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Clowning around is serious business at camp

Entertainers Camp teaches pie-fighting, magic, juggling, more May 4

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Clintonville resident Bob Abdou will run a camp on May 4 to teach the art of entertaining to anyone who’s interested. Abdou is a ventriloquist who has put on similar camps in Philadelphia and Austin, Texas.
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The pie fight is set for 3:30 p.m.

When Bob Abdou decides to revive a little bit of Vaudeville in Columbus -- not just the performance aspects but also the training-ground side of things, for those who want to be entertainers -- he doesn't leave out an important detail such as the proper approach to putting a pie in someone's face.

Abdou, a professional ventriloquist who moved to Clintonville with his wife, the Rev. June Wilkins of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, in 2011, will run an Entertainers Camp and All-Star Show from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 4. Open to the public and intended for all ages, from children to senior citizens, the event will offer instruction in "all elements of variety arts," according to a poster. These include magic, clowning, puppetry, juggling, comedy, face-painting, balloon-twisting and ventriloquism.

"This is going to be like a house of refuge," Abdou said. "This is where they're going to come and be accepted for whatever they want to do."

The camp and show will take place in the community room of his wife's church, 35 E. Stanton Ave., with the exception of the pie fight. That will take place at the couple's nearby home and will be led by a professional clown from Cleveland who has taken a course on proper pie-fighting.

"There's actually a technique," Abdou said. "He's going to give a lecture and workshop on picking up a pie and throwing it in someone's face."

The cost to attend the camp is $10. Admission to the 7 p.m. show, to be put on by the camp's instructors, is $5.

The doors to the community room of the church will open at 6:30 p.m. for the show. Those attending will be greeted by friends of Abdou's from Akron, impersonating Laurel and Hardy.

Abdou, a New Jersey native who took up ventriloquism when he was living in Atlanta, has put on similar camps in Philadelphia and in Austin, Texas, where he and Wilkins lived before relocating to central Ohio so she could become minister at Gethsemane Lutheran.

"I personally believe in association," Abdou said, adding he found little in the way of opportunities to associate with other variety arts entertainers in the Columbus area upon arrival.

"I thought to myself, 'If I can't find them and I'm in the entertainment business, how is the public supposed to find them?' " Abdou said.

Hence, the camp and show, both of which, he said, he wanted to make as affordable as possible. The instructors, including clowns, puppeteers and magicians from around Ohio, are friends Abdou has made over the course of his career, which he started all over after moving from Austin.

Dealer tables offering affordable props and magic tricks also will be set up in the church's community room.

Abdou has created a Facebook page for the Entertainers Camp; so far, 30 people have signed up to attend the May 4 gathering.

"I'm not looking for quantity," he said. "Even if we get five people to show up, five people will get the best day of their life in the variety arts.

"I don't want to look at it as who's not there. I wanted to take care of the people who are there. Then, if it is successful, we'll do it again next year. I don't want to do this as a one-time deal.

"We just want people to come and enjoy something that's never really been done in Columbus."

For more information, call Abdou at 614-329-5399.

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