Originally posted 12-09-08 in MBD2
This Spotlight and ongoing articles will include interviews with performers that are not all balloon professionals in particular, however they will all be professional entertainers in general. We at MBD2 believe we have much to learn and be inspired by from all types of artists, afterall as O’Shaugnessy said, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams…”
Chicago’s own Brad Weston lives an entertainer’s dream. Throughout the year he appears at colleges, resorts and on cruise ships with “The Brad Weston Experience and His World Famous Comedy Juggling Show” primarily performing juggling and object manipulation. He has appeared on such shows as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and many others. (Visit his sitewww.bradweston.com to view promotional footage of his appearances.)
He has been performing professionally for 25 years and began training as a child at the Piven Theater Workshop in Evanston, becoming an entertainer because he was compelled. “I did go to college for a couple of years to become a teacher, but actually I was entertaining all through college,” he said. “This is what I planned to do—shortly after I learned to walk, I learned to soft shoe.”
Weston said he does not have a particular niche. “I think I’m still in the process of ‘niching’ myself!” he said. “Early on I was like a convenience store. Someone may have been looking for Beetlejuice doing tightrope walking and I‘d do it.” So, over the years he has been creating a boutique experience and becoming more specialized in his shows and programs. In fact, he added, “I’ve been developing more of a non-verbal, theatrical show using objects that may be imbued with a spirit and approaching pantomime and object manipulation.” Of course, with this type of specialization, he thought he would probably perform fewer shows per year, but at a higher fee.
“I spent the past summer working the resorts in Mexico,” Weston said. “ It was great because I could bring my wife and daughter.“ He was also busy this year entertaining on cruise ships. For booking performances, he goes through agents as well as books himself for events. In fact, just this year he got an agent that books him solely with cruise ships, and another one that books the college gigs. In addition, he does offer a couple educational shows: Crossing the Prairie, a program about what life was like during the Gold Rush; and The Fool’s Journey, a program about life in the Renaissance as a court jester.
Weston’s background is colored with intense education and experiences. He pursued acting and dance at North Eastern Illinois University and received his BFA from Ringling Brothers Clown College. Afterwards he spent a year at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theater. He has taken improv courses at Second City and studied pantomime with Marcel Marceau, among other theatrical intensives.
However, these days, most work takes place in his home studio. As far as continuing education, he may get to the occasional seminar, but he keeps his edge by being able to customize to his audience, whether its accommodating to the age of the guests or the venue limitations. “I’m pretty comfortable customizing on the fly,” he said. “It’s actually more fun!”
Weston had been a single father supporting his daughter primarily by juggling until he met his wife and performer Libby Green five years ago. His daughter is now 8 and is quite accustomed to her father‘s entertainer lifestyle. “She knows most of the strait lines so well that if the audience doesn’t get it she’ll shout it out.”
His own artistic influences include Michael Menez, a juggler with a theatrical approach, Blue Man group and Mummenchantz. In terms of creative influences he looks to different art forms and multicultural music.
Motivation and passion do go hand in hand. “I’m a binge worker,” he said. “I’ll get into something and be really excited about it and I’ll keep working at it. The inner passion is a motivator”. In addition, he recommends hobbies. “I encourage everybody to have hobbies they are passionate about, then they’ll likely turn that hobby into a profession.”
Meanwhile, if someone were interested in entertainment as a profession, Weston said “Go to acting school, get theatrical training.” He elaborated by saying, for example, you would want to learn juggling from a juggler, magic tricks from a magician.
There is a book that has had a profound effect on Weston called The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and is basically a guide to living the artist‘s life. “I’ve lived my own life by that book,” he said, adding that years ago he went to Europe with $100 in his pocket and no return ticket. His experiences were vast and included him staying in a circus wagon on a commune. “It’s important to take chances in Life. Most people don’t. If you do take chances you’ll have a better likelihood of succeeding,” he said.