KUTZTOWN — KU presents! will launch its new family series this season with two performances: classic circus arts and animal comedy from the Popovich Pet Theater on Sunday February 5th and cutting edge magic from the acclaimed Jason Bishop on March 19th.
Both performances begin at 2 p.m. in Kutztown University’s Schaeffer Auditorium.
KU Presents! was established as the center of cultural life at Kutztown University. serves the campus and community by bringing world-class live arts that entertain, educate, and enrich.
The family series is similar to the children’s series introduced by the series’ founding director Ellen Finks during the 1995-96 season of the KU Performing Artists Series (now KU Presents!). The Children’s Series ran through 2014. The Family Series is sponsored by Finks, who retired in 2008 to allow children and their families to once again be exposed to quality performing arts aimed directly at them.
“When the Family Series was canceled a few years ago, it left a void in the community that I felt needed to be filled,” Finks said in the publication. “I’m excited to have helped bring this successful series back to the Kutztown community.”
The Popovich Pet Theater was founded by Russian-born circus performer Gregory Popovich shortly after he and his wife Izolda performed at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1992. When they began using a pet kitten as part of their performance, and it was met with much applause, they built an entire show around animals rescued from various animal shelters across the country. The animals, including cats, dogs, a horse, and other pets, act out comic scenes alongside Popovich’s juggling, balancing, and physical comedy.
In 1995 he took the show on a tour of Japan and in 2000 they embarked on a five-year world tour of 20 countries. The company continues to perform regularly in Las Vegas and tour the country. They have appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and other TV shows.
That continued success was of course cut short when COVID-19 shut down the country. Popovich called it a “scary situation” where Las Vegas became a ghost town and tours for performing artists everywhere stopped.
“My pets were confused,” he said. “I couldn’t explain to them what’s going on. We trained and trained and I could see in their eyes that they didn’t understand why they weren’t doing shows? They get really excited when they perform for people.”
During that time, he continued to create new routines and acts for the show, which is now on its first tour since the pandemic. While much of the show will be familiar to fans, there will be some fresh faces and new surprises.
Another piece of news is that in 2022, Popovich was finally able to finish and release a film that also stars some of his pets. Popovich: Road to Hollywood, which he produced, directed and starred in, is “the story of a clown who gets kicked out of the circus and has dreams of coming to Hollywood.”
Popovich considers the film to be the culmination of his life’s work in the entertainment field, including his years in the famous Moscow Circus and Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus before 1992. Audiences will also note the star’s resemblance to the greats, both in looks and comedic style 1920s American film star, Buster Keaton. He admits he was inspired by Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges in his physical comedy, which he calls “that forgotten, laugh-every-minute magic” of these slapstick masters. The film can be rented or purchased from Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Xbox and other streaming services.
Tickets to the Popovich Pet Theater are $15 and can be purchased at www.KutztownPresents.org or by calling KU Presents! Box office 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, at 610-683-4092.