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ENTERTAINMENT : Clowning Around : Jim Jackson turns the tables on misfortune in a one-man circus with heart and Sole.

March 25, 1993|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jim Jackson's clown character, Sole, can juggle Ping-Pong balls with his mouth or ride a six-foot unicycle. But when it comes to standing on solid ground, he's a total klutz.

Jackson, who spent years as a circus performer, brings his one-man circus to Ventura this weekend for a Saturday afternoon performance at the Ventura College Theater.

The hourlong show, sponsored by the Ventura Children's Festival, is a mixed bag that blends theater, comedy and circus. Jackson, 37, who wrote the show, has taken the circus and made it into a play.

Sole is a window washer, dressed in white overalls, a yellow football helmet and a big red nose. When he comes on stage, he finds an art gallery of sorts, with "do not touch" signs posted on everything.

Of course, he touches everything, and it falls apart. For him, the world is one big banana peel, just waiting for a guy with two left feet.

The show is really about balance and Sole, who talks in a squeaky, child-like voice, has a few thoughts on the subject for the audience: "Balance is nothing more than finding the middle between falling down and falling up."

Sole is mischievous and curious about his surroundings. But he has a cowardly side, too. As he gets on his unicycle, he confides that he's not nervous as long as he can hold onto his ladder. Then he rides off, still holding the ladder and feeling confident.

He's the ultimate klutz who, quite by accident, turns a blunder into something astonishing. "He's a victim of the force of gravity," Jackson said in an interview from his Denver-area home. "I use a lot of skills from the circus."

Jackson has been a performer for 18 years and for five years, he worked in various circuses as a juggler, clown and high-wire walker. He uses puppets in the show, manipulating them himself. Since he also uses improvisation, no two performances are alike.

By the end of the show, Sole has destroyed the set, which includes a giant see-saw, and he's made a mess of the stage. He returns with a very large mop and a very small bucket.

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At the other end of the county, in Simi Valley, kids are in for a treat of a different sort. The Simi Valley branch of the American Assn. of University Women is presenting--get ready for this one--"Don't Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf."

The show opens Friday night and runs over two weekends at Simi School, 2956 School St.

The production is a take-off on Aesop's fables, performed by eight local adults who all happen to be teachers or educators of some kind. The script is actually a series of vignettes based on fables like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," "The Ant and the Grasshopper" and "The Lion and the Mouse." The story of "The Hare and the Tortoise" is woven through the show, along with 13 songs the cast performs.

The show is billed for children of all ages, meaning adults probably will enjoy it too. The proceeds from the shows will help provide scholarships for local young women.

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In Thousand Oaks, kids from the Young Artists Ensemble will take to the stage for an afternoon show in the courtyard of the Arts Council Cultural Center on Saturday and Sunday.

The show is based on the story of the "Pied Piper of Hamelin," the tale of the mythical village that is besieged by rats, until a musician comes to the rescue.

It's a show for kids, performed by kids, 10 to 14 years old. It runs about 75 minutes. The ensemble is co-sponsored by the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the Arts Council of the Conejo Valley and the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

FYI

Jim Jackson's one-clown circus performs at Ventura College Theater at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Advance tickets are $5 for kids and $7 for adults, $1 more at the door. Tickets available at Adventures for Kids in Ventura, Serendipity Toys in Ojai and Ventura College Community Services. To charge by phone, call 654-6459.

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"Don't Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf" runs Friday through April 4 at Simi School, 2956 School St. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $3.50 ($3 if you wear a school T-shirt). For information, call 522-1773.

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The Young Artists Ensemble will perform the "Pied Piper of Hamelin" on Saturday and Sunday at the Arts Council Cultural Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, Thousand Oaks. Shows are at 1 and 3 p.m. Tickets are $3. For information, call 499-4355.

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