From Robert Peck

 1982 Most Stupendous

 Here's a fun memory:

I got to Atlanta , as I'm guessing so many folks of my baby boomer generation courtesy of Roger French and Toni Shifalo. Both of whom I'd met up in Maine the previous summer at a clown camp directed by Fred Garbo & Bob Berkey (which later morphed into the Antic Arts Academy and included such luminaries on it's faculty as Michael Moschen, Tom Murphy & Randy Judkins).

When I entered the elementary school gym where the '82 festival was being held, I noticed a six year old boy lying on his stomach on a skate board and sliding around the room like a motorized reptile.   How cute I thought with a chuckle.  Later I learned that his name was Anthony Gatto.  Who was such a prodigy that he planned on competing for one of the vaunted Punxatawney Phil trophies... replete with sawed off tree stump.  

To my amazment Anthony not only competed but completely out performed everyone from a purely technical standpoint.  (I believe even back then he was doing amazing tricks with 5 balls and could cascade 7 rings).   Somehow I managed to style my way through a talking fire devil stick routine and comedy 3 cigar box bit to also win a Phil.  

The best part of which was that for the next two decades plus, I could always awe a crowd of IJA'ers at a festival by claiming that I'd competed with Anthony Gatto in a juggling contest and the judges awarded us equal prizes.... of course, at the time, Anthony was all of 6 years old!

Here's hopin' this proves a pleasant addition to your compilation of fond memories of festivals past.

Rob Peck 2007


Taken from the following website:

About Rob

Rob Peck is the founder and C.E.A. (Creative Education Advocate) of Zestworks- a speaking, training and consulting firm which believes that "the best test is zest!" The recipient of the International Jugglers Association's 1999 Excellence in Education award, Rob's moving presentations defy convention and gravity. From Harvard to Hewlett Packard, his customized speeches and seminars have raised morale, re-invigorated commitment, and reinforced the power of collaborative problem solving.

Rob is an active member of both the New England Speakers Association and the National Speakers Association. However, his highly original approach to keynote speaking is largely the result of a rather unique educational background. After graduating the University Of Pennsylvania (Phi Beta Kappa) and doing post-graduate studies at Harvard and The Sorbonne University in Paris , France , Rob went on to do advanced training at the Antic Arts Academy (a.k.a. Our Lady Of The Last Laugh) in Canton , Me.

An award winning entertainer and speaker, Rob was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute to research and write a program highlighting multicultural solstice celebrations. He has appeared on cable and network television programs such as CNBC, Evening Magazine, Amazing America, and was a featured guest on Donahue. Rob is also the producer of "Stories I Could Never Tell"- The Collected Wit 'N Wisdom of Alan Weiss, author- Million Dollar Consulting and Money Talks.

A keen observer of adult learning styles- and a recovering perfectionist himself, Rob delights in helping reluctant risk takers realize that when fallibility strikes- fortune sparks! His hands-on (outside the briefcase) slow motion juggling seminar: "To Err Is Human, To Recover... Divine!" helps companys reduce stress and raise productivity by focusing on the 3 T's: Teamwork, Tolerance and Tenacity. His provocative keynote on putting Multiple Intelligences Theory into practice in the workplace: "Left Brainers, Right Brainers and No Brainers!" examines the connection between courage and creativity, clarity and community.


The following article about Rob Peck was published in Summer 1988:

A Foolproof Funny Act

By Russ Kaufman

The act of Rob and Linda Peck, known collectively as "Foolsproof Follies," includes a diversified repertoire of skills. They do an excellent job of combining juggling, wire-walking and visual skills with an ample dose of witty quips and good-natured bickering. The Pecks (known on stage as "Peck and Henpeck") have been performing regularly in New England and New York , but were recently the featured performers at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Science.

Before that show started, the audience noticed the latest addition to their show ­

a tightrope rig that was about as long as the stage itself. The Pecks purchased it about a year ago so Linda could do more difficult wire - walking tricks than she had been able to do with the slack rope she formerly used (with the aid of eight or ten able-bodied men who held it for her!).

The show started with a lively big band number. Linda, wearing a bright yellow dress and black tights, juggled four colored scarves. Rob followed, clothed in a purple, red and black Harlequin costume, and did some hat manipulation. He then did a humorous three ball routine using a baseball theme. Linda followed with a parasol on which she rolled a ring and a Nerf ball. She ended by balancing the opened parasol on her head.

Rob used a warped tennis racket as a devil stick and took off into the audience. After the show, he said, "We both enjoy using a lot of props in our show that the audience can relate to more directly. We think the audience generally appreciates seeing things they know rather than specialized juggling props."

Linda then got on the wire with a parasol in both hands, walked forward and backward, and gradually did a split to sit down on the wire. As she walked it, Rob, clad in a tutu, scooted cross the stage on a unicycle using a closed parasol as a devil stick. He ended by crashing off stage.

The tutu concept was a takeoff on the traditional, somewhat sexist shows, where the audience is used to seeing a lovely female assistant who hands the male star his props.

Linda & Robert Peck (Photo copyright Jim Moore)

Rob did a comical cigar box routine and Linda balanced nine boxes on her chin as she descended into a split. Rob played a short musical number on an ocarina, then switched to a flute for an Irish folk piece. He finished with a blues piece on the harmonica.

One of Rob's strongest technical routines was the use of his flaming devil stick. He preceded the demonstration with a warning to children not to play with fire and to know where in their homes they could find a fire extinguisher. The Pecks finished the show with continuous three ball steals which were switched with two apples, a lemon and hats with a well-times spoof of Fred Astair / Ginger Rogers style choreography.

Foolsproof Follies is a team both on and off the stage. The couple has been married for four years. They met at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 1984, where Rob was a featured juggler and Linda was a spectator. She is a Maryland native who studied political science and dance at George Washington University . She studied ballet for a while with the Washington School of Ballet and learned rope walking and other skills at New York 's Antic Arts Academy . Linda is very happy in her occupation, saying, "We are fortunate that our chief pleasures in life ­music, comedy and juggling - have become our profession."

Rob is originally from New Jersey . He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania , where his senior thesis was a play whose main character was a juggler. He serves as the writer and artistic director for Foolsproof Follies. He also attended the Antic Arts Academy . "I love the adrenaline rush of hearing people laugh and seeing the look of amazement in childrens' eyes," he said. "It's not important that you really believe in magic, because in team­work, the real magic is in believing!"

The Pecks have been inspired by a number of groups. They cite Burns and Allen as people they try to emulate. They also hold the Flying Karamazov Brothers in high esteem. Both feel that troupe has made a large contribution to how audiences view jugglers. As Rob put it, "They have broken the color barrier, they are the 'Jackie Robinsons' of juggling. They took juggling out of circus arena put it into the theatre." Rob admires their use of language, feeling it shows that jugglers can be educated and eloquent. Above all, they admire the way the Karamazovs have pioneered the art of visual rhythm, performing ingeniously choreographed aerial tap dances where the juggling is not only done to music, but actually creates the score simultaneously.

Another couple they try to imitate is La Cirque Imaginaire - Victoria Chaplin (daughter of Charlie) and Jean-Pierre Bap­tiste. "They are our examples of what our act should strive for," said Linda. "A sort of modern- day fairy tale of beauty and the buffoon. " They also especially enjoy the creative use of props and music that Michael Menes, Airjazz, Barret Felker and especially Allan Jacobs present. Rob said, "They all juggle to the music, not just with the music as background."

Foolsproof Follies is building an impressive resume. Rob was a featured juggler at the IJA 1983 Purchase convention with his MacBeth parody - "A Man's Home Is His Hassle. " They have performed three consecutive years in the Pennsylvania Ballet's Nutcracker Suite at the Academy of Music , and together in 1985 and 1986 in the Philadelphia International Children's Theatre Festival. More recently, they've worked The New York Cafe Theatre, the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City and the Three Rivers Festival and Regatta in Pittsburgh .

One of the Peck's great hopes is to see the IJA take the lead in organizing a formal education process for juggling. Rob said, "Right now there is no way for career-oriented jugglers to follow an established program of study. You have to learn and pick it up as you go. The IJA should take the lead and help bring juggling up to par with other arts so people could study it like any other discipline, such as music or dance.

"The general public doesn't view juggling as an important art. If juggling is to expand, we have to find universal connections and convey our experiences. Jugglers can make a difference in this world, and can hopefully bring more peace to this small planet."

Foolsproof Follies, photo by Russ Kaufman

(Photo by Russ Kaufman)  

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