By Sabina Mollot
Meet New York City’s subway superstars.
From Natalia the saw playing lady at Union Square to Alice Tan Ridley, the rhythm and blues singer who recently landed a spot on “America’s Got Talent,” performers who make their living “busking” or working for tips on the streets and subway stations will be celebrated at an upcoming show at The Players.
Suzanne Stout, a board member of The Players, said she’s producing the event, along with two other organizers, because she enjoys watching buskers perform. In addition, she was particularly impressed with them as a lot after seeing them hustle their way through this year’s particularly brutal winter.
“Busking has been around since the beginning of time,” said Stout, “and most people don’t even know what it is.”
Though the job can be tough when straphangers are stingy or just uninterested, it also has its upsides for performers. “The audience continuously passes by you. You don’t have to please anybody but yourself,” said Stout. “There’s a real ethic to it.”
Additionally, what became clear to her, especially after meeting Tan Ridley, was that busking is as much of a lifestyle as it is a gig for those who do it.
Despite having been a contender on “America’s Got Talent,” and having a daughter who shot to fame as the star of the 2009 film “Precious,” Gabourey Sidibe, Stout noted that even now, Tan Ridley “doesn’t mind being called a busker.”
It was after all how she supported her family for two decades, before AGT led to other opportunities.
And on Tuesday, May 13 at 7 p.m., Tan Ridley will be the mistress of ceremonies at The Players’ first-ever Buskers Carnival. The event is free to the public, though naturally, hats will be passed around for tips.