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Vaudeville Act Brings Hilarity To Socorro

SOCORRO, N.M. April 14, 2012 – Boo! Hiss the villain! And enjoy a one-of-a-kind performance by the Squirm Burpee Circus showcasing Vaudevillian-styled melodrama and wild comedy at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 20, at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center Auditorium. The Circus is on a seven-city New Mexico tour that includes Farmington, Clovis, Alamogordo, Silver City, Albuquerque and Taos.

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The Squirm Burpee troupe will amuse and entertain in Socorro.

The event, part of the Performing Arts Series, includes a Tech Club-Club Macey social hour from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by the performance itself.

And what a performance!

The show explodes with high-energy acts such as the human cannon, the ladder of love and chainsaw juggling, not to mention classic Vaudeville comedy routines, romantic antics and swing dancing.

“The Squirm Burpee Circus is a part of ‘Handsome Little Devils Productions,’ a theatre company based in Denver,” said PAS Director Ronna Kalish. “Its two co-founders are brothers Mike and Dan Huling, who started the company in 2000 when they began performing on sidewalks and street corners in Ft. Collins.”

At the time, the brothers were both working towards degrees in printmaking and sculpture, but soon realized they could combine juggling and art to create a unique on-stage aesthetic using colorful props, costumes and theatrical skills. The brothers formed a touring company that has played to rave reviews.

These days, the company is comprised of four core performers who travel around the globe presenting the famous, “Squirm Burpee: A Vaudevillian Melodrama,” to standing-room-only crowds.

“Anyone who has seen Cirque Soleil or has been part of the audience at an old-fashioned melodrama will enjoy the fun and comedy of the Squirm Burpee Circus performers,” Kalish said. “These bigger-than-life characters will have you laughing in your seats and wishing for more.”

Let’s meet them now.

First is Baron Vegan von Hamburger, the evening’s humble host and sworn enemy of the Squirm Burpee Circus, who takes audiences on a journey back in time with his breathtaking Monkey-Powered Circus Wagon.

No melodrama would be complete without handsome and dashing leading men; in this case, Mike the Handsome and Dashing Dave. As audiences follow the story line, these two dapper Vaudevillians and world-class jugglers try to put on a show, despite – you guessed it – girl problems.

Dave falls in love with a new audience member every show, while Mike has forsworn love altogether. Add to the mix the Mike-obsessed Lovely Little Lolo for a recipe ripe for romantic disaster.

You already may have guessed that Mike the Handsome is Mike Huling, also artistic director for the production. He began performing at the age of four, when he starred in a family talent show blowing bubbles.

Huling earned a bachelor’s in sculpture and printmaking from Colorado State University and founding the original Handsome Little Devils with big brother, Dan. He skipped his graduation ceremony to perform at a juggling festival in Hawaii, and has impressed audiences around the world, finally ending up on The Tonight Show in 2008.

He currently lives with partner Cole in Denver, where he trains in juggling and dancing whenever he’s not busy running the business.

“Dashing Dave” is Dave Clay, who recently returned stateside after spending

several years in Europe juggling, street performing and entertaining the masses with his comedy skills.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Clark has toured extensively with the March Fourth Marching Band, performed at the Kennedy Center, on International Juggling Association stages and similar venues. He is a seasoned performer whose quick wit and amazing skill add a “just-happening” excitement to every show.

Cole Schneider, artistic manager, plays “The Lovely Little Lolo.” She is a native of Denver who made her stage debut in the second grade, and hasn’t stopped. Schneider is a lifelong student of dance and theatre, and was introduced to plate juggling when Mike said, “Here, catch this!”

In 2005, Schneider received a bachelor’s in playwriting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has used her degree while collaboratively developing The Squirm Burpee Circus with fellow cast members.

Besides bringing a feminine touch to the mix as Mike’s dance partner, this multi-talented woman amazes audiences with acrobatics and air steps in the American dance form of Lindy Hop.

Jason Knauf, “The Baron Vegan von Hamburger,” recently returned to his

home state of Colorado after spending the last several years in the improv comedy scene of Chicago.

Knauf has honed his skills in improvisational theatre through the Second City Conservatory, the IO Training Center and the Annoyance Theater Training Program. Over the past few years, Jason performed with his first and favorite improv comedy troupe, “Cowlick!”

He also has appeared in the children’s improve comedy show, Hogwash: An Improvised Tale. Knauf is ecstatic to be performing as the Baron, where his improv skills come into play through audience interaction in every performance.

As a comedic duo, Dave and Mike evoke the brotherly camaraderie of the Smothers Brothers, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and Rowan and Martin of Laugh-In, while the antics of Mike and Lolo are reminiscent of the immortal Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy.

Meanwhile, the evil Baron Vegan von Hamburger plays his villainous role to the hilt in plotting to destroy the circus, leaving the audience with these questions:

Will the Baron have a change of heart and let the circus go, or will he succeed and obliterate them once and for all? Will Dave ever find his one true love? Will Lolo win Mike’s heart?

Answers to these burning questions and more await the April 20 performance!

The performance is the Thames H. Wedgewood Memorial Concert. Other major sponsors include: IRIS-PASSCAL, El Defensor Chieftain, WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation), and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for senior citizens 65 and over, and $8 for youths 17 and under, and are available at the N.M. Tech Cashier’s Office (second floor of Fidel Center), Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, Burrito Tyme Drive-up or at the door.

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech