Juggling skills come in handy at Columbia Festival of the Arts

The 25th annual Columbia Festival of the Arts offers enough choices in music, theater, dance, art, literature and film that you'll be challenged to see how many events you can juggle during the next two weeks.

Those choices hit immediately with the free and family oriented LakeFest weekend in Columbia Town Center on Friday, June 15 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, June 16 from noon to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, June 17 from noon to 7 p.m.

For these opening weekend lakefront events, the festively costumed MarchFourth Marching Band returns with its thundering percussion and brass, stilt walkers and dancers. There's also the Montreal-based Cirque Carpe Diem performing aerial acrobatics.

More than 40 artisans set up for a fine art and crafts show and sale. Other art activities include a Chalk-It Up contest, a fine art exhibit, KidzArt projects for kids ages 5 and up, and a display of wood boxes and bowls decorated by local artists.

Also booked at LakeFest is "Bookapalooza," with the Howard County Library System Central Branch hosting authors, crafts and storytelling.

Besides that opening weekend full of free events to consider, there are ticketed events elsewhere in Columbia during the next two weeks. One of those events involves juggling that's even more strenuous than your own festival-related calendar juggling.

When the Flying Karamazov Brothers perform June 23 at 8 p.m. at Rouse Theatre, you can expect a zany mixture of juggling and clowning by four performers whose trademark wardrobe consists of a tuxedo on top and a tutu on bottom.

"It was great performing there and I really had a blast," recalled member Andy Sapora, who had recently joined the Flying Karamazov Brothers when it previously appeared at the Columbia Festival of the Arts in 2002.

This also marks a return to the area on a more personal level for Sapora, who grew up near Westminster. He remembers first seeing the Flying Karamazov Brothers perform at Washington's Arena Stage when he was a child, and then first testing his own juggling skills as a teen-aged street performer at Baltimore's Harborplace Amphitheatre.

After studying theater at Oberlin College in Ohio and then developing his skills in mime, juggling and clowning with teachers in France and Belgium, Sapora was prepared for his knife- and club-juggling duties with the Flying Karamazov Brothers.

He said that its upcoming Columbia performance will be "a greatest hits show" that includes one of its most popular routines, The Gamble, in which audience members bring in unusual items that the performers are expected to juggle.

Recalling a performance in which an enterprising kid in the audience brought in eggs that had been duct taped to real octopus tentacles, Sapora laughingly added that he was able to juggle that oddity. The only time he failed to juggle something, he confessed, was when somebody once combined corn starch and glue to "create a bloblike substance that oozes in your hand. I couldn't juggle it."

Juggling such ridiculous objects brings out the inner kid in the 39-year-old Sapora and also connects with today's kids.

"Now I'm watching 11-year-old kids at our shows," Sapora observed from his Union City, N.J., home. "We're good for all ages, but that age really plugs into it. They're becoming aware of irony, understanding that something slightly off color and irreverent can be funny, and it's right when they're starting to get into trouble in school. ... They like watching grown men on stage acting like idiots."

Rosanne Cash at Rouse Theatre

Other ticketed events in the festival include the Baltimore-based Stoop Storytelling Series June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Howard Community College's Monteabaro Hall; country music star Rosanne Cash June 22 at 8 p.m. at Rouse Theatre; and the Korean-born and Juilliard School-educated sisters comprising the classical Ahn Trio, which performs June 24 at 3 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

Also, Erth's Dinosaur Petting Zoo June 26 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Howard County Conservancy; author Edith Pearlman discussing her shortstory collection "Binocular Vision" June 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Historic Oakland; Charles Ross, who appeared at the festival last year with his "One-Man Star Wars Trilogy," returning with his "One-Man Lord of the Rings" June 29 at 8 p.m. at Smith Theatre; and MOMIX doing a prop-, puppet- and projection-enhanced dance program called "Botanica" June 30 at 8 p.m. at Rouse Theatre.

In addition to the ticketed events, additional free events in the weeks ahead include novelist Tayari Jones discussing her novel "Silver Sparrow" June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Howard County Library System's Miller Branch and Historical Center; a documentary film about the first Women's Transcontinental Air Race in 1929, "Breaking Through the Clouds," screening June 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Monteabaro Hall; and a Little Patuxent Review-sponsored reading June 23 at 2 p.m. at Oliver's Carriage House.

Several art exhibits in Howard County have festival-minded receptions. Two exhibits at the Howard County Arts Council, "Resident Visual Artists Exhibit 2012" and "Elements Within: Brenda Townsend-Kollman and Michael Spears," have a reception June 21, 6 to 8 p.m., with an Improv Showcase at 6:30 p.m. A group exhibit at the Meeting House Gallery, "Color Off the Grid," has a reception June 24 at 1:30 p.m. And a single exhibit shared by two galleries, "The Teacher Behind the Work: Celebrating Howard County Art Teachers," has its reception June 28, with the festivities from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Columbia Art Center and 6 to 8 p.m. at Howard Community College's Rouse Company Foundation Gallery.

For information about the Columbia Festival of the Arts, call 410-715-3044, or go to http://www.columbiafestival.com.

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