Jason Tardy knows the long silences, the uncomfortable pauses that follow when he tells people what he does for a living.
“Are you in a circus?” the polite ones ask. Others stammer and say, “Oh, great. You’re a juggler.”
He hopes his latest gig will change some of that.
On April 17, Jason and his brother, Matthew, who grew up together in Buckfield, are set to perform at the country’s most powerful residence.
The duo – Two: High Energy Juggling – was invited to be part of the Easter celebration at the White House.
“Maybe people will take us a little more seriously,” said Jason.
Not that it bothers him much.
“I’ve never had a real job,” he said. “I’ve been juggling since I was 13.”
Respect or not, he and Matthew are busy. And with the White House gig planned, people are already noticing them more.
After signing the deal to perform on the South Lawn during the April 17 Easter egg hunt, Jason and Matthew were featured on the TV show “Inside Edition.”
The show’s story: part of the brothers’ act was “banned” by the president’s staff.
Security personnel at the White House apparently frowned upon the shining, foot-long blades that are typically part of the Tardys’ act.
They weren’t exactly banned, though.
When an executive staffer called to confirm the performance, Tardy brought up the blades.
“They told us to leave our knives at home,” he said.
The TV show referred to the props, which also included an ax and a mace, as their “props of doom.”
“They made it sound much worse than it was,” said Jason. The publicity was welcome, though.
“They gave us a full story,” he said. “They flew us down to New York and we got to juggle on national TV.”
For the Easter show, the White House is paying to fly the brothers to D.C. and putting them up in a downtown hotel.
They will check in their props the day before, likely leaving behind items besides the knives. They expect the security people will prevent them from using their fire props, too.
That’s fine, Jason said.
They have prepared about two hours of routines, accompanied by Matthew’s own compositions. Even without the knives and the fire, they have plenty of material, Jason said.
The routines are performed all over the country, in schools, on cruises and in clubs.
It’s work they first learned much of in Buckfield, Jason said.
He and Matthew worked for years alongside Michael Miclon, the co-founder of the Oddfellow Theater and the former head of the Maine Arts Commission. Jason even co-hosted several of Miclon’s popular “Early Evening Shows” at his Buckfield theater.
These days, Jason lives in upstate New York and Matthew lives in New Hampshire. But the two meet almost every week, performing together in carefully choreographed routines nearly 200 times a year.
Their work has been compared to the Blue Man Group and other performance artists.
“We’re not jugglers like you see at the circus,” Jason said. “Not a bit.”