By Dave Gillies, Director & Founder
The Give & Take Jugglers began in 1975 when the Mudhead Dream Clowns, a juggling troupe from Haverford College led by Ron Jenkins, performed at Roberts School in Upper Merion where I was teaching fifth grade. I noticed the rapt attention my students paid to this program, and was inspired to learn to juggle. I quickly discovered that my fifth graders could learn juggling variations a lot faster than I could, which was a source of great delight to them.
The local news station, ABC affiliate (WPVI-TV,) did a story about us. This led to a CBS story for a program called Kid’s World. The publicity and attention made my students and me feel very special and well rewarded for the effort, patience, and discipline required to master difficult juggling patterns. One spring when Ringling was in town, a generous clown, Phil Adamo, spent his entire day off teaching us some traditional two person routines using our juggling skills. Rob Peck, another generous and skilled performer, spent several afternoons with us coaching and critiquing, and encouraging.
We began to get invited to perform at local events. We volunteered at nursing homes and at The Children’s Hospital Philadelphia. We visited other schools. Each year, every fifth grader mastered basic juggling skills, (and some reading, spelling, writing paragraphs, etc). Many stayed interested for years, coming back after school to practice, and performing on weekends. We learned from each other and from interesting and talented contemporaries. We discovered rich traditions extending back through vaudeville, the circus, the Renaissance and even to ancient Egypt. We connected to our communities. Former students David Cousin and Steven McMenamin performed with Give & Take for 15 years.
These early patterns continue to inform and shape our approach to what we do now as a professional touring theatrical company.