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Step into the juggling 'Zone'

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Step into the juggling 'Zone'
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It's been 21 years since Jon Wee and Owen Morse first formed the comedy-juggling duo known as The Passing Zone.

"So you'd think we'd be good by now and never drop anything -- but it still happens," Wee joked.


"Yeah, we're still trying to figure out that part," Morse added.

The pair, who will take the stage of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre this Friday, April 9, met after being invited to take part in a juggling convention in California.

"We were both still in school, trying to figure out what we wanted to do for a career," Wee said.

Not long after they met, they were inspired by a thought: "Maybe we could avoid a real job altogether?"

So they started working on developing a performance routine that combined their juggling talents with humor -- and The Passing Zone was born.

More than two decades later, they're still at it.

"We've done shows in England for Prince Charles, and performed in Japan, Germany and all over the United States -- we've even been to Canada a number of times, so we've been all over the place," said Morse. The duo has also performed in China and the Caribbean.

And how did the not getting a real job thing work out for them?

"So far, so good," said Wee.

Both said that they learned to juggle at a fairly young age.

"It started as a hobby," said Morse. "I was 13 and a friend of mine taught me. I just gravitated toward it. I wanted to try juggling four and five balls at a time."

"I learned to juggle three balls from a woman who was a mime -- and became immediately addicted," Wee added. "I started practicing like crazy."

Part of the appeal of the sport is its diversity, he added.

"There are an infinite number of things one can learn," said Wee. "Different tricks, numbers of objects, types of objects -- you can juggle rings, clubs, balls, machetes, chainsaws. There's really no end to the variations that can be done both athletically and creatively."

"It's quite a mixture of art and sport," Morse said, adding that there are some jugglers "who take it very seriously."

"There are competitions (for jugglers), just like the X Games or the Olympics," he continued.

Though they have won awards for their juggling skills -- taking first place in an international juggling competition in 1989, and earning a spot as finalists in the first season of "America's Got Talent" -- the secret to The Passing Zone's success may lie in the pair's comedic abilities.

"Juggling by itself is only so amusing," Wee said. "What sets our show apart is the comedy, the interaction with the audience."

"It's about more than just the art form of juggling," Morse agreed, noting that their act has been compared to Penn & Teller or the Smothers Brothers.

"We like to get volunteers up from the audience on stage with us," said Wee. "Its a way to add excitement to the show."

"It also makes every show a little different, because people always react a little differently," Morse added.

In fact, they take audience interaction to a new level.

"We end the show with a piece where we juggle three people from the audience," said Morse.

So how do they manage that gravity-defying feat? "It involves some rigging and some cables and some astronaut suits, but that's really all we can say about it," added Wee.

Are they joking? You'll have to buy a ticket to find out.

Friday night's show at the Historic Holmes Theatre begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office, 806 Summit Ave., online at or by phone at 218-844-SHOW (7469).

There will be a pre-party in the Holmes Ballroom starting at 6 p.m., with a dinner hosted by Country Kitchen (tickets to the dinner are sold separately).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 15 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454