Jugglers present history of world

Neon lights dashed and jumped across a dark stage as jugglers threw Chinese yo-yos and glow sticks into the air.

The Yale Anti-Gravity Society, the on-campus organization for juggling aficionados, put on two performances of “A Juggler’s History of the Western World” — which traces the history of mankind from the temptation of Eve to the advent of the ’90s boy bands — in a full Davenport-Pierson Auditorium last Friday.

The YAGS members said although they are jugglers, they wanted to put on a show that would do more than simply display their talents.

“We did have technical portions in the show, but we also tried to be funny and comical,” said Ben Ofori-Okai ’09.

Valerie Gordon ’09, another performer, agreed that juggling was just one of the many components in the performers’ repertoire. They would have to be “very, very good jugglers” if they wanted to keep the audience’s attention by only juggling, she said.

“It was a lot of fun and we had a very positive response,” said Gordon.

An audience member, she added, commented that the YAGS show was better than the movie “History of the World, Part I,” on which it was partially based.

The show’s comedic style reflected the laid-back nature of YAGS, Gordon and Ofori-Okai said. While they put on shows once or twice a year, the members are usually jugglers-for-hire, performing at Yale functions such as Saturday night’s “Elite” at Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges.

But they perform at off-campus occasions as well.

“Sometimes we juggle for children and volunteer at hospitals,” Ofori-Okai said. “It’s good to show other people what we love to do.”

The show had its share of social satire and misogynistic jokes. But for the most part the comedy focused on the theme of religion, which was developed through the recurring appearance of a God character. Ofori-Okai, who played characters that were abused and persecuted in the show, said he felt vindicated when he had the chance to play God.

“It was fun to get my characters some justice,” said Ofori-Okai, who at the end of the play jumped out of the audience and annihilated all the other characters on stage. “It was a good way for me to have revenge on everyone.”

While the show lasted for just two hours, it took months of preparation and practice for the performers. Just this year, YAGS decided to put on a fall show in addition to their annual spring performance. After finishing the script over the summer, YAGS members spent last month in intensive practice and rehearsal.

Each juggling act — and especially the group’s ’N Sync imitation — was met with applause and whistling.

“Juggling is pretty tricky but they made it look so easy,” said Randy Wong ’12. “They incorporated it nicely into the comedy.”

Dan Hansen ’12 agreed. “They inspired me to steal my roommate’s fruit and practice,” he said.

But some complained that there was little information about where the performance took place. For non-Davenport-Pierson Yalies, the auditorium was hard to find, Hansen said.

“I kept on getting lost and almost gave up watching the show,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t, though.”

The next YAGS show will be performed at the end of February, though planning has not yet begun.

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