Passing By: Be Careful, It’s a Juggle Out There

The Home News: Region

Thursday, June 10, 1993

Passing By

Peter Genovese

Be Careful, it’s a juggle out there

NEW YORK—Giant eyeballs and a rather large nose on sticks, dancing. Raffishly- dressed sax and tuba players, playing. A serpent-like creature, high above the crowd, slithering. Scraggly-haired, bulbous-headed, pus-faced creeps, skulking.

Amidst it all, jugglers, musicians, puppeteers, dancers and a guy covered with hundreds of soda cans.

Not your usual lunchtime entertainment, not even for Manhattan.

Why juggling?” Cindy Marvell asked in between throwing clubs at partner Josh Weiner. “It’s cheap, always portable and doesn’t pollute the air.”

We have everything from simple half-face masks to giant backpack creatures,” Erminio Pinque said of the Big Nazo puppet troupe. “You saw one of them out there, the kind of giant potato with teeth and claws.”

“Out there” was the World Trade Center Plaza, the major venue for the first annual Buskers Fare, sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC).

If you do the PATH train commute every day, don’t just rush for the escalator at lunchtime or the end of the day; head for the plaza and have some fun.

“One hundred years ago,” said LMCC executive director Jenny Dixon, “there were like 20 circuses (in Lower Manhattan).”

The festival, which ends with the colorful Buskers Fare Saturday night, features giant-puppet theaters (Big Nazo, Ralph Lee and the Mettawee River Theater Company); lion and dragon dancers; soft-sculpture troupes (two performers yesterday were dressed as the trade center towers); jugglers (Marvell’s Circus Luscious) and various and not-so- sundry performers—the Hurdy-Gurdy Man, the Recycle Unicycle Man (the one wearing all those soda cans) and the Umo Ensemble Buffoon Theatre.

Got room for a couple of Mummers’ bands from Philly? Sure.

All over downtown

The event is spread all over downtown—the World Trade Center, City Hall Park, Battery Park City, South Street Seaport, Pace University and elsewhere.

The trade center plaza is a good place to start—a Buskers Bash will be held there from 12:30-1:30 p.m. tomorrow, and the Buskers Ball, with Zydeco music by Loup Garou, will be held there 8-11 p.m. Saturday. For information, call (212) 321-BUSK.

“Street performers remind us that we have a right to laugh,” said Nancy D’Antonio. “Buskers have, for 2,000 years, epitomized the free spirit of man.” D’Antonio’s photographs of street performers are on display in the mezzanine at 1 World Trade Center.

Looming over the festival stage are Pat Oleszko’s giant inflatable figures—a six- handed juggler, an acrobat and a horn-blowing busker/clown.

“It’s like working blind inside a paper bag,” Oleszko said of inflatable design and construction. “You start with a sketch that’s this big”—she held her hands inches apart— “buy many hundred of yards of fabric and work day and night for three weeks.”

And fill each of the ripstop nylon inflatables with hundreds of pounds of sand so they don’t blow away.

“It’s like dance juggling,” Howard Fireheart said of his work for Circus Luscious, which consisted of weaving in and out of the flying clubs, occasionally “stealing” one from Marvell or Weiner.

Why ‘luscious’?” Marvell said. “We wanted a whimsical name…”

So what’s the most critical need for a juggler these days? Room to practice, if not grow. Circus Luscious is always scrambling to find adequate space.

“Anyone who has a spare living room for us to practice in…” Marvell said wistfully.