Bubbles entertain with burst of science

July 15, 2006|By CHRIS YAKAITIS | CHRIS YAKAITIS,SUN REPORTER

For Casey Carle, soap bubbles are more than a backyard diversion. They're a never-ending wonder, a visually arresting natural occurrence. They're an art, things of beauty that lie at the intersection of creative expression and scientific principles.

They're also his career.

A self-described "comic bubbleologist," Carle has spent 16 years traveling to science centers, museums and schools throughout the country and occasionally abroad with his one-man show, "BubbleMania!" This weekend, he is scheduled to perform three shows daily in the atrium of the Maryland Science Center.

In a 30-minute performance yesterday, Carle, 43, explained the basic science of bubbles while creating a variety of bubble sculptures and, at one point, encasing a 6-year-old girl inside one. About 200 people -- mostly wide-eyed children -- surrounded the stage while several dozen others watched from the second- and third-floor terraces, where the occasional stray bubble drifted during the show.

As he shaped soap bubbles into a caterpillar, an ice cream cone and a glimmering disco ball, Carle described why bubbles are round, why they pop and why a basketball can be rightly considered part of the bubble family. A former circus clown, he sprinkled his performance with exaggerated faces for children and wry, self-deprecating humor for their parents. "I was always drawn to anyone who did science or teaching in a comedic way," he said.

For Carle, "BubbleMania!" has been an ideal combination of his dual interests in science and the arts. He entered the State University of New York-Geneseo with a math and science focus but drifted toward drama during his sophomore year. He graduated with a drama degree and has spent all of his professional life "in and around the stage," he said.

"I want to engage in the research and discovery of new things, but I also want to be creative and entertaining and artistic," Carle said. "This show allows me to blend both hemispheres of my brain into something that is creatively artistic and educational."

Carle started developing his bubble routine as a clown with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "Soap bubbles were my medium, which had beauty, the wow factor... and the comedy inherent in a soap bubble is always there," he said. "I found my niche."

After two years with Ringling Bros., Carle decided to go solo with his bubble act in 1990.

This weekend's shows -- at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily -- are a return engagement for Carle, who first came to the science center last year. "BubbleMania!" is one of the highlights of Bubble Days, a two-day program that also includes bubble-blowing contests and bubble-wrap art stations.

"We're always trying to demystify science and show people that science is way more than lab coats and chemistry," said Chris Cropper, senior director of marketing for the science center.

After the show Sandy Lemaster of Willards picked up an autographed copy of Carle's book -- which includes a set of bubble-blowing wands -- for her 6-year-old son, Carl.

Carl's 8-year-old sister, Emily, already had one experiment in mind. "I want to try to put my brother in a bubble," she said.

chris.yakaitis@baltsun.com

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