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Greenfield’s Garry Krinsky juggles up learning with his science shows

  • Bringing his science toys to life, Garry Krinsky shares the stage with audience members as he balances ladders on his chin to demonstrate the center of gravity. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Bringing his science toys to life, Garry Krinsky shares the stage with audience members as he balances ladders on his chin to demonstrate the center of gravity. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Bringing his science toys to life, Garry Krinsky shares the stage with audience members as he balances ladders on his chin to demonstrate the center of gravity. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • A former member of the Wright Bros. vaudeville troupe, which broke up in the 1990s, and before that the Boston Buffoons, Garry Krinsky — who’s lived in Greenfield since the late 1980s — has been performing his “Toying with Science” show for more 20 years. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A former member of the Wright Bros. vaudeville troupe, which broke up in the 1990s, and before that the Boston Buffoons, Garry Krinsky — who’s lived in Greenfield since the late 1980s — has been performing his “Toying with Science” show for more 20 years. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A former member of the Wright Bros. vaudeville troupe, which broke up in the 1990s, and before that the Boston Buffoons, Garry Krinsky — who’s lived in Greenfield since the late 1980s — has been performing his “Toying with Science” show for more 20 years. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—



Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Garry Krinsky is done with juggling multiple ladders, and he’s certainly done with climbing ladders, having made it long ago. What the 62-year-old performer — who has combined work as a mime, juggler, songwriter and circus performer — is juggling more than anything these days is a mind-boggling schedule from Dedham to Oxnard, Calif., from New Bedford to Wyoming, South Dakota, Alabama and back again … and that’s just in the first three months of this year.

A former member of the Wright Bros. vaudeville troupe, which broke up in the 1990s, and before that the Boston Buffoons, Krinsky — who’s lived in Greenfield since the late 1980s — has been performing his “Toying with Science” show for more 20 years, yet constantly reinvents the show, which teaches scientific principles like the six basic machines to audiences of young and old alike.

The irony is that science courses, the only remaining requirement Krinsky had left as a theater student at what was then North Adams State College, was why he dropped out, and found his way to the kind of theater that excited him.

It all started with mime

Inspired by his mother, who had worked with the American Theatre Wing during World War II and later wrote, produced and designed costumes for the family’s Krinsky Halloween pageants, the Revere native was drawn to acting, but was disenchanted with “all these straight plays like ‘Butterflies are Free’ ... I learned the lines and could do theater, but I was waiting to do something else.”

After he left school in 1976, Krinsky moved to Boston, where he saw mime performed by Kenyon Martin, the artistic director of the National Mime Theater who had studied with Marcel Marceau.

“He totally blew me away,” Krinsky recalled. “I was into playwriting at the time, and when I saw him, I realized, ‘This man just did a series of plays not saying a word. I got more and more into it as the show went along — which is what happens with mime. You start to understand the language better, and the subtleties.”

“I had really liked absurdist, avant-garde theater, theater that would shock the audience and break down the four walls. Mime was great for that,” Krinsky said.

Krinsky learned the performances were extremely physical, something he took to, having played basketball and baseball.

“I’d always played sports, but I didn’t realize how much I wanted to be physical until I started doing mime,” he said. With 17 specific defined moves for an act seemingly as simple as using a shovel, for example, — pushing it into the earth, finding the fulcrum point, turning — Krinsky found mime to be “a very physical art form.”

Along the way, studying with Martin, Krinsky met Tony Montanaro and Jack Golden.

“(Martin) was one of these teachers who didn’t give you a lot of praise, so I didn’t know if I was doing well enough,” Krinsky recounted. “I ended up taking three beginner’s classes in a row. By the end, he said, ‘You work hard.’”

Still, he recalled, “At the time I was learning mime, it wasn’t looked upon as a positive thing. Shields and Yarnell were on the TV at the time doing their robot thing, and everybody would learn a few things and people called it ‘shmime’ and made jokes about ‘shoot the mime’”

Raising the bar

So Krinsky, who’d busked around Faneuil Hall and Harvard Square but wanted more, studied with a clown mime who could also juggle and do handstands and other physical comedy.

One of the doors it opened for Krinsky was an appearance on NBC’s “TODAY Show” — a spot that was originally scheduled to be 90 seconds, but was cut when he arrived on the set to just 30 seconds. By performance time, Krinsky’s segment had been cut to eight seconds.

Krinsky also turned verse and songwriting into a strength. He combined storytelling and mime together in his performances, which were referred to as “the new vaudeville.”

Krinsky followed that by studying with several teachers, trying to find his own silent mime “voice.” Among his teachers was the Moroccan mime and kabbalah teacher Samuel Avital, but Krinsky decided he wanted to do comedy and set off in the late 1970s to work with the Patchwork Players before then linking up with Golden and Jody Scalise for five or six years.

Krinsky specialized in doing a variety show using his balancing skills together with physical comedy around his character, Buck McCabe, who combined the macho and self-loving qualities of Dudley Do-Right and Al Bundy. One of his favorite pieces was a triathalon segment that reflected Krinsky’s own interest in competing in triathlons beginning in the 1980s.

His science show began with a Boston Museum of Science gig, “Toys Alive,” for Christmas week in 1996, which used toys as props.

That got him thinking about using science as a theme — one that was helped by reading books about science, watching “Bill Nye: Science Guy” and “Beakman’s World.”

“That showed me I don’t have to do these amazingly dramatic things to explain science,” he recalled. “I tried to use my skills and apply what I’d seen watching those guys. It was very unique to me. I did the shows and they were real successful. My agent saw it and said, ‘This is good.’ So I put Buck McCabe in the closet.”

When entertaining became teaching

By 1998, Krinsky was busy doing his science show when he got a call from his agent telling him someone who had a similar show, “Dr. I Wonder,” had died, and there was a search for someone to fill his commitments in about 40 locations.

“Toying with Science” started appearing in theaters instead of just schools, and Krinsky began working on his props and sounds, trying to make his show more professional. Eighty percent of those first venues invited him back.

“It wasn’t easy to do,” he remembered. “The first week, I traveled to Dayton, Des Moines and Dallas. One to the other, with big cardboard boxes for carrying my props. Now I have cases. It was a really intense thing where I’d come back late at night, and have to repack all my stuff to leave in the morning.”

Now, Krinsky has a study guide to go with the curriculum for teachers who bring their classes into theaters for shows that find fun ways to explore basic scientific information and delve into the imaginations of scientists. Bringing his science toys to life, he shares the stage with audience members as he balances ladders on his chin to demonstrate the center of gravity.

One of his routines explores the six simple machines: what they are and how to remember them with a song.

“Screw, lever … incline plane,

pully, wedge, wheel, and then do it again …”

“By the time they leave, they have the song in their head. It’s very exciting for me,” Krinsky said. “I have a mnemonic way of doing it.”

“Simple machines, the six different kinds: to remember them, here’s a few clues:

It’s a silly thing but it helps to remind, don’t slip on the two Ws.

S — screw, L — lever, I for incline plane.

P is for pulley, W’s wedge — Wheel and axle’s all that remains.”

After all these years, Krinsky said, “I’m thrilled to be able to do what I do. It doesn’t get old because I’m teaching, because it’s live and I’m really participatory with the audience, so their experience affects me. I do it and wait for it to click.”

Krinsky hasn’t done his show in this area in a long time, but he said, “I’d love to do the UMass Fine Arts Center. That’s the kind of gig I do around the country. I really want to do local stuff. I’ve been here all these years, and nobody knows who I am.”

Senior reporter Richie Davis has worked at the Greenfield Recorder for more than 35 years. He can be reached at rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269.