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University of Iowa News Release

April 14, 2006

Hancher's 'Spot' Project Brings 'Certified Lunatic' Tomas Kubinek To Iowa

Solo performer Tomas Kubinek has been called many things: "Equal parts old-time clowning and Monty Pythonesque silliness," "Certified Lunatic," the human equivalent of "Stupid Pet Tricks," "Professor of Fantastically Useless Inventions," "Master of the Impossible." And for more than three weeks in late April and early May, "Iowan" can be added to that list.

Through "Spot: The Hancher Family Arts Adventure," organized by the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium, Kubinek will reside, socialize and perform in Marshalltown (April 20-22), Perry (April 24-26), Spencer (April 28-30) and Iowa City (beginning May 5), culminating in a Hancher performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7.

That performance will be preceded by a family picnic at 12:30 p.m. on the Hancher Green, included in the ticket price.

A full schedule of residency activities is accessible on the Web at www.spotkids.com.

Kubinek (whose name is pronounced "toh-mawsh koo-bee-neck") was born in Prague, but was smuggled to Canada by his parents to escape the 1968 Soviet invasion. It was there, at age five, that he saw his first circus and became fascinated by clowns -- so fascinated that by age nine he had become one.

By age 13 he had an agent and was performing in coffee-houses, and while still in his teens he made his circus debut as the rear half of a two-person horse. Eventually he scraped together enough funds to travel to Europe for study with some of the continent's leading teachers of theater and clowning.

Now he tours the world, performing award-winning solo shows in theaters, international arts festivals and television broadcasts.

But what is it, exactly, that he does? Well, he flies, for one thing. He plays the ukulele while balancing a wine glass on his forehead. He becomes a six-legged pedestrian. He's even fenced on the high wire with the Flying Wallendas. He refuses to confirm that he actually can stop the earth's orbit: "It's not so important whether I actually stop the earth's orbit for three full seconds or not; it's that I am courageous and sincere in my attempts."

Suffice it to say that clowning, mime, magic, acrobatics, music and verbal humor merge in a sort of uncategorizable vaudeville that appeals to all ages.

He says, "Inspiration comes from constantly rediscovering what a miracle it is that we exist and how beautiful and fragile it all is."

A review in Germany's Badische Zeitung proclaimed, "One who is so charmingly understated and simultaneously joyfully self-effacing as Tomas Kubinek, can conquer the world in leaps and bounds. His beautiful pieces of absurdity are played with such ease and gentle confidence that the audience sit transfixed, gleefully awaiting each new moment of mad brilliance."

And the Santa Fe Reporter praised him for "That secret mixture of daring, talent, and utter foolishness."

Those who have presented him in the past testify to his effect on audiences. "He is a scientist of the human heart," said Stephen Barefoot of the Thalian Hall Center in North Carolina. "He, his artistry, and his impact are nothing short of miraculous. Time with Tomas Kubinek should be mandatory for all persons upon birth -- like a birth certificate, inoculations, and hope. His audiences are better people when they leave the theatre. . . . Bless him."

"Spot: The Hancher Family Arts Adventure" makes integral use of an interactive website -- www.spotkids.com. Children can become Spot Kids by registering at the website. Spot activities and information for parents are also available on the Web page, which includes games, recipes, learning activities and a chance for kids to get their own work published online.

Spot project residencies began last year as a result of an $800,000 grant to Hancher from the Wallace Foundation, through its "Leadership and Excellence in Arts Participation" (LEAP) program. The grant enables Hancher to enhance arts participation through the use of innovative technology and direct interaction with performing artists over a period of four years.

Two artists will be involved each year -- romper rocker Dan Zanes and the ODC/San Francisco dance company were featured last year, and San Jose Taiko is yet to come this summer -- with residencies leading up to a Hancher performance.

The Wallace Foundation grant, which is the largest programming grant in the auditorium's history, builds on Hancher's experience partnering with Pella, Decorah and Burlington in the Iowa Network Project, also made possible by Wallace funding. That $300,000 grant was the largest previous grant received by the auditorium.

The LEAP grant is being combined with resources committed by several UI programs and offices -- Academic Technologies, University Relations, the Division of Student Services, the Graduate College and the office of the Vice President for Research.

During the course of the project, the University of Iowa Foundation is establishing a $200,000 endowment that will enable Hancher to continue its audience-development efforts with the technology and expertise developed through the project.

Tomas Kubinek is also supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Iowa Arts Council. Peggy Scholz is the Iowa City performance sponsor, through the University of Iowa Foundation, and the picnic is supported by the Hy-Vee Food Store on Waterfront Dr.

Remaining tickets for the May 2 picnic and performance are $23 and $22 (youth $11.50 and 11).

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: www.hancher.uiowa.edu.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher/media05.html