In an otherwise dismal theater season, one of the brightest beacons on the New York stage is the shiny red knob of a nose belonging to a 36-year-old comedian in a one-man show, Avner the Eccentric. Eight times a week since September, Avner Eisenberg has taken the stage and juggled baseball bats, balanced an eight-foot ladder on his chin and executed elaborate pratfalls. Roughly one-third of the 90-minute performance is improvised, much of it with the help of the audience. "It hits them that they're the show," says Avner, "that the tables have been turned. It's nice to get them like that."
Eisenberg has been clowning since he was a boy in Atlanta. At 13, he and a friend formed a juggling act called the Throw-Ups. He resumed his theatrical career one rainy afternoon in college when he ran into the theater for cover. Auditions were being held for a play, and Eisenberg ended up with a small part. After studying with master mime Jacques LeCoq in Paris, he spent a nomadic decade performing in small theaters and comedy clubs around the U.S. Producer Jack Garfein caught Avner's act and decided that Eisenberg should take his show to New York.
Like many clowns, Avner is very serious about his craft. "Clowns are always thought to be children's entertainment," he says, "not good enough for adults." New York theatergoers clearly disagree.
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