Comedy and classical music combine in Hancher performance


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A certified lunatic who has been married 17 times and has 47 children — or so the known master of exaggeration says — is a multitalented performer. Acrobat, comedian, storyteller, musician, magician, and clown are all words that best describe eccentric performer Tomás Kubínek.

"I love it all," he said. "There are no divisions or boundaries; they're all just different aspects of creative expression."

Kubínek's extraordinary performing style will be displayed in his show with Orchestra Iowa at 7:30 p.m. today in the West High Auditorium, 2901 Melrose Ave. Admission ranges from $10 to $39. Tickets are available through the Hancher Box Office.

Kubínek witnessed his first circus at the age of 5 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, and he was immediately interested in clowns, the circus, theater, and magic.

After dropping out of college, Kubínek began traveling to make a living as a performer.

"I earned money to go study with the best teachers of physical theater, improvisation, and clowning in Paris, London, and Prague," he said. "I've been performing full-time and have never had any other sort of job."

Tonight, he will join Maestro Timothy Hankewich and the 82 members of Orchestra Iowa to perform the piece "Professor Kubínek Meets the Symphony."

This is the sixth season for Hankewich as the conductor of Orchestra Iowa; he was previously the resident conductor for the Kansas City Symphony for seven years. This performance, however, is the first time Hankewich has worked with the many talents Kubínek has to offer.

"Chuck Swanson and Hancher Auditorium introduced me to Tomás," Hankewich said. "We started working on it [the piece] almost immediately after the flood in 2008; it is a project that is two years in the making."

In "Professor Kubínek Meets the Symphony," Kubínek is the grand guest of honor. Throughout the performance, he tries to tell Hankewich how he is supposed to conduct and play.

He introduces an automated wind-up contraption that conducts the orchestra on its own to a Mozart march while he spends his time shining Hankewich's shoes and giving him a haircut.

"We'll be knocking the audience on their backsides with dramatic full-force pieces and soul-stirring compositions," Kubínek said. "During this, I'll perform death-defying experiments to orchestral accompaniment and elegant vaudevillian masterpieces of my own creation."

At the conclusion of the concert, Hankewich and Kubínek will perform tag-team conducting in which they will fight for the orchestra's allegiance, using their own distinct styles in a "duel to the death," Kubínek said.

"The whole purpose of the concert is to bring the audience into the world of the symphony orchestra," Hankewich said. "The tradition of using wit and humor with classical music has been lost, so we're trying to bring that back for this performance."

After the début performance in Iowa City, Kubínek and Orchestra Iowa will travel to Decorah, Iowa, Cedar Rapids, and Mason City to perform the project. Kubínek will then continue the show with the Omaha Symphony.

"It is a full evening of performances with many different pieces of music," Kubínek said. "Audience members will be so overwhelmed by the end of our performance that I will be cradling people in my arms, carrying them back to their cars."

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