggerated. Smaller heads may need subtler activity.
This is obviously not the end-all/be-all of character performing, but hopefully it's enough to get you started. Be also mindful of where you will be in cosutme so you can tailor your performance toward it. i.e. crowded or small spaces you wouldn't jump around where you could accidentally hit folks. Also if you're going out for the first time in suit, whether for a furry con, street fair, or just wandering in public, a spotter is essential.
Hope this helps, and happy performing!