Jessie Cadle | Staff Writer
Clubs fly back and forth, shooting through the air between the two men.
They are the Gizmo Guys, a professional juggling and comedy duo. They perform at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall as part of the Family Entertainment Series. The two have been juggling and clowning together professionally for 25 years.
Chautauqua is one of the few places they try to visit a day before their performance, so they can enjoy the peace and beauty of the Institution.
“I remember this garden and how well kept it was. I try to make my garden look like that,” said Barrett Felker, one of the Gizmo Guys.
Their act is aptly named, because the props they throw around are often referred to as gadgets or gizmos. At today’s show, the duo will juggle all the classics: balls, clubs, devil sticks and diabolos.
Though devil sticks and diabolos have frightening sounding names, their definitions are much more innocent.
“Devil sticks” is simply a more imposing name for juggling sticks. Two sticks with fringe on each end are used to juggle a third back and forth. Diabolos are a spool balanced on a string, strung between two sticks.
During their act, the Gizmo Guys use the props together and for solo moments. Both Falker and his partner, Allan Jacobs, are self-taught jugglers who began juggling as a hobby before taking it on as a career.
“I remember visiting with my cousins, and we saw this guy in this magic commercial who was a juggler, and I just thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen,” Falker said. “I was hooked. I went home, and over the next three days I taught myself.”
The two learned by practicing themselves and attending juggling festivals. Falker and Jacobs first met at a juggling festival in Delaware in 1977. Ten years later, they began to travel and work together.
The duo spices up their acts with comedic bits and have sometimes added music to their work. Most recently, they performed to sophisticated classical music in Denver, Colo., Falker said.
The two still practice individually for hours every day to stay loose, but they don’t have to rehearse their act together because of their craft’s repetitious nature. They continue to learn new tricks online and from juggling festivals.
But unlike when Jacobs and Falker learned to juggle, today’s aspiring jugglers have more opportunities to learn.
“Now, there are many online resources, and there are these communities of jugglers,” Falker said. “There is usually a juggling club that is reasonably close.”
When the duo creates a new act, they try to come up with as many moves as they can, he said.
“We always try to make our juggling visually pleasing,” Falker said. “We may create 100 or 200 moves and only keep a small percentage of them and then add comedic elements.”