Best Bets: Out-of-town artists perform in series

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2002

In a new twist, this weekend the Concerts in the Park series is bringing in some out-of-town talent.

Chef Marko and Connie Leaverton, performance artists from Austin, Texas who have toured together for many years, will each perform a show this Friday at Marine Park.

Marko's act, "Manipulated by Food," integrates food-related comedy, while Leaverton's "Human Furniture" entertains with acrobatics and juggling. They're both seasoned performers who decided to come to Juneau after seeing last summer's Concerts in the Park series, Marko said.

"In that setting where you have a whole lot of families and it's early in the evening - that's a real user-friendly way to do it," Marko said. "I'm real happy about that instead of a late night club thing. That's more my kind of audience."

Marko has been a chef since 1980; in Austin, he's busy launching a "healthy fast food concept" even while he tours around the nation with his food comedy show. Though the logistics of performing prohibit actual cooking, he's figured out ways to work around that stumbling block.

"I'll be doing some unusual things with bananas and eggs," Marko said. "I may even put together a garnish or too. I have some food songs that are very well-received, and I do have a little bit of food information for people. For the most part, it's just a really fun, visual food show that's got a lot of surprises."

In contrast, Leaverton's show makes an appeal to the eyes instead of the stomach. Using volunteers enlisted from the audience, "we actually build furniture," Leaverton said.

"What it will entail by the end of the show is me standing on someone's shoulders and juggling fire," she said. "I also do handstands on a couple of guys. It's a family show and it integrates all ages, but it's a show that builds and builds. It's a lot of fun and it's very much audience participation."

Leaverton, who's performed "Human Furniture" around the world, has been honing her gymnastic and juggling skills since childhood. She thinks the appeal of being a performer is deeply rooted in the audience response.

"No matter what language and no matter what culture, laughter is totally universal," Leaverton said. "It's just a magical happening when people come together and laugh, and it unites people in a common way beyond language."

Concerts in the Park are a fun, entertaining weekend tradition, something a family can see together and enjoy, and with the addition of Leaverton and Marko this Friday's performance should definitely be a standout. The bill also includes acoustic music by guitarist, singer and harmonica master James Griswold.

Academy-Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis speaks in town tonight, and if our brief conversation last week was any indication, she'll have wonderful stories to tell. After giving a lecture about her life in theater, Dukakis will team up with Perseverance Theatre's artistic director Peter DuBois for an interview session modeled after the Bravo channel's popular "Inside the Actors Studio" program.

On TV, host James Lipton gets inside the heads of illuminaries such as Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts. At the 20th Century Twin theater, DuBois and audience members will have a chance to pose similarly searching questions to Dukakis.

Dukakis said she enjoys discussing "whatever people find really interesting.

"When somebody's really interested in something, it's much more engaging to talk then when it's just an off the top of their head, arbitrary question, " she added.

Possible subjects include Dukakis' long theatrical career - she's appeared in everything from Greek tragedy to a one-woman show called "Rose" - and her passionate political beliefs. Dukakis is a member of organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the Congress of Racial Equality and Amnesty International, and she's spoken at conferences and expos around the country. Tonight's event is more than a chance to meet a movie star; it's an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of a multi-faceted, engaging American artist.

Later in the weekend might be a good time to catch "Iris," this weekend's selection at the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theatre. Owner Lisle Hebert has brought some amazing films to town this summer - "Monsoon Wedding" was just phenomenal - and "Iris" promises to be another involving story. Starring three Oscar-winning or nominated actors, it tells the true story of novelist Iris Murdoch, whose lifelong romance with her husband was complicated by the onset of Alzheimer's disease. It's rated R for sexuality/nudity and some language.

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