Songs My Father Taught Me, by Dave Gillies
My father was an accountant and my grandfather was a Methodist evangelist. Perhaps a career as a juggler with a message was predestined, but the path to that goal was not straight and narrow.
I grew up on a small family farm in a rural corner of Delaware County Pennsylvania. I walked home from school, served my paper route, then milked the Guernsey cow by hand. My dad sometimes soothed the feisty Jersey by singing to her. He sometimes stood outside the kitchen door and sang "The Spanish Cavalier" or "It's a Long, Long Trail A'Winding" to Mom. With my paper route I discovered a lot about people and about how different and interesting my neighbors were. I remember one collection day a little boy coming to the door and telling me, "My mother says she isn't home." Dad, who was born in Scotland, told me scary stories about the Great Depression and insisted that I save half of my paper route earnings.
After graduation from West Chester State College, where I majored in English and participated in Little Theater productions, I moved back to the family farm and got my first real job, teaching sixth grade in Chester, which was at that time somewhat safer than Vietnam. After a few years in Chester I decided that I really needed to see Brazil, so I headed west on my Harley-Davidson, reached the Grand Canyon, turned left, and several months later discovered that the Pan American Highway ended in Panama.
Suddenly, returning to the States, I got a challenging job working with special students at Devereaux. Moving on to Upper Merion I met inspiring administrators, as well as the charismatic William Bradfield, and the resourceful William Smith. Suddenly, my juggling hobby got out of control and I catapulted into performing and directing Give & Take full time in 1982.
My performing interest was useful in teaching, children are natural performers, and my teaching experience now informs my performing. I learned things about connecting with an audience by watching my grandfather preach, and by street performing at NewMarket, moving into the space left by Penn Jillette.
I have enjoyed seeing how the values, methods and opportunities of Give & Take have affected the characters of our young apprentices, Devin, Kiva, Eric, and John, drawing them toward becoming more kind, curious, and patient. I now enjoy how they shape the character of the company. I am proud of them and admire their integrity as well as their skills.
I enjoy food, and cooking. Food is history. Food is memory. I especially like preparing paella, favada and other dishes I became fond of during my wonderful and heartbreaking love affair with Elsa and Spain. I appreciate that cooking can be challenging, with success, failure, loss, and recovery.
I admire Fred Rogers, Johnny Carson, and Elsa for how they understood and respected children. I admire Garrison Keeler for being able to come up with original material week after week that makes me laugh.
I like learning about wine, and about rigging. I like climbing trees, the poetry of Theodore Roethke (In a dark time the eye begins to see...), the stories of Alice Munro, and the new Please Touch Museum. I like that we can vote. I like performing and I like working with the other members of our company. I like how playing the drums in a jazz combo makes me hear rhythms I didn't pay attention to before.
I believe it is hard to be unhappy while juggling, so everyone should learn. And I hear it makes you smarter!
Having A Ball, by Nick Gregory
I grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts with a large playful family. I loved anything to do with a ball. Soccer, tennis, marbles or jacks. Shooting hoops, tether ball, step ball, football, baseball, ping pong. Or just catch and snowball shenanigans with my sisters.
Temple University gave me a full scholarship to play tennis and I ended up in the theater school.
My influences were the fantasy jugglers of Harvard Square, the Swiss clown Dimitri who played several musical instruments at once, and Bill Irwin. I thank an old girl friend for sharing everything she learned from Hovey Burgess in a Circus Arts class at Sarah Lawrence College.
I like our dogs Taj and Tuku, walking in the Wissahickon woods, making music, living in the co-op city of Weavers Way, and I love being married to Mu. I look forward to more years of advancing the art of playing catch.
Erica Saben, The Epiphany
The Academy of Music, The Opera Company of Philadelphia's 2007 season, the festive opening scene of Verdi's Rigoletto: counts and countesses, dancers and jugglers... juggler is impressed by dancer, dancer joins Give & Take.
In preparation for this epiphany, Erica studied dance and theater for two years at Fredonia State University in New York near her native Buffalo (she is a Sabers fan, sorry about that), danced with Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble while studying at SUNY Brockport, and attended Edna Manley College in Kingston, Jamaica on a full performance-based scholarship. (You can ask about her recipe for ackee.)
Erica was graduated cum laude from SUNY Brockport with a BS in Dance and Political Science, and received the Political Science Outstanding Student Award as well as the All American Scholar Award.
In addition to her work with Give & Take, Erica currently performs with Samba Productions and The Bistro Romano Dinner Theater. She recently choreographed an impressive solo piece for the Influx Dance Series. Look for her in the background of your favorite Bollywood film.
Kiva Ford, Out Of The Woods
Kiva was raised on a small sheep farm just outside of Milford, New Jersey. He enjoyed the team sports of soccer and baseball, but living a mile from the nearest road, he spent a lot formative time outside, and in the woods finding wild mushrooms, especially that finest of edible fungi, the elusive morel.
Kiva has been a friend of Devin Bird since the 2nd grade. Devin introduced him to juggling in 1999 and he has been hooked ever since, learning the ins and outs of performing with Give & Take and their associates and alumni.
After graduating from Salem Community College with a degree in Scientific Glass Technology, Kiva was invited to work for a major pharmaceutical company in the custom glass shop, where his main responsibilities are fabricating custom glassware for Research and Discovery Chemistry. He also enjoys working in his personal glass shop and creating artistic glass sculptures and goblets.
In addition to performing with Give & Take and glassblowing, Kiva likes playing the bass guitar, listening to rock and roll music, being with friends, and enjoying everyday.
Kiva admires Homer Simpson, Groucho Marx, Arthur Rimbaud, and the world-renowned master of lampworked glass, Cesare Toffolo.
Eric Geoffrey, Adventure Aficionado
Eric began his apprenticeship with Give & Take in 1984. Straight out of high school in 1988 he attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College, and graduated with an invitation to join their Blue Unit roadshow as an aerial slapstick clown. Ironically, he didn't even juggle on the show, but danced the can-can on stilts, was the seventeenth clown to exit the VW bug, and got stranded in an exploding cable car. Eventually he grew weary of being thrown off a 45 foot high platform on a daily basis, so he ran away from the circus to come home.
Taking a sabbatical from performing he found his way to Alaska and worked on a ranch that gave horseback bush tours for a couple of years. He then collaborated on running a gift shop at the world famous Bishop Castle high in the Colorado Rockies, occasionally juggling fire atop its 80 foot high fire-breathing dragon.
Pursuing his penchant for heights he is also an accomplished technical tree climber, and is constantly on the hunt for the tallest tree in the woods wherever he travels, often spending the night being gently rocked to sleep.
He is also quite passionate about the tight wire, the flying trapeze, riding his unicycle, playing the ukulele, and balancing rocks, often in various creative combinations. When he grows up he aspires to be a member of Kiva's pirate ship monkey crew (preferably 1st mate).
Eric is currently on the greatest adventure of all in continually discovering the wondrous world of fatherhood—son Jerry was born in April 2005.