Local performance artist to appear on AMC show

PARKERSBURG – A local performance artist can be seen Thursday in the new AMC Network program “Showville,” a small-town talent show

John Gradwohl Jr., a Nebraska native, is in his second stint at technical director for the Parkersburg Actors Guild.

At local fairs and festivals, he is also known to appear at “Professor Phineas T. Bubblemaker,” doing a variety of tricks using bubbles.

Gradwohl said it was as Professor Bubblemaker that he became involved in “Showville.” The show went to eight small towns and held talent competitions. A scouting trip to Athens in October led to filming in February by the show and Gradwohl went to put on his bubble show.

The Athens episode will air at 10 p.m. Thursday on AMC and Gradwohl will be part of it.

“I’m not sure how featured I will be, but you’ll see some of me,” he said. Parts of his show have been featured in the show’s commercial and in the opening sequence of each episode.

Gradwohl said the camera crew was interested in his bubble-making and filmed extra footage outdoors after his onstage appearance.

Gradwohl has been involved in theater since high school in the 1970s. He studied at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Doane College toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater design and technology. He has taken courses in a wide range of related subjects ranging from laser technology to special make-up effects. He has been involved in behind the scenes work for more than 15 years at different levels and in different cities.

His interest in magic began as a child. While in high school, Gradwohl performed with a friend and taught magic to younger children at the Lincoln YWCA.

Gradwohl said his bubbling career started by accident about nine years ago. He wanted to perform bubbles as part of a standup comedy routine.

As he learned more about bubbling he began to practice and before long the standup comedy went by the wayside and a new bubble show was born.

“I get more smiles from kids and adults alike when I do bubble tricks, and have more fun rehearsing. There is nothing quite like spending a calm summer’s evening outside making bubbles and trying to do new tricks with them,” he said.

A couple of years later, he started developing an “Old West Medicine Show” program as an outgrowth of the bubble activities around his Professor Bubblemaker character. Gradwohl said he has reached the point where he wants to take the plunge. In a couple of weeks, he will be leaving his job at the Guild and trying to make the “medicine show” program a full-time job, traveling throughout the region.

He has a website called www.bubbles-and-fleas.com.