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January 09, 2014 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-01-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

arts & entertainment

Clowning Around

Performer brings together mime,
movement and magic.

I

Suzanne Chessler
Contributing Writer

A

vner Eisenberg, regularly
performing as Avner the
Eccentric, was discovered for
the professional stage while working at
Camp Ramah in California.
While appearing in a talent show —
offering mime, juggling and sketches
he developed — Eisenberg was seen by
a Fresno, Calif., venue owner, the father
of a camper, and invited to be Frankie
Avalon's opening act for one weekend.
That first paycheck, arriving some
40 years ago, has been followed by pay-
checks earned around the world. Soon, he
will receive one in Michigan.
Avner the Eccentric in Exceptions to
Gravity takes the spotlight 7:30-9 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 16, in Varner Recital Hall at
Oakland University, where his visit also
will have him teaching the day before.
Essentially in silence, he brings togeth-
er mime, movement and magic for his
innovative clown persona.
"My character is really in the camp of
Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin:' says
Eisenberg in a phone conversation from
his home on an island off Maine.

Avner Eisneberg performs as "Avner
the Eccentric."

"He comes out to give the stage a sweep
and discovers that the audience is already
there. He picks up pieces of paper, and a
sign comes out about the show starting in
five minutes. So we wait.
"The show is kind of an existential
time warp. What does the character do
waiting for those five minutes?"
Manipulating a hat and a ladder with
the intent of physical comedy is among
what he does.
Eisenberg, who has appeared in
Michigan as the opening act for Andy

Classical Composer

DSO plays work of Gabriela Lena Frank.

Suzanne Chessler
I Contributing Writer

"This is my first orchestral piece, and it
translates into Indian Elegy, paying trib-
ute to my mother's family and culture
abriela Lena Frank earned
from Peru.
her doctoral degree in
"The music is lyrical with a great
music composition from the
deal of emotion behind it. The start is
University of Michigan, where her piece
very serious with lush harmony and
Elegia Andina served as her thesis.
orchestrations, reminiscent of the kind
Frank returns to Michigan
of music heard in the
to hear the piece played
mountains and meant to be
by the Detroit Symphony
folklore.
Orchestra as part of a Mozart
"It moves into a faster
and Bach program to be
middle section, and then
performed Jan. 16-19 at four
there's a cadenza, a solo-
venues in the Neighborhood
like moment [such as those
Concert Series.
Mozart incorporated]. The
The repertoire, depending
work goes back to the open-
on the venue, also includes
ing, scored more lushly"
Bach's Concerto for Two
Concerts will be conduct-
Gabriela Lena Frank
Violins, Bartok's Romanian
ed by Jamie Laredo.
Much of Frank's work
Folk Dances and Mozart's
Symphony No. 20.
connects with her maternal heritage
"I'm happy that a youthful work is
and the travels she made to explore
getting performed because it's usually
that identity. She takes her Jewish cul-
my more recent works that are pro-
tural identity from her father, who also
grammed," Frank, 41, says in a phone
attended the University of Michigan and
conversation from her California home.
met her mother while serving with the

G

36

January 9 • 2014

JN

Williams, was invited to Oaldand
University by Anthony Guest, a theater
faculty member.
"In doing his continuing education,
Anthony came to a workshop that my
wife, Julie Goell, and I have been teach-
ing in Maine Eisenberg explains. "It's a
summer course we've done for the past
22 years. He was one of the students
five years ago, and we stayed in touch.
"When I'm in the Oakland classroom,
I'll take up several topics, including
personal balance and relationship to the
audience. Every exercise and theme that
is presented in the workshop comes
right out of my show.
"I've tried to ease out the principles —
construction, timing, relationships — and
then let the students apply the principles
to their own unique sets of talents:"
Eisenberg, 65, the first solo clown
performer on Broadway in the 1980s,
has done more acrobatics in his act. As
time passed, he has taken out the more
strenuous routines but believes that the
act has become funnier.
"There's a difference between a
comedian and a clown:' he says. "The
comedian comes on stage knowing that
what he or she is doing is funny and
doing it because it is funny. The clown

doesn't know what he's doing is funny
and wonders why people are laughing:"
Eisenberg, who entered Tulane
University as a "science near had
learned to juggle as a kid and had been
a gymnast and high-jumper. After get-
ting a part in a play, he became a the-
ater major and went on to Georgia State
University, where he started clowning.
After earning his bachelor's degree
in theater from the University of
Washington in Seattle, he became inter-
ested in mime and studied with Jacques
Lacoq in Paris.
As his clowning coalesced around
what has become his current show,
Eisenberg also took on other types of
entertaining, such as the film role of the
holy man in The Jewel of the Nile with
Michael Douglas.
A second career, as a hypnotherapist
specializing in actor-related issues,
rounds out his initiatives.
"I think that my humor is basic
Jewish humor," says Eisenberg, active
with an unaffiliated synagogue.
"There's kind of an existential accep-
tance of predicament and a kind of
basic optimism. When the roof falls
in, instead of panicking, the comedian
says, 'Now we can see the stars."'



Avner Eisenberg will perform 7:30-9 p.m. Monday, Jan.16, in Varner
Recital Hall at Oakland University in Rochester. $10-$20. (248) 370-
2030; mtd@oakland.edu .

Peace Corps.
A full-time freelance composer
who also takes on piano performance,
Frank's works include Quijotadas for the
Brentano String Quartet, Dos Canciones
de Cifar commissioned by the Marilyn
Home Foundation with Carnegie Hall
and Manchay Tiempo for the Seattle
Symphony.
"At any one time, I can have as many
as 20 open projects:' she says. "I jump
around from one to another. I just
finished a big piccolo concerto for the
Cleveland Symphony Orchestra."
Frank, who started playing piano
at 4 years old, thought she would be a
Russian studies major because of her
interest in the upheaval of the 1980s.
That changed during her senior year,
when she enrolled in a music program at
the San Francisco Conservatory.
"I didn't realize the possibilities of
going into music as a professional; says

the single composer, born with perfect
pitch as well as hearing issues brought
under control. "My exposure to Jewish
American composers influenced me,
especially the ones that my dad's mom
loved:'
Frank, who earned a bachelor's
degree and a master's degree from Rice
University in Texas, has been nominated
for several Grammys. Her most recent
recording, Compadrazgo, performed
by Ensemble Meme, was released in
November.
"This will be the first time my work
has been performed by the DSO:' says
Frank. "I'm glad my piece is with work
by [anti-fascist Hungarian composer]
Bela Bartok, one of my heroes. He beau-
tifully married folk and classical music.
He was doing it at a very dangerous
time in European history because of the
anti-Jewish sentiment. I find his courage
incredibly inspiring:'



Mozart and Bach will be performed 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan.16, at
the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple, West
Bloomfield; 8 p.m. Friday, Jan.17, at Village Theater at Cherry Hill,
50400 Cherry Hill Road, Canton; 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan.18, in Kirk in the
Hills Presbyterian Church, 1340 W. Long Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills;
and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan.19, at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, 16 Lake
Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe. Tickets start at $25. (313) 576-5111; dso.org .

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