He's hanging up the jester's cap.
Professional juggler Jek Kelly, who has entertained Nebraska Shakespeare audiences for more than 20 years in Elmwood Park, has announced that he is retiring as a professional juggler with Sunday night's performance.
Kelly juggles balls, cigar boxes, knives, rings, torches and many other objects, all the while entertaining with humorous patter. He performed at the very first season of Nebraska Shakespeare, in 1987, and nearly every year since. Last season, he even appeared as part of the cast of “The Comedy of Errors,” which had a carnival setting.
Kelly, who turns 61 in a couple of weeks, said it's simply time after making a living for 37 years as a full-time juggler, including a lot of time on tour.
“Been there, done that,” he said. “It's just enough. And I want to go out on my own terms when I feel like I'm still on top of my game. I don't know when my powers will start diminishing, but it's an actual fact that they will.”
Kelly has appeared at events for Opera Omaha, the Omaha Symphony and Joslyn Art Museum. He has performed at comedy clubs, universities, casinos and festivals all over the United States and in Canada and Japan.
A native of Lincoln who now lives in Omaha, he taught himself juggling while a theater student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. By the time he graduated, he had enough bookings to begin a career.
An avid bicyclist, Kelly has taken a part-time job at The Bike Rack, near 144th Street and West Center Road.
“It's been wonderful,” he said. “I'm not really concerned about the transition. It will be hard on opening night of Nebraska Shakespeare next year, but it's going to be fine. I've got all these nice memories.”