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Release: Immediate

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Bob Berky will arrive back in Iowa City on Aug. 19 or 20, in case you are interested in getting an interview and/or a photo.)

Benefit show of Bob Berky's clowning launches UI 1998-99 performing arts season

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Internationally renowned theatrical clown Bob Berky will launch the 1998-99 performing arts season at the University of Iowa with "Bouncing Off the Walls with Bob Berky," a one-man benefit show for the UI department of theatre arts, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

Berky will present two of his classic sketches, "The Birdwatcher" and "Buns of Cardboard," as well as "Enter the Clown," a compendium of theatrical clowning, juggling and hijinx that includes audience participation.

Developed from his experience in the American Mime Theatre and the Celebration Mime Theatre, Berky's personal take on the ancient art of physical humor has won honors in both the United States and Europe. He received an OBIE Award for his work with the performance ensemble Foolsfire, and he won the "First Fringe" Award at Scotland's Edinburgh Festival for his one-man show. His many television appearances include specials on PBS, MTV, the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

A New York Times review described a Berky performance as "lunatic pantomime," and other critics have waxed nostalgic about the grand old days of vaudeville, likening Berky's art to a combination of Charlie Chaplin, Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, Robin Williams and Marcel Marceau. A Washington Post critic wrote, "The mark of a truly great clown is his ability to be both loved and laughed at. Bob Berky displayed that ability to perfection."

Three times Berky has displayed his comic talents in the UI Hancher Auditorium ­ with juggler Michael Moschen in the off-Broadway hit "The Alchemedians," as a solo headliner and, most recently, as a special guest in last fall's Dance Gala production by the UI Dance Company.

Although Berky's on-stage utterances are confined to a stream of evocative quacks on a duck call, he has developed an increasing interest in playwriting. His play, "Cooking the World," won the Kennedy Center's 1991 New American Plays Roger L. Stevens Award. To further hone his playwriting skills, Berky enrolled last fall in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and two of his scripts were given readings in last spring's Iowa Playwrights Festival.

Tickets for "Bouncing Off the Walls with Bob Berky" are $20 ($10 for UI students, senior citizens and children). Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. The box office is closed until Aug. 24, but before that date tickets can be purchased through mail order from the Hancher season brochure.

Beginning Aug. 24, Hancher box office hours will be 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Any remaining tickets will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.