Children can be an especially rapt and impressionable audience. So Matt Jergens juggles disclaimers as much as anything when he performs before a group of pint-sized viewers.
Before he balances objects resting on a 15-foot pole incredibly positioned on his chin, or tosses knives while riding a unicycle, he throws out a warning to youngsters prone to try imitating him later at home.
“You wouldn’t go the zoo and just start working with the lions,” Jergens said, speaking by phone from his home in Columbus, Ohio. “There’s still some element of danger with this, and you have to leave it to the professional.”
The 42-year-old Jergens brings an energetic, fast-paced show to the free Old National Bank First Fridays For Families event presented by the Columbus Area Arts Council at 6 p.m. Friday at The Commons. Although the local series clearly is geared toward children, Jergens’ feats and humor also clearly appeal to parents and grandparents.
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In fact, his act, featured in clips on youtube.com, seems a solid fit for any age group. With Friday’s show tailored for children, he promises no fire, swords or axes that he sometimes employs for shows at other venues such as cruise ships and corporate performances. But his time on stage still seems a bit risky at times, even if in a very practiced manner.
“I’m going to knock on wood right here,” he said. “Because I’ve never had any broken bones or accidents.”
He began juggling during his senior year of high school. After completing a corporate marketing degree at Ohio State University and a successful summer internship as a juggler at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he eventually hit the road, where he now presents 250 shows per year, including sometimes three in one day.
Audiences range from 100 to 1,000 people.
“In a 45-minute show, I’m sweating and huffing and puffing by the end,” Jergens said. “So, it’s really my form of exercise.”
An exercise in creativity, perhaps.
That includes a segment when he brings volunteers to the stage and makes them part of the act. Often, they will end up donning a helmet fitted with spikes sticking out — all to enable them to spin plates on the pointed tips.
“By the middle of the very first routine, people seem to understand how the show is going to go,” he said. “There’s music playing, lights flashing, and there’s way more technical tricks than they originally thought they would see.
“They sometimes think they were just going to see a guy juggling tennis balls.”
He’s more than happy that he followed his heart instead of his college studies for his lifelong work.
“Work is like therapy and having fun,” he said. “It was a no-brainer for me. It’s almost like I’ve had the golden ticket.”
Who: Juggler Matt Jergens performing at Old National Bank’s First Fridays For Families series presented by the Columbus Area Arts Council.
When: 6 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.
Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org.