Other people

Respect the professionals... and be professional yourself

Believe it or not, some people do this "period costume dressing-up" thing for a living. And some people are die-hard carnival fans who take part every year and spend the rest of their year planning and making costumes. At the other end of the scale, some people just visit for an hour or two, and wear a mask or a cloak with their normal clothes.

People join in as little or as much as they want. But no matter who you are, it's important to respect other performers. You're probably thinking that you're not a performer, and that you're just going along in costume to join in. But people who aren't in costume will see you as a performer just because of what you're wearing.

So here are some of the unwritten rules of street performing, designed to make sure that both audience and performer enjoy the experience.

1. Never steal someone else's gig

If you want to join up with another performer, make sure they indicate their approval first. For  example, you may be dressed as a king and they may be dressed as a queen. You can both play it up for the crowds: bow to your queen, let her curtsey to you, and allow the crowds to take photos. You'll probably enjoy every second, and so will everyone else. You can then split up and carry on as before. But it's important to get approval in the first place.

Otherwise, try not to stand next to a performer who is attracting a crowd - you'll steal the audience that they built up and may become an unwelcome addition to their act. Likewise, if you're walking in the same direction as another performer, try to keep your distance.

 2. Be courteous to other performers

Consider giving an occasional wave to other people in costume - elegantly, of course. It really plays things up for the crowds, and you never know who you might meet in the process.

 3. If you don't know what to say, say nothing

People in the audience sometimes ask questions. Some people in costume are happy to chat to them, while others keep silent and answer any questions with hand gestures. It's your choice which one you go for, or a combination of both. Silence adds an air of mystery to your costumed character, which is a great advantage if you're stuck for words or can't understand some of the language.

4. Don't take money from strangers

Costumed characters in Venice do not accept tips. It's a big no-no. But remember that people from all backgrounds and nationalities visit the carnival.

In some cultures, it's considered polite to offer money to a street performer in exchange for taking their photo. In some cultures, it's considered impolite (and perhaps an insult) if the street performer refuses. This can create a tricky situation.

On the few occasions that this has happened to us, we've asked the people to help out by taking a picture of us with our own camera. They were very happy to do so, and it diffused the situation by letting them give something back.

5. Street performers don't walk fast

If you're walking quickly like you're trying to get somewhere, the crowds and photographers will mostly leave you alone. So slow down. People can then get a good look at your costume and decide whether to come over for a closer look.

On the other hand, if you're in costume and you're running late for an event, or trying to catch the last water bus, then this is exactly the right approach. If you look like you're "running the gauntlet", most people will realise and won't bother you.