The IJA has been given a collection of 300 photographic negatives of juggling photos and posters formerly owned by founding member Harry Lind.
Violet Carlson Beahan of Carmel, Calif., stepdaughter of Lind and the IJA's first secretary, donated the collection to the IJA archives "to make sure it's kept safe to share with jugglers in perpetuity."
The 4"x5" high-quality negatives were made in the late 1960s by Louis Lind of Warren, N.Y., Harry Lind's cousin. They include photos and posters of jugglers and other performers dating back before the turn of the century. About 2/3 of them include captions that identify the performers, but the IJA will have to work to identify performers in the other 100. Contact sheets will be made of all negatives for archival purposes, and to circulate to try to identify unknown performers.
The negatives depict jugglers both famous and obscure, ranging from W.C. Fields and Selma Braatz to the Kiralfo Brothers, whose poster brags, "No lamp tricks, no plate breaking, no cigar box comedy, no monotonous ball tossing... but a new departure in comedy juggling."
Beahan's mother, the widow Clara Carlson, married Harry Lind in Jamestown, N.Y., when Violet was about 22. Lind, a vaudeville performer himself, gained greater fame as a manufacturer of light wooden clubs for most jugglers from the 1920s until his death in 1967. Beahan remembers, "Our back yard was often crowded with jugglers, and most performers passing through town at least stopped to have a cup of coffee with us." Lind was an IJA founder and hosted the first two IJA conventions in Jamestown. Beahan was right there all the while serving as secretary of the organization and its first newsletter editor.
The IJA also owns a fine collection of at least as many negatives from a later era taken by its longtime official photographer, Lane Blumenthal. Taken together, these two collections comprise an excellent archive of American juggling from the turn of the century until almost 1970.
Several IJA members are involved in a New Vaudeville Light Circus tour of America, sponsored by Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. The tour began in Washington, D.C., in April and will travel throughout the country before ending in Miami in December.
The performers travel and live in a 40-foot bus outfitted with living quarters, galley, entertainment and communications gear and a 12'x14' fold-down performance stage. It also contains freezers that hold Ben & Jerry's Light ice cream to give away to audiences at the end of each show. The sound system, lights and freezer run on solar power generated by a 188 square foot solar power array on the top of the bus.
The producer-director of the tour is Benny Reehl, a well-known Maine performer and instructor of vaudeville skills. Three separate three-person troupes have signed on for the tour, and will travel with one other person who serves as a technician and bus driver.
The first group, which will tour through July 21 in an area from North Carolina north through New England and west to Chicago, includes IJA members Waldo (Paul Burke) and Lenny Deluxe (Roger French), and Boston street magician Peter Sosna. This trio plans to include the IJA Festival in St. Louis on its itinerary, probably on Wednesday, July 17.
Reehl said the 40 minute show they perform features the individual strengths of each performer, but does include a three-person, nine club passing pattern finale.
The second troupe takes over July 21 in Chicago, and will travel across the top states to Seattle, then down the West Coast into California. It includes Jody Scalise and Lenny Zarcone, jugglers, clowns and mimes from Greenfield, Mass., and IJA juggler Bart Landenberger from Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
They will yield the stage Oct. 7 in San Francisco to three more IJA performers, who will travel back across the lower part of the country toward Miami. That group includes juggler and Renaissance jester Michael Frith, balancing artist Dan Looker and juggler and movement artist Michael Menes.
Reehl said the tour is a natural idea for Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the two principals in the Vermont-based company. "They used to have a sort of act between them, and definitely appreciate this type of entertainment," said Reehl. He has also been teaching them to juggle as they worked out details of the tour.
Reehl said the bus will stop for a week or two in most big cities to play parks, festivals and even super market parking lots. The performers do two shows in one day in most small towns before moving on. Reehl said the schedule is flexible and can be changed to accommodate local festivals or special requests. To talk about scheduling or find out if the tour is passing near you, call Sue Dacey at Ben & Jerry's at 802/244-6957.
Ray Jason, who began the modern tradition of street juggling by flinging torches around in front of San Francisco's Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1971, is still at it.
This summer he celebrates 20 years of a sometimes tough struggle to make street performing legal and respectable. He returned from service aboard an ammunition ship in the Vietnam theatre in 1971 and wanted to "separate himself from the war machine." So, without much of an idea of what he was doing, he put on some tights, a frilly shirt and beret and took his torches down to a street fair near.
His act improved steadily, but he spent a lot of time playing tag with the police and the legal system. Jason refused to budge, and always found a way to return from the station house to the streets. The city finally settled on ways to accommodate him and other jugglers who demanded their freedom of expression. He knew early on that street juggling was not just a stepping stone, but a career. The city was never for him a step to another place, but a place in itself where he could become well known and respectable. The sign on his prop table says, "Ray Jason - San Francisco Street Performer - AND PROUD OF IT!"
With a self confident nature and determination to become a San Francisco folk hero, Jason has gained more acclaim in two decades than any other street performer. He has been official juggler of the San Francisco 49er football team for 10 seasons, he performed for the Queen of England during her visit to that city, and the occasion of his 10th anniversary was marked as "Ray Jason Day" in a mayoral proclamation.
How long does he intend to keep it up? He told a writer two years ago, "I'm a 42-year-old guy who juggles bowling balls. I want to be a 52-year-old guy who juggles bowling balls."
Using computer graphics as a juggling teaching tool is an idea that intrigues many people. It has been "tossed around" the electronic JUGGLEN network for several months now, with discussions of various approaches to the technological problems involved. The networkers are hoping to use math to generate patterns no one has seen before, and to program a computer to take the mathematical notation of these new patterns and show what it would look like to do them.
People are approaching this technologically demanding challenge on many fronts. Christopher Watson, an engineer at Silicon Beach Software in San Diego who is not a JUGGLEN networker, explained one way to get a graphic juggling output in an article in the Spring 1991 issue of MacTech Journal.
He wrote a basic three-ball cascade pattern to demonstrate the high-speed animation capabilities of that company's product, Supercard 1.5. It shows two hands and three balls floating on the screen, cascading in an endless loop. It can be run at varying speeds from slow motion to real-time. The article explains the concept of creating the animation in Supercard, and also lists the complete line code for those who want to try it themselves.
The main idea is to precalculate the locations of the three balls and the two hands at various intervals of time during each cycle, and then update the locations at each time interval. At the end of the article, Watson says that "without too much more work, it would be very possible to create variations on the path the balls and hands take, switching between them randomly by feeding new coordinate lists into the 'animateBalls' handler."
Watson admitted in a telephone interview it would take some time and expertise to revise the program for different patterns, but he does believe it could be an effective teaching tool.
The Silicon Beach crew might be a logical group to take on the challenge. Watson says there's a set of beanbags on almost every desk, and folks can be found juggling individually or in groups frequently during the work day. Watson himself, though, didn't know how to juggle when he wrote the article! He said, though, that a friend is teaching him now!