The jovial and jaw-dropping BELLO MANIA
, featuring more mania than ever before, has made a triumphant return to The New Victory Theater! We caught up with Michael Karas
, juggler extraordinaire and one of the newest members of Bello’s troupe, to find out how his #LoveOfTheater began. Haven’t had a chance to see Bello and his crew’s crazy antics yet? Check out our trailer, then read on for Michael's interview!
What inspired you to get into juggling?
When I was younger, I went to an arts festival in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, I remember watching a guy juggle three wooden mallets and play a song on a xylophone at the same time! I thought it was the coolest thing, and I was inspired to learn absolutely everything I could about juggling. Not only was juggling fun, but it made people smile!
How did you hone your craft?
I learned how to juggle in a number of different ways. First, I read every book from my local library on how to juggle. The art really came to life for me when I was a child actor; I was in a show with a fellow actor who taught me the very basic skills of juggling. A few years later, another friend of mine taught me how to juggle three clubs. From there I began to teach myself, and often watched video tutorials to master different juggling techniques. I enjoyed juggling so much, it never felt like practice!
How did you conceptualize, and ultimately realize, your solo acts in Bello Mania?
I don't always perform in theaters as large as The New Victory, so right away I knew my acts had to be BIG! I made sure to use extra large rings and balls that would be bold enough for everyone in the audience to see, from the orchestra all the way up to the balcony.
For the first act, I wanted to do something more along the lines of a "classic" juggling performance, so I chose jazzy music to accompany difficult and flashy tricks with clubs and rings. For the second act, I switched it up and used a mix of popular hip-hop songs to bring some "New York flavor" to Bello Mania
. Lastly, I knew that Bello loves to be silly, so I had to bring my puppet act, "Mahna Mahna," to the show!
The playful puppetry and detailed sets of Manitoba Theatre for Young People's Comet in Moominland opened our 2007-08 season.
In 2002, Fred Garbo and Naielma Santos of Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co. covered our stage with air-filled props, long before inflatable snowglobes were a thing.
We hear you saw Comet in Moominland and Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co. when you were a kid. Both shows played right here at the New Vic! Where did you see them?
I actually saw those shows back home in Pittsburgh where I grew up, but my memory of them has always stuck with me. I remember Comet in Moominland
was performed "in the round," meaning the audience sat in all directions around the stage, and the action happened in the center—I didn’t know theater could be done in that way! When I saw Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co.
, it was on a very big stage; the entire production was so visually-striking, it’s something I’ll never forget.
How do you think your #LoveOfTheater has grown since those early theatergoing experiences?
My parents felt that taking their child to see theater was essential, and I'm so grateful they held that belief. As an adult, I still go to the theater quite often. I try to see around five to ten shows a month! I have always admired how fearless live actors, performers and entertainers are. Now that I’m older, and a performer myself, I understand how important it is to support live theater and entertainment.
In your New Vic Bill bio, you mention that you "LOVE being an audience member." Can you tell us more about that?
As much as I love performing, I also love being an audience member. Having been on both sides of the curtain, I can appreciate, as an audience member, the amount of work that goes into every single show. When I see a show, it inspires me to make my own art. Sometimes just sitting in a theater and watching a performance gives me hundreds of new ideas.
Why should families see Bello Mania?
is a perfect family show. It gets everyone laughing and saying "wow" together! Kids will laugh at Bello's wacky shenanigans and adults will appreciate how skillful all the performers are. Bello's goal is to bring multiple generations together to laugh and be amazed at the same time. Kids will be inspired to try new feats and adults will re-connect with the curious child inside each of them.
||Be sure to catch Michael Karas and the rest of the BELLO MANIA family performing at The New Victory Theater through May 1, 2016. Who knows? Your #LoveOfTheater may begin—or grow—when you witness harrowing high wire hijinks, the show-stopping sway pole or Michael’s jazzy juggling!