Up The Coast : GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : Best Medicine : Magician, juggler, acrobat and mime brings his prescription for laughter to local stage.


All through high school and most of college, Avner Eisenberg studied chemistry and biology assuming he would one day be a doctor. But his passion and talent for science steered him on a slightly different course. Avner the Eccentric is now a clown.

Avner will perform his act, the first solo clown show ever to play successfully on Broadway, at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lobero Theatre.

“A doctor and a clown are close; they’re both healing professions,” said Avner, explaining that the shift in his life took place in the ‘60s when he decided to go into the liberal arts.

“When they think of a clown a lot of people think of Bozo or Ronald McDonald or Ronald Reagan,” said the magician, juggler, acrobat and mime, reflecting both his humor and his politics. Not your average red-nosed jokester, Avner has perfected the art of clownery to a science.


He calls on his knowledge of the laws of physics to balance a ladder on his chin. And he calls on his bodily expressions and his wit to communicate with the audience without uttering a word.

Avner explains that people laugh at his antics because “when you have anxiety you take air in and hold it. It raises your center and throws you off balance. Then the laughter is the involuntary release,” he says, sounding more than a bit like a physician. But then he explains what a laugh is, referring to it simply as “the highest possible compliment I can get.”

His signature piece, which took him about five years to perfect, is the finale in which he sits down to a meal and eats (or seems to) a score of napkins--with chopsticks no less. In time, obviously parched from the meal, Avner makes a glass of wine appear and drinks that. Once satiated, he pulls out a string of white napkins that turn red and then transform into a colorful bouquet.

Is that science, art or magic? Whatever it is, it’s the prescription for a healthy laugh.


Tickets range from $14 to $18. Call 963-0761.

More masters of movement and timing, the Garth Fagan Dance Group, will bring its mixture of Afro-Caribbean dance, modern dance, ballet and post-modernism to UC Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall Jan. 29 and 30.

Last year, when the company marked its 20th anniversary, Fagan received the Dance Magazine Award for Significant Contribution to Dance and the Bessie Award for Sustained Achievement.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show Jan. 29 and the 6 p.m. show Jan. 30, are $16, $14, and $12. Children’s prices (youths 10 and over are invited to the 6 p.m. show) are $14, $12 and $10. 893-3535.

Doris Lessing, whose short stories and novels reflect her interest in everything from radical politics and feminism to Jungian psychology, will read from her works at 8 p.m. Tuesday in UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

She examines race relations and social conditions of colonial Africa in “Children of Violence,” based on her childhood in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Women’s roles in the 20th Century are explored in “The Golden Notebook” and “The Memoirs of a Survivor.” Her later works, often called science fiction, examine earthly behaviors from a galactic view.

Tickets are $6. 893-3535.

Satirical sketches about opera-singing low riders, a Jewish comic trapped in a Hispanic body, and the world’s biggest boom box are just a sampling of the wacky skits the comedy trio of Culture Clash use to entertain their audiences while educating them about cultural and social inequities.


Culture Clash will perform “The Mission” at 8 p.m. Wednesday at UCSB’s Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. The full-length play is about three struggling Latino comedians who kidnap Julio Iglesias to gain national attention. On Jan. 25 at 8 p.m., they will present a variety of skits, stand-up routines and improv performances in “Bowl of Beings: A Comedy Revue.”

Both shows are free. For tickets call 893-3535.

Ensemble Theatre Company’s performance of “The Rivals” opens Friday and runs through March 9 at Alhecama Theatre. Tickets for playwright Richard Sheridan’s 18th-Century Restoration comedy are $12 on Thursdays, $14 Fridays and Saturdays, and $10 Sundays. 962-8606.

Jim Leonard Jr.'s play “The Diviner” will be presented by the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts Wednesday to Feb. 10 at the Marian Theatre in Santa Maria. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday and 2 p.m. Wednesdays Saturdays and Sunday. Tickets for evening performances are $16 and for matinees, $12. 800-221-9469.

Repertory-West Dance Company will perform modern dance premieres set to original music in “The Pacific Leap Concert” Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the UCSB Main Theatre. Tickets are $11; for students, $9. Show time is 8 p.m. Call 893-3535.