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Clowning in the Community Gardens, Vaudeville Comes to South Bronx

By Claire Cameron | October 19, 2013 10:12pm
 Parallel Exit, a Vaudeville theater troop performed free for the families of High Bridge on Saturday.
Vaudeville Comes to the South Bronx
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HIGH BRIDGE — With nearly twenty years of clowning experience, Joel Jeske and Harry Moeller know how to raise a laugh and a few hairs with their daring tricks and slapstick routines.

On Saturday the pair, who are part of a Vaudeville theater troop called Parallel Exit, delighted their audience at the Target Bronx Community Garden on Woodycrest Avenue. 

Kicking off their show with a juggling act, the pair quickly got some of the younger audience members involved, bringing the local kids that had come out to watch up to the stage and into their tricks. 

From juggling, the show progressed to circus classics like Chinese plate spinning, unicycle tricks, and the duos most difficult trick of all: balancing a six foot ladder on Jeske's chin. 

One of the volunteer performers for the day was 11-year-old Jeremiah Joseph. He helped Jeske and Moeller perform their juggling act, involving throwing bats back and forth while Jeremiah stood in between the two men.

"It was kind of terrifying knowing the bats were flying around me," he said. "I felt like ducking!"

The performance had something for everyone, with kids of all ages and adults alike laughing at Jeske and Moeller's antics on stage, and at times, in the thick of the audience too. 

Emcee Mark Lonergan completed the Parallel Exit trio which uses old-time costumes and tricks to thrill audiences with some good old fashioned fun.

The clowns themselves looked like they were having a good time too, occasionally unable to stop themselves from cracking up at each other's antics. 

"We love playing for kids because they are so appreciative of what we do," said Lonergan. "They have a wild energy and we love doing it. Particularly for clowns, that's what they live for." 

The performance is part of the New York Restoration Project's new arts and culture initiative in the South Bronx.

Although the summer program of events is almost over, next year NYPR Director of Public Events Jordan Dyniewski promised that from next April onward the South Bronx can expect to see far more free community theater, arts, and culture projects. 

"The main idea is making arts and culture accessible in the South Bronx," he said. "I saw one of Parallel Exit's shows and thought they were fantastic. They work really well in our space here at the garden." 

Neighborhood mother  Anna Terero had brought her kids Angely and Anthony Medina, 8 and 6 years old, along to watch the show. Both were delighted by the performance.

"My favorite trick was when they were doing the ladder with the chin," said Angely. "It looked a little sore!"