Humor Abuse Postscript: Juggling Class with Mad John the Juggler

Friday, February 10, 2012

Posted by Amy Krivohlavek, A.C.T. Marketing Writer
Juggling Workshop at A.C.T.
Clockwise from left: Associate Production Manager Amanda J. Haley, Artistic Fellow Kate Goldstein, Winter Field Study Intern Jessie King, Publications & Education Fellow Emily Means, Publications Manager Dan Rubin, Marketing Associate Christine Miller, Web Fellow Aude Ferrachat, Graphics Fellow Brittany Truex, Marketing Writer Amy Krivohlavek, Executive Assistant Caresa Capaz, Senior Graphic Designer Brenden Mendoza, and Mad John the Juggler. Photo by Hilary Davis.
Last week, A.C.T. Publications Manager Dan Rubin posted about his quest to learn to juggle, inspired by his research into San Francisco's Pickle Family Circus for our recent production of Humor Abuse. For the PFC, juggling was a group activity, a chance to come together with a shared goal—trying to keep everything up in the air.
Almost immediately, longtime A.C.T. subscriber John "Mad John the Juggler" Dobleman commented on Dan's blog, generously offering to come teach him—and a few of his lucky colleagues—how to juggle. Mad John claimed he would have us juggling in 20–30 minutes. We had our doubts.
This morning, Mad John visited us at the A.C.T. offices, armed with handfuls of bright pink, yellow, and orange scarves. Dan and I brought together a small group of A.C.T. staff from the Publications, Marketing, and Development departments, including many members of our Fellows program.
We started slowly, beginning with one scarf, then adding another, and then a third. "With two, you're just throwing stuff around. With three, you're juggling," he explained. And we were! After only 30 minutes, we all were! Even Mad John was impressed with our success rate. Once we had the basics down, he showed us a few simple tricks, some useful exercises, and then moved on to the coveted partner tricks. And, as the PFC discovered decades ago, it really did bring us closer together—literally forcing us to be in sync with one another.
Because A.C.T. is a thriving—i.e. busy!—nonprofit theater company, many of us juggle multiple tasks, jobs, and responsibilities across numerous departments. But today, we came together with one shared goal: keeping those bright colors flying through the air. And we're already planning a trip to the fabric store . . .
If you are interested in learning to juggle, you can contact Mad John at 925.679.0454. He has taught juggling to people of all ages (over the age of 11 . . . he has a fascinating explanation for why!), and—for the exceptionally adventurous—he also teaches skydiving. Note: He does not juggle while skydiving. That's dangerous.
In his words, "juggling is catching." We wholeheartedly agree.
Juggling Workshop at A.C.T.
L to R: Publications and Education Fellow Emily Means passes a scarf to Artistic Fellow Kate
Goldstein. Photo by Brenden Mendoza.
Juggling Workshop at A.C.T.
Marketing and Public Relations Associate Christine Miller (in purple dress, center) catches her scarves as Mad John
assists Associate Production Manager Amanda J. Haley. Photo by Brenden Mendoza.
Juggling Workshop at A.C.T.
L to R: Marketing Writer Amy Krivohlavek, Publications Manager Dan Rubin, and Web Fellow
Aude Ferrachat. Photo by Brenden Mendoza.
Juggling Workshop at A.C.T.
Mad John the Juggler (left) ends class with his trademark: the "group throw up." Photo by Dan Rubin.

“Work and Love”: An Interview with Higher Playwright (and A.C.T. Artistic Director) Carey Perloff

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Posted by Emily Hoffman, Publications and Dramaturgy Associate
Most Bay Area theatergoers know who Carey Perloff is: the artistic executive of A.C.T. and a director with an enormous body of work to her credit. Fewer know that Perloff is also an award-winning playwright: Her 2003 drama The Colossus of Rhodes was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and Luminescence Dating, which premiered at New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre in 2005, received the 2006 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Original Script. Now comes Higher, Perloff's meditation on love and architecture, which has received workshop productions at New York Stage and Film, Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and was recently honored with the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Theatre Visions Fund Award.
Higher opened to rapturous reviews last week and was just extended through February 25. Click here for tickets.
Higher
Eternal Flame in the hall of remembrance, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, made of
boulders brought from the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee.
We sat down with Perloff on the eve of Higher's world-premiere production to talk about the origins of her newest play.
Where did this story begin for you?
I love plays in which people actually make things—and I've always been fascinated by architecture. I wondered why architecture is such an incredibly male profession, so one kernel of the play was an attempt to understand where women might fit into a field that is all about taking up space. Early on, the idea came to me to pit a man and woman against each other in an architectural competition . . . and of course the stakes go way up when they are lovers, and when they're trying to navigate a passionate, complicated relationship. But that's also part of the comedy!
Why did you choose Israel for the site of the monument?
I have had several memorable trips to Israel in recent years. One was when I won the Koret Israel Prize and we were driven in a jeep up the hills near Galilee towards the Syrian border; I remember looking down at the Sea of Galilee and being so moved and also terrified at what a small and vulnerable water supply it was for the whole state of Israel. Israel is obsessed with memory and memorials, so it somehow felt natural that the memorial would end up there. And it's a place with very conflicted feelings about America, which makes for good drama.
This is a play, to some degree, about the perennial life/work conflict. How much of your own experience as an artistic director is in there?
All of it! Freud said there are only two things: work and love. But putting the two together is incredibly difficult, especially for women. To try to have a life and love and a family, while staying on top of your game professionally, and not get totally torn apart, is extremely hard. And yet one feeds the other. That's what Isaac accuses his father of: he feels that, in pursuing his professional ambitions, Michael has totally detached from his personal life, with the result that the work itself has become disconnected and dry.
Do you have any favorite monuments?
Anything Maya Lin has made! I was particularly overwhelmed by an installation she did at the de Young Museum several years ago of undulating waves made out of little wooden two-by-fours. I think she is so extraordinary. And I love the Omaha Beach Memorial in Normandy . . . and of course Yad Vashem in Israel.

“See You Down the Road”: A Fond Farewell to Humor Abuse

Monday, February 6, 2012

posted by Dan Rubin, A.C.T. Publications Manager
Lorenzo Pisoni has a bit in Humor Abuse when he explains that circus folk don't say goodbye to one another after the makeup is scrubbed off, the backdrop is lowered, and the props are packed away. Instead, they say, "See you down the road." It is a fitting farewell to give Lorenzo now that the San Francisco run of his heartfelt and hilarious one-man circus story has come to a close. This was not his first time on the A.C.T. stage; it is unlikely it will be his last. Still, it is bittersweet to see this joyful show come to an end. Thankfully, the beauty of working in theater is that there is no time to wallow, especially when Wajdi Mouawad's thrilling Scorched is being brought over to the theater at this very moment!
Look for more Scorched posts soon, but before Humor Abuse rides off into the sunset, it has one final gift for you. Those of you who saw the show—and we hope all of you did!—know that during every performance Lorenzo Pisoni (acting as his father, Larry Pisoni, acting in his clown role, Lorenzo Pickle) chose a volunteer from the audience to help him with the impossible task of retrieving a balloon that had floated away. In her daily performance reports, stage manager extraordinaire Hannah Cohen recounted each hilarious encounter. Below are some of our absolute favorites. And thanks again to Lorenzo, Hannah, and director Erica Schmidt: We'll see you down the road!
Humor Abuse
Lorenzo Pisoni in Humor Abuse. Production photo by Chris Bennion.
1/12 Evening Performance
Fantastic first preview tonight! We are all thrilled to be working on this wonderful show again. Thanks to everyone here in San Francisco for welcoming us and working so hard this last week. The audience tonight was great. They applauded Lorenzo's first entrance and kept it up though out the show. They especially liked Little Lorenzo and the Staircase Act. The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a good sport. Lorenzo complimented her on her fancy scarf and pretty hair. When Lorenzo tried to boost her up to get the balloon she pushed down on him so much that he did the splits and fell over. She couldn't stop laughing and blew him a kiss on the way back to her seat.
1/14 Matinee Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was fantastic. He was an older gentleman with a great laugh. He was very excited that Lorenzo chose him, so they had to do some breathing exercises to calm down. All of the deep breathing made Lorenzo very dizzy and he almost fell over! The man really didn't understand what Lorenzo wanted him to do in trying to get the balloon down. Every time Lorenzo bent over to give the man a boost, the man would also bend over. This went on for a while until Lorenzo finally sent him back to his seat.
1/15 Evening Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a man, and he was a bit of a show off. Lorenzo got him all the way down on one knee on the floor when trying to get the balloon down. He stood on the man's hands and tried to lift off Superman style, but to no avail. When Lorenzo went to give the guy a boost up, the man tried to escape via the stage-left wing. Lorenzo caught him and dragged him back to his seat, and then taped him to his chair so he wouldn't cause any more trouble.
1/18 Evening Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a young woman. Lorenzo took her pashmina away and threw it to someone a few seats behind her before bringing her onstage. She wasn't much help getting the balloon down because she was wearing very high heels. But Lorenzo liked her hairdo and spent some time coiffing it for her. In the end he sent her back to her seat, got her pashmina back, and wrapped it around the person sitting next to her.
1/21 Matinee Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a nice man in a leather jacket. He took the whole thing very seriously and stood very, very still while Lorenzo tried to get the balloon down. This made Lorenzo's flailing look even more spazzy than usual.
1/22 Matinee Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a great sport and caught on to what Lorenzo wanted him to do right away. When Lorenzo tried to give him a boost, the man kept lifting his feet up really high, and this made Lorenzo fall over on his face. The man put a foot on Lorenzo's back and waved his arms over his head like a boxing champion. This was too way too much spotlight-stealing, and so Lorenzo had to tape him to his chair. The two women sitting next to the man were laughing so hard they were both crying.
1/24 Evening Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was fantastic. When Lorenzo shook his hand, the man offered to switch hats with Lorenzo. Lorenzo took the man's hat (a cool black fedora) and balanced it on his nose. The audience went nuts. Their endeavor to get the balloon down was hilarious: Lorenzo ended up flat on his face trying desperately to get his hands under the man's foot.
1/25 Evening Performance
Lorenzo Pickle was great tonight. The volunteer was a man, and he was very tense when Lorenzo first pulled him up onstage. To loosen up they did some deep breathing exercises together. This made Lorenzo very dizzy, and he passed out momentarily. When the man was giving Lorenzo a boost, Lorenzo's leg got hooked over the man's arm, and they spun in circles for a while before they both fell over. Then, when the man stood up and tried to give Lorenzo a hand up, he fell down again. Then Lorenzo was up and tried to give the man a hand, and this made Lorenzo fall down again. And so on and so on until they were both on the floor and Lorenzo pinned the man and declared himself the champion. The guy was a great sport and the crowd loved it.
1/26 Evening Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a very surly woman. When Lorenzo bent over to try and give her a boost, she slapped him on the behind!
1/28 Evening Performance
Lorenzo Pickle was very funny. The volunteer was a man who was a little reluctant to come up, but once he got onstage he was great. He just kept shaking his head in disbelief at the crazy things that Lorenzo wanted him to do. Lorenzo ended up on the floor with his hand under the man's foot, squirming around trying to lift him up. The guy just stood over him, looking down and slowly shaking his head.
1/29 Matinee Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was a lovely woman who just couldn't stop laughing. She wasn't really catching on to what Lorenzo wanted her to do so he cleaned her glasses and fixed her hair so that she could see better.
1/31 Evening Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was kind of strange. He may have been an actor or just really liked being onstage. He kept acting up and wouldn't play along so Lorenzo ended up giving the guy his hat and taking his seat in the audience, next to his wife. Left alone onstage, the guy tried to balance Lorenzo's hat on his nose. Lorenzo ran up and dragged him back to his seat, and then taped the guy to his chair.
2/2 Evening Performance
Lorenzo Pickle went a little off the rails tonight. The volunteer started acting up right away so Lorenzo gave her his hat and went to sit with her husband. She tried to make a break for it, so Lorenzo chased her back up onstage and then taped her feet to the floor so she couldn't get away.
2/5 Matinee Performance
The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer didn't want to come up onstage so Lorenzo did a chicken dance to taunt him. When he finally did come up, he actually played along beautifully. In their attempts to get the balloon down, Lorenzo ended up doing the splits between the volunteer's legs. The guy couldn't stop laughing.
2/5 Evening Performance
Brilliant final show here in San Francisco. We were overwhelmed by the full, rowdy, supportive house that came out for this added performance. The Lorenzo Pickle volunteer was awesome—he was a very cool man with a great sense of humor who thought the whole thing was hilarious. Lorenzo cleaned his glasses, messed with is hair, pushed him around all over the stage, and he was a great sport about all of it. Thanks to everyone here for such a great run! See you down the road!

Your Pickle Family Circus Memories

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Posted by Dan Rubin, A.C.T. Publications Manager
We asked you to share your favorite Pickle Family Circus memories, and you did not disappoint! Thank you to everyone who sent us moving and hilarious stories and beautiful photos. Below we're sharing some of the amazing snapshots and Pickle tales that were submitted. Add your own story to the comments section at the end of the post!
Humor Abuse has been so popular with Bay Area audiences that we've added an extra Sunday evening performance on February 5, at 7 p.m., but tickets are going fast and the show must close this weekend. Like the Pickle Family Circus, soon Humor Abuse will only exist in our fondest memories, so, as Pickle cofounder Larry Pisoni used to say, "Go call everyone you know, and then call everyone you don't know," and tell them not to miss it!
Pickle Memories
Laurel Bellon: "I took my daughter to the Mother's Day show at Rose Park in Berkeley for many years (these photos are from 1988). I always looked forward to them with great pleasure and remember them with much fondness. I never liked clowns before the Pickle Family Circus—I really miss those shows. They are an experience I will remember for a lifetime."

Brett Carlson
One of my earliest memories is of the Pickle Circus. I must have been two or three years old (my mother was surprised I remembered it at all). I vaguely remember seeing some kind of clown act, but the image that I recall vividly is that of a giant white balloon that was brought out, various shtick, then the balloon was popped and the confetti inside sparkled down all around me.

Pickle Memories
By Laurel Bellon (Berkeley, 1988)

Jim Edlin
The year our son Gabe was born, he was not quite a year old when we took him to his first Pickle holiday performance. Gabe was not much for attention span, but he amazed us by sitting rapt through the entire show. In the lobby reception after the performance, acrobatics master Lu Yi came over to greet our new circus fan. Lu Yi asked to hold our son, which we allowed. Then he shocked us by placing Gabe's feet on one of his hands and balancing Gabe up in the air. For us new parents it was a heart-stopping moment, but Gabe was having a great time. Master Lu Yi seemed to approve of Gabe's sense of balance; when he handed Gabe back to my wife, he said, "Bring him to me when he is three and I will train him."

Pickle Memories
Andrea Heilbron: "One of my favorite routines was of Geoff Hoyle's Mr. Sniff walking 'down' the stairs into a pool . . . with the wonderful Pickle Family Circus Band! Ah, those were the times! These are photos from June 1986 in Santa Cruz. We were great fans!"

Susan Picklesimer
My daughter was born in 1977 on the longest night of the year up in Anchorage, Alaska . . . When she was about two and a half, we got some folks to watch the store and headed off for the State Fair. We expected that the animals and rides and games would be what she would like. But she only had eyes for one person: she called him "Mitter Niff." (Maybe Mr. Sniff for the nose? I never knew.). She was completely enthralled by all these wonderful creatures of mime, but for months after she would ask, "Pleeeeeez could we go see Mr. Niff?" I'm not sure how many of you came for that long trip to Alaska, but believe me, we appreciated all the trouble—to see the happiness not only during the shows but for years after when she would talk of Mr. Niff.

Pickle Memories
Melissa Bleier: "I grew up in Ukiah, California, and was delighted every time the Pickle Family Circus came to town . . . It was almost 30 years ago, but I will never forget the magic and joy that the Pickle Family brought. I also remember thinking that they were all related to each other. Since I grew up in a family that performed magic shows for the local schools, I was amazed that their family all got to be in the circus. It was always so exciting to see kids onstage—I loved that. In the picture (from about 1985), I don't look too thrilled to have my face painted: I have no idea why! Regardless, this is one of my favorite pictures of myself. Thanks to Lorenzo for sharing his memories of the times that he made my memories."

David B. Solnit
On a sunny fall day in 1974, I was on the Yale University campus in New Haven and encountered a three-person juggling act on the lawn. It was Larry and two women [Peggy Snider and Cecil MacKinnon], and it was great. I particularly remember the bit with Larry's hat going back and forth mixed in with the clubs. I don't remember if they introduced themselves as the Pickle Family then, but that's who they were when I moved to the Bay Area a few months later. I was glad we'd all picked the same location to move to—as it seemed.

Pickle Memories
Ondine Boulter: "This was taken sometime in the summer of 1983 at Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek. My cousins and I were fortunate enough to grow up in the Bay Area in the '70s and '80s, in a family who values humor and loves a good chuckle (or three!). We'd often meet up at Pickle Family Circus performances around the Bay, where three generations of us would laugh till our stomachs ached! I remember envying the lucky boy who got to be a part of the circus and often wondered how I could join the Pickles myself. They transported us all to a place of imagination, magic, and good times and always left us wanting for more. Long live the Pickles!

Barbara VanderBorght
When I was still living in New York, a friend and I saw a trio of jugglers in Central Park one day in 1974 (or maybe '75). They were very good, and very funny. They went by the name of the Pickle Family Jugglers and were, in fact, Larry Pisoni, Peggy Snider, and Cecil MacKinnon. They made a lasting impression, so when I saw that a group called the Pickle Family Circus was appearing in Eugene, Oregon (where I had since moved), I was eager to go. Now the jugglers were joined by acrobats, musicians, and more, and Larry was joined in inspired clowning by Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle. This was a time of new vaudeville and alternative circus richness in the Northwest (Flying Karamazov Brothers, Rev. Chumley et al.), but I always viewed the Pickles tour as something special. After a few years, I moved to San Francisco, where the Pickle fun continued—mostly at Glen Park Canyon. The performers started to change as some moved on and others appeared, including the kids: Gypsy and the young Lorenzo and his memorable act with his dad . . . The Pickles and their artistic offspring have entertained and enlightened me in the three places I have lived over the past more than 30 years, and the appreciation has been passed on to my daughter, who now has her own child.

Pickle Memories
Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni) with his famous trunk, by Ondine Boulter (Walnut Creek, 1983)

Peggy White
It was always a joyful and fun weekend when the Pickles came to our neighborhood. Kind of like our own personal show. My daughter, Moragan Lee Luckey, was born in 1974, the same year as Lorenzo. We were always thrilled with the shows, and watching Lorenzo run around in his little gorilla suit like a circus pro was an absolute delight. What a champ! . . . The beauty of the Pickles was that they entertained using gymnastic skills without involving animals, they told charming stories that everyone could understand without saying a word, and they were just plain fun! Pickle clowns took the scary out of clowns and brought back real talent for entertaining.

Pickle Memories
By Laurel Bellon (Berkeley, 1988)

Geraldine Bagot Whitman
There are so many wonderful performances of the Pickles to recall from the early 1980s. Geoff Hoyle, Bill Irwin: we all knew they were geniuses just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world. The devotion of Peggy and Larry to the members of their circus and the community was so admirable. Wendy Parkman, the gorgeous and oh-so-fit trapeze artist—and of course cute little Lorenzo and Dan Hoyle, the mini-clowns. My husband and I were big supporters of the Pickles, and we urged my husband's family foundation to grant them some funds for new bleachers, which was accomplished. Many Pickles, including little Lorenzo, came to our wedding in 1983 at Halloween. It was a costume party wedding. Of course all the Pickles came as their Circus personas.

Pickle Memories
By Ondine Boulter (Walnut Creek, 1983)
 
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