After spending the day working at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC), Jodie Smalley heads home—not to sink onto the couch and watch Netflix but to get ready. She goes to her mirror and generously applies stage makeup to her skin, and ties up her hair. She then carefully selects a few handmade articles of clothing, grabs her stilts and torches, and sets out for her second job – Radiance Works.
Radiance Works is her performance name. For nearly 17 years, Smalley has been entertaining crowds with stilt walking, fire-eating, and more recently, belly dancing. This summer, she is performing socially-distanced fire shows at a discounted rate for Corvallis and Albany residents.
Smalley always kept to more tangible art forms such as sewing, but when she saw fire dancing for the first time at a festival in 2000, she immediately thought, “I want to do that!” and her career in the performing arts began.
After toying with the idea for a while, she and a group of friends dove into the hobby that would become Smalley’s passion.
“This was before YouTube, so there were a couple of websites that had video tutorials,” Smalley said. “I started with one fire tool and eventually [wound up with] seven or eight different props.”
Now 17 years in, she has accrued an impressive resume of fire and dance skills that make for a popular show.
“It just kind of kept expanding,” she said.
Smalley even helped start the first fire troupe in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she lived for many years before moving to Seattle and then Corvallis to go to school. Living in Seattle was rough, she admits, since the cost of living is so high. So, she moved down to Oregon to pursue a more feasible life and an education.
During the day, she works as the postal admin for LBCC and goes to school as a part-time student to pursue a career in the medical field. Then she spends her evenings and weekends putting on shows.
Since moving to Corvallis a few years ago, she has spent every summer performing out of town at fairs and festivals such as the Oregon Country Fair and Waldport Beachcomber Days, and she had counted on having that income to put towards her education. Yet, as many have experienced, COVID-19 derailed her summer income plans.
When quarantine hit and all the events got canceled, she had almost resigned herself to not performing at all this summer, but after seeing friends post on social media wondering what to do for their children’s birthdays, she turned to neighborhood cul-de-sacs and spacious backyards for her summer stage.
She announced on social media she was open for hire this summer and nervously awaited the “internet trolls” and snarky comments. To her surprise, people reacted enthusiastically and soon began booking her for birthday parties and holiday events.
People book her to come to their house and entertain outdoors with enough space for social distancing. She brings her props, costumes, and a fire-safety person, ensures there is enough room to remain at least six feet apart, then gives a show that delights children and impresses adults. At a recent show, a group of neighbors hired her to entertain on the street of their cul-de-sac while they spread out on lawn chairs in front of their houses.
Though she had originally planned her performances for the summer much differently, she is excited to share her art with the local community, and hopes to help make special memories for families and friends during this uncertain time.
Since many people have faced economic difficulty during the pandemic, Smalley is offering a lower price than she normally would. People can contact her through her Facebook page Radiance Works or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jessica Goddard