Page 28                                             Spring 1988   



Give That Lady A Groundhog!

A year on the streets isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person.


Certainly not if you're a mild-mannered Oberlin College honors English major juggling your way through Europe !


The poise, confidence and talent that Cindy Friedburg earned entertaining crowds in England, Italy and France last year easily won her the Atlanta club's highest juggling honor - A Punxsutawney Phil groundhog trophy. She, Jeff Mason of Pittsburgh , Penn. , and Bob Whitcomb of Columbus , Ohio , each won one of those ceramic critters for their outstanding performance at the tenth Atlanta Jugglers Association Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival Feb. 5-7.


Appearing before the 110 registered jugglers and about 200 spectators, Friedburg performed almost flawlessly with five balls and up to five clubs.


As a student of literature last year in Ireland and London , she used her already considerable juggling skill as an entree to fun and friends. "With one call to a number I found in 'Juggler's World' I was an instant part of their juggling community," she said. Traveling last summer, she entertained crowds strolling around Florence, Italy, during the cool evenings. Learning silent comedy, she did a juggling imitation of great monuments of the the world, among other routines.


She found crowds cordial and police accommodating to her smiling, friendly style. She remembers a great pie fight at a Copenhagen juggling festival, and she won a five ball duration competition at a juggling festival !n Berne , Switzerland . Not surprising, since she has also done seven ball takeaways with Tony Duncan during juggling gatherings in New York City .


She came to Atlanta during a mid-year break at Oberlin. The project she planned to present at the end of the break was a 45-minute show mixing the poetry of Shelley, Keats and Wallace Stevens with juggling. "It's easier to memorize poetry with the juggling," she said.


Friedburg wants to juggle professionally after she receives her Oberlin education. In the meantime, she's working on seven rings and more creative moves with three.


Nine acts appeared to contest the three Phils - which were awarded by a

panel of non-juggling judges to the Most Stupendous, Most Incredible and Most Spectacular acts.


Whitcomb spun three balls simultaneously - one on each index finger and one on top of one of those. His big finish was doing four clubs while spinning a ring on an ankle and a ball on a mouthstick. Mason won for smooth cigar box work and interesting variations with two balls and two rings. The show also included Bill Fry's "work in progress" during which he energetically juggled everything from a ball, chain and hacksaw to wigs and baby dolls as different items were suggested on his musical soundtrack. Comic relief was provided by Captain Slow with an expanding daily newspaper and Tom Pierce's skilled mime work.


The traditional Sunday afternoon non­judged public show included club passing comedy from The Flaming Idiots (Jon O'Connor, Kevin Hunt and Rob Williams) and Vegas-style club, ball and ring work from 1987 IJA Nationals champion Benji Hill.

Mason, a University of Pittsburgh student, showed a silky smooth diabolo and three ball routine. He said he's concentrating more on three balls now because, "that's where juggling begins and it provides the greatest opportunity for creativity. " He has been practicing new catches and stops using his elbow, the back of the knee and the crook of his neck.


Manualist James Lamkin of Alexandria, La, gave the audience something different by playing "Stars & Stripes Forever"  his hands. It was the first-ever juggling festival for Lamkin, a hospital chaplain who uses variety performance in his ministry. Being there was a thrill, he said. "It's like finding another part of yourself in all the new things everyone else is doing."


In honor of its decade of existence, the festival featured a special "Grand Prix

du Phil" midnight cabaret competition between past winners. Only four acts braved the dim lighting and low ceiling to per­form. The overwhelming winner was the Jongleur Jugglers of Gainesville, Fla., (John Creveling, Mike Stillwell and Yvonne Wetherell) who set aside their nice-guy, family-style interaction for some risqué comedy appropriate only to the late hour.


The audience was shocked to hilarity by the Jongleur's on-stage appeal for "safe passing" at juggling conventions through use of condoms on clubs! 'We like to pass clubs, but not enough to die for it!" they proclaimed.


Jugglers enjoyed the new quarters for the festival in a spacious, renovated school gymnasium. Club president Toni Shifalo and co-founder Rodger French emceed the public events. At least three prop manufacturers offered a line of props that included oddities such as chain mail beanbags and Koosh Balls, which can only be described as a jumble of cut rubber bands that looks like a sea anemone and feels great!


The Flaming Idiots were also at their first Groundhog Day Festival, though they've been traveling the festival and fair circuit for three years. Their comedy act includes a unique fruit-eating juggling race between the trio. One has an apple, one a banana and Kevin Hunt gets a coconut! "I can open it by breaking it on my head sometimes," he said, "but I've never won the race!" They will be at Scarborough Fair in Dallas and the Pennsylvania Rennaisance Fair this summer.


Another newcomer was Robert Holroyd, who practiced four clubs on a rola bola while balancing a pole on his head. He performs five balls overhead and does a club and basketball in one hand with two beanbags and a soccer ball in the other hand. He worked at King's Dominion theme park in Virginia for three summers and at Disney World last summer.

Groundhog winners (I-r) Jeff Mason, Cindy Friedburg, Bob Whitcomb

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