On Saturday, May 31, the Strong Jugglers embarked on a thrilling adventure with their annual spring show, this year entitled “On the Road with the Strong Jugglers.” In an overarching and self-referential narrative, the show followed a family of four as they raced across the country via airplane and automobile in order to attend the juggling show on time. While the loose storyline tied the show together and provided light comedy, it ended up being merely a vehicle for displaying a spectacular array of juggling talent.
As with any juggling show, humor was a focal point of the performance from beginning to end. The first laughs, however, were purely serendipitous: Just as a juggler explained that no flash photography would be permitted, a camera flashed, causing the audience to erupt with laughter. For the most part, however, the night’s comedy relied on a mixture of puns and wordplay. As the family passed through a security checkpoint at an airport, the father — played by Co-President and senior Adam Lanman — was stopped. An attendant withdrew a banana peel from his bag — an allusion to last year’s banana-themed show — and asked, “Was this packed with malicious intent?” Lanman retorted, “No, delicious intent” — a response which elicited a scowl from the attendant and an audible groan from the audience. However, because Lanman portrayed a father character in the skit, these puns were incorporated gracefully and seemed completely appropriate as “dad humor.”
This sort of humor soon became the character’s undoing, however, when his rental car was later pulled over by a police officer — portrayed by junior Olivia Morgan wearing a fake mustache. While being questioned, Lanman’s character couldn’t resist another pun: “I mustache you a question.” It was heartening to see the jugglers acknowledge the lame comedy, as Lanman was arrested and carted off stage for this offense.
In the first juggling routine of the show, Co-President and senior Rebecca Levin joined junior Stefanie Milner at center stage. Together, they executed a series of clever maneuvers with a set of juggling clubs, tossing them back and forth with playful ease. The duo interacted wonderfully, demonstrating a camaraderie that obviously extends beyond the show. They alternated between tricks, and as soon as one seemed to become comfortable, the other would sneak up from behind and casually swap out and trade in extra clubs. At one point, they leaned back on each other’s knees while continuing to juggle. Altogether, their simultaneous antics weaved together into an intricate and noteworthy choreography.
This carefree attitude carried into all aspects of the show, inspiring a contagious optimism that permeated the May Room and spread to everyone in the audience. This was perhaps best expressed in a round of audience participation. Even the most stalwart spectators couldn’t help but smile when, during a brief intermission, Lanman called for the audience to participate in a round of stretching. After leading the crowd to stretch their arms up and down, he instructed everyone to reach out to a partner for a wide hug.
Audience participation continued in the second act when the travelling family arrived at a roadside diner and ordered a complicated lunch. Freshman Kareem Panton was randomly selected to come on stage and “add some zest” to recipe. Sophomore Jesse Checkla and junior Scott Lucchini, playing chefs, quickly gave him a crash course in cooking, by teaching him a set of dance moves to “add kick,” “give it some heat” and “shake it all up.” Panton proceeded to kick and spin with style, while the jugglers engaged in some death-defying knife throwing at the front of the stage.
Along the family’s drive to Rochester, they encountered many set-backs. At one point a gang of thuggish unicyclists zoomed by, sporting intimidating leather jackets and temporary tattoos. They cockily raced around each other as the song “Handlebars” by Flobots played in the background. Clasping hands, a total of six unicyclists formed a long chain and weaved around the stage, looping under each other’s arms. Despite minor stumbles, it was impressive to see so many students unicycling together simultaneously. Freshman Bonnie Nortz and junior Sarah Smith broke away from the pack for a wonderful duet routine. They rode together, effortlessly gliding forwards and backwards on their unicycles more gracefully than the average Raybin can walk.
Later on in the evening — as one of many highlights — sophomore Robert Hudson flaunted his mastery over Newtonian dynamics in a solo act with a set of cigar boxes. With a row of blocks, he rhythmically bobbed and spun them through the air, carefully clasping the boxes together on each downbeat before they could fall. His nearly flawless routine seemed to effortlessly defy gravity while maintaining perfect time with the gently pulsing music. Then, as the act started to wind down, Hudson produced a fourth box — pushing the already exciting feat to a new level of skill and precision.
In the show’s closing moments, the gripping plot was resolved. After traveling across the country, the family arrived at the juggling show, just in time for the final act. This time, the entire juggling ensemble gathered on stage for their last huzzah. They juggled balls across the stage before climbing into several human pyramids in a closing photo-worthy moment. Audience members again broke the no flash photography rule, but who could blame them?
Raybin is a member of the class of 2012.