RICHMOND, Va. -- When sidewalks second as your stage you can perform just about anywhere.
“Not for one second has it ever gotten old. Not for one second have I ever not looked forward to the next crowd," says Jonathan Austin.
“Carytown is a special place in Richmond," Austin said. “Been doing it a very long time if you will.”
It was along Cary Street in 1985 the young entertainer got his start. Since then, Jonathan the Juggler has become one the region's top performers.
Well, how the show goes is contingent with how great the crowd is and its your job to get the crowd going," Austin said.
From card tricks and juggling to magic, he does it all.
But this month, Jonathan is redefining the one man show.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the magician's fans have vanished. With Richmonders quarantined all around the city, Carytown is more like a Ghost Town.
“Unfortunately I’ve never seen anything like this. It is virtually at a standstill," Austin said.
The 49-year-old thrives on audience participation these days admirers are staying far away. “I’d say human interaction is just short of everything for me," says Austin.
The pandemic is also torching Jonathan's financial well-being.
“Right now this is where I make a living so right now I’m hurting," Austin said.
More than fifty paid gigs have been canceled, and that number is growing.
“The big one. The biggest event is Easter on Parade on Monument Avenue," Austin said. “I guess there is no real good time for something like this to happen but springtime is when I get rocking and rolling.”
For the man quick with a one-liner, COVID-19 is no laughing matter.
“For every high there has to be a low. And unfortunately, we’re reaching some lows right now and a lot of us are reaching lows we didn’t see coming," Austin said.
What hurts most is that there are few, if any people, to make smile.
“Right now what I miss most about life in general is human beings and being around them and socializing and getting positive energy from them and giving some of it back," Austin said.
But ever the optimist, the entertainer is using the down time to work on new material.
Jonathan Austin juggles the hardships betting that brighter days and crowds will re-appear.
Because for this sidewalk performer the show must go on.
“We’re going through a rough time but I do see hope," Austin said. “For how low it is now. It is going to be even higher when we all come back.”
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