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September 13, 2013

Working with Bubbles Requires 'Steep Learning Curve'...

by Matthew Silphen

Self-described bubble entertainer, comic, artist and scientist, Casey Carle attended the Ringling Bros. Clown College in the late 80s and earned a degree in "Bachelor of Fun Arts," an actual degree bestowed by the legendary performance organization.

Performing primarily throughout New England these day, Carle, 50, has worked almost entirely on and off stage his entire adult life. Carle has been featured on the Discovery Channel, consulted for Cirque De Soleil, performed at Lincoln Center in New York City, and entertained audiences from Dubai to Tokyo.

He will be bringing his one-man act, BubbleMania! to the Freeport Theater of Awesome on Sept. 14 and 15.

Carle lives in East Haddam, Conn. and recently spoke with the Tri-Town Weekly about how he got his start, the joys of performing, and what the worst nightmare is for a bubble act.

Q: So, why bubbles?

A: In college, I knew I wanted to work in theater – be any part of a stage show – so I learned to be an actor, a director, a stage manager, and did some of this professionally. What I really liked was being an actor in plays for children. The zanier the play, the more I liked it. So a friend thought I should go to Clown College and get into the circus. I didn’t want to wear the makeup but I loved physical comedy, so I went, got hired to perform and while clowning with the Ringling Bros. circus in the late 1980s I developed a bubble act to make people laugh and to make them go "wow!" I was the first person in the history of the world to put people inside bubbles as part of a circus routine, which is amazing if you think about it. The circus environment can be challenging on bubbles because of the dust and all the small particles floating around.

When I left the circus I returned to theater as an actor but so many people liked my "side-job" as a bubble entertainer that I knew it was going to become my "thing". But even then I had no idea just how big of a "thing" it was going to be.

Q: Why do audiences seem to respond so favorably to bubbles?

A: They are fun, interesting and engaging. If you learn to manipulate them like I do, they can be jaw dropping, eye popping, and worthy of belly laughing.

Q: Is there a tradition of using soap bubbles in performance?

A: When I started there were only a handful other guys doing it. At that time you had to spend a few years figuring out how to get soap bubbles to perform on cue at a high level. It’s a steep learning curve. There was a lot of trial and error.

Q: What type of soap do you use?

A: Back in the day, I was relying on Proctor and Gamble for the most part, products like Joy or Dawn along with water and glycerine. As I advanced in my career, I started using more and more advanced formulas. I’ve developed a proprietary blend, a trade secret that still has components of dishwashing liquid.

Q: Besides bubbles, what other types of things can people expect to see from your performance in Freeport?

A: They will go away being highly entertained and saying “wow.” The biggest misconception is that my show is geared only toward children, but it is not. After a show, the adults are sometimes the most enthusiastic. It’s designed for ages 5-95. There are other bubble acts out there, but they are not nearly as funny as what I present. There are elements of situational comedy and improvisational comedy. Each audience gets its own moments of pure “in the moment” comedy so the show feels like it’s just for them. Soap bubbles, and people, are inherently funny and I play off that.

Q: You use simple tools in your performance, correct?

A: The best bubble makers are those made or found around the house. All you need is something that can get wet and has some sort of opening in it. I use some simple store-bought wands and hoops in my show, but the rest I made or had made. Explore. At the very least try using old shoe laces, cardboard tubes, plastic soda can holders, little green produce baskets and wire coat hangers stretched open. But of course the messiest, and therefore most fun, bubble makers can be found at the end of your arms. Your hands can be used as some awesome bubble makers. Roll those sleeves up and stand by with towels.

Q: What’s the worst case scenario for a bubble performer?

A: Performing in very breezy conditions outdoors or when things are very dry and dusty. The worst condition would be performing in a sandstorm in the desert. Needless to say, I don’t do many performances in the Sahara Desert!

{Original article edited for accuracy and succinctness by Casey Carle}

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