I Have a Story


RVA street performer juggling hardships during COVID-19 pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, this magician's fans have vanished.
Posted at 11:14 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-04 08:51:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When sidewalks second as your stage you can perform just about anywhere.

Concrete in Carytown ranks as Jonathan Austin's favorite.

“Not for one second has it ever gotten old. Not for one second have I ever not looked forward to the next crowd," said Austin.

“Carytown is a special place in Richmond," said Austin. “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, the show goes on contingent how great the crowd is and it’s your job to get the crowd going," said Austin.

From card tricks and juggling to magic. But this month, Jonathan is redefining the one man show.

During the coronavirus pandemic the magician's fans have vanished. With Richmonders quarantined, Carytown is more like a ghost town.

“Unfortunately, I’ve never seen anything like this. It is virtually at a standstill," said Austin.

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," said 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," he added.

More than 50 paid gigs canceled. And that number is growing.

“The big one. The biggest event is Easter on Parade on Monument Avenue," said Austin. “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 so many lows right now and a lot of us are reaching lows we didn’t see coming," said Austin.

What hurts most is there are few, if any people, to make smile.

“Right now I miss most about life in general is human beings and being around them and socialize and get positive energy from them and give some of it back," said Austin.

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," said Austin. “For how low it is now. It is going to be even higher when we all come back.”

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