STREET THEATER - INCLUCING FLAMING STICKS AND PING PONG BALL MANIPULATION - LIGHTS UP CHURCH STREET
Written by Dan D’Ambrosio Free Press Staff Writer Aug 4, 2012
At the top of Church Street, Michael Trautman, from Portland, Maine, gets King Pong’s Ping Pong Rodeo under way. It’s a one-man tour de force of ping pong ball manipulation. Trautman fires ping pong balls from his mouth at targets — including a penny! — hurled into the air and hits them every time.
He holds up a mirror and a ping pong paddle and fires the ball into the paddle, aiming it with the help of the mirror to bounce it back to knock a can off his head. A little variation on Annie Oakley’s famous routine, Trautman explains.
With remarkable sleight of hand, he pulls ping pong ball after ping pong ball out of his mouth, making them disappear into thin air only to appear once again in his mouth, or levitate out of his hat, or roll up his arm, defying gravity.
For the platoon of small children enlisted to help him pick up the ping pong balls falling here and there as his act rolls on, Trautman hands out autographed ping pong balls — from King Pong himself.
After the show, Trautman, who grew up in the Midwest and also has performed around the world, reflects on why he has spent his life as a street performer rather than the lawyer he first set out to be in the 1970s. “I’m fortunate, this is what I’ve done for 36 years. I’m a lucky guy,” Trautman said. “Even after giving up on the lawyer thing, I wanted to do something that makes a difference and I feel like I do. For me it’s a type of religion,” he said. “We all get together and I lead you through this ceremony where you get to laugh and think and reflect and enjoy being together with your community. That to me is a valuable service.”