Michael Karas has been my friend for oh, about a decade and a half. Something like that. A really long time. I remember when I first met him at Rogers CAPA (he was a drama major, I was a dance major) so long ago and thinking he had the PRETTIEST eyes I’d ever seen. I remember thinking that he was one of the bravest performers I’ve ever met. And just recently, as I sent another round of texts to a boy who’s been in my life since before I even knew what a boy was, I thought to myself: Damn. I’m lucky.
Michael is now an all-around entertainer and lives in New York. He makes his living as a juggler and actor. I’ve been fortunate enough to see several of his shows and if you think all jugglers are created equal (or are clowns) think again. Michael aint your gramma’s juggler. He’s sleek, stylish, a well-oiled machine of one-liners and quips and blindingly fast feats of coordination. He’s…well, awesome. And he still has the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen.
Without further ado…my interview with the one and only.
1. We’ve been friends for years, I’ve interviewed you once before. So….surprise me. Tell me something that not even I, in all my infinite wisdom of Michael, know???
This may seem trivial, but you already know so MUCH about me. Whenever I do laundry, I really enjoy peeling the lint off the lint screens on dryers. I think it’s such a cool invention, how so much little lint becomes a blanket on this screen. You peel it off, it feels like a useful object, but really it’s just a collection of all the crap we don’t want on our clothes.
2. Ha. That is something new. Thanks. Alright, speaking of surprises, one of the things people might be most surprised to know about you and your career as a world-famous juggler is how much travel is involved. In the last few years, you’ve been all over the states and even across the pond to Europe. So, a few easy travel questions first:
A. Favorite city.
My favorite city has to beLas Vegas.
B. Favorite moment in any city.
Seeing four Cirque du Soleil shows inLas Vegasin 48 hours.
C. City you have yet to go to but would like.
I think I’d like to check outAtlantic City
D. How much do you miss your hometown??? 🙂
When I leave New York Cityfor more than four or five days, I really start to miss it. I think I miss my apartment even more than New York specifically.
And a few more questions about travel:
A. Did you know going into this job so many years ago you’d travel so much?
I figured I’d travel but not to the extent which I have. St. Maarten last year, Mexico and Quebec City this year, it’s pretty awesome.
B. How has it affected your juggling? You obviously spend so much time in airports now, which cuts into how often you can actually work. So how are you prioritizing?
Airports and airplanes specifically are good places to think about the BIG ideas. Usually when I’m in New York in my apartment, I’m focusing on day to day activities and practicing. Airplanes are good places to look further ahead than next week and think about what I’d REALLY like to accomplish with the year and, if I’m feeling really ambitious, my life.
3. As a writer and teacher, one of the most common reasons I hear from people who want to write a story but don’t is that they just aren’t confident in their ideas. That all the stories have been told; what can they possibly add to the table? And while it is true there are only so many storylines in the world (man vs. man, man vs. nature etc.) it’s up to me as the writer to make it unique and creative.
So let me extend the same query to you: juggling is, boiled down to its simplest, catch and release. How do you keep your routines fresh, interesting, and unique?
It can definitely be difficult sometimes. The best ideas are that ones that don’t take too much work, as silly as that may sound. If an idea is really destined to be a blockbuster, it usually doesn’t take too much work to see that it’s going to be successful. Juggling itself can only be entertaining for so long, so you need to find additional gimmicks to make it exciting. For example, juggling 3 balls is cool but juggling 3 balls while I’m fitting through a tennis racket or balancing on a unicycle – much more exciting. People like to experience unique combinations, just like in food.
4. You have an impressive Youtube following. Your videos have been viewed over an impressive 300,000 times! So, when is your next video coming out?
My next video will come out when I have some free time in July or August. At this point, I’m still booking things but I should have some sit-down gigs this summer that will afford me some extra creative time.
5. What’s next for you? We spoke a few days ago and you mentioned cruise ships!!!! Cirque de Soliel!!!! Kennywood!
I’m going to start performing on cruise ships this Fall with my company, Playing By Air, a three-person juggling dream team. I’m also going to start performing on a monthly basis at the Rocking Horse Ranch in upstateNew Yorkas well as Mountain Creek Water Park in Vernon, NJ. As usual, I’ll spend the week around July 4th at my annual Pittsburgh haunt, Kennywood, and I’m appearing at the world famous Apollo on August 1st.
6. Finally, you’ve been a part of the PGH arts scene for so long, what advice do you have for someone just starting out the gate?
This industry is all about connections. Before trying to do your OWN stuff, be a big part of others’ stuff. Go see shows, mingle with artists, and become a part of the community. It’s important to listen before you talk. Building those connections will ensure that when you start marketing your own art, you’ll already have a built in supportive audience that is invested in you and want to see you succeed. You need to play the game for a while before you can cash in your chips.