For Nizer, Everything's looking up
By Jane Dunlap Norris

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a world-class juggler? For Mark Nizer, in addition to the requisite hand-eye coordination, the list includes a degree in psychology, a minor in zoology and a love of technology.

Nizer will bring his "Expect the Impossible'' show - packed with comedy, innovative technology and old-school, mind-blowing juggling - to his hometown audience at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount Theater. It's Nizer's second Paramount performance, and he's stoked.

"I can't wait,'' he said. "All the people who've been asking me what I do can see me.''

The hometown draw isn't the Paramount's only appeal. Some performers who take the stage in the meticulously restored theater come away complimenting the acoustics. Nizer, who has built an international career juggling everything from lasers to ping-pong balls to a flaming propane tank, is thankful for a different feature.

"I spend most of my time during the show looking at the ceiling,'' Nizer, adding that he's grateful for the time the restorers spent beautifying a space that's often neglected in performance venues. "I appreciate that.''

Considering that Nizer has stared at plenty of ceilings, from the Kennedy Center to Lincoln Center to Walt Disney World, it's high praise.

Just in case the idea of watching him juggle four lasers at once hasn't piqued your curiosity, Nizer said he has a few new tricks up his sleeve for Saturday's show.

Of a routine that involves synchronized juggling with two robots, "I want to premiere it in Charlottesville,'' Nizer said during a break from a demanding travel day on his current tour. Also new is a bouncing ball routine.

Some folks may say that all they really needed to know they learned in kindergarten. Nizer points instead to a specific class. Interestingly, it wasn't the first juggling course that his mother signed him up for when he was 13, but rather an occupational education class in which a college professor "gave a legitimacy to the job [of juggling] that I really needed.''

The class focused on the importance of setting goals, and the students' grades depended on how well they could select projects, write lists of what they'd need to realize their dreams and then follow through on them. Nizer set the goal of winning a talent show with his juggling skills. His first-place finish netted him an A in the course.

He also gets plenty of use out of some of his other college choices. If you're entering college in the fall and giving your course guide an occasional nervous peek, crack that baby open and grab your highlighter. Sometimes the career you'll end up choosing will put your education to work in unexpected and delightful ways.

"I took a lot of science classes also, and that helps me when I'm inventing things,'' Nizer said.

A good grasp of physics really helps Nizer in his line of work, as does "the ability to tinker,'' he said. Becoming successful at juggling for a living also takes "a lot of tweaking along until you stumble across something great,'' he said.

That might mean juggling five ping-pong balls - in his mouth.

Nizer has opened shows for some of the comedy world's superstars, including Jerry Seinfeld and George Burns, and for such musicians as Gladys Knight, the Temptations, Johnny Mathis, Barry Manilow and Ray Charles.

And parents can expect a clean show that's suitable for all ages. The only shocking things coming out of Nizer's mouth are likely to be those ping-pong balls.

The Daily Progress June 22 2007

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