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My Father, Juki Arkin

This page is dedicated to my wonderful and talented father, Juki Arkin (b. March 26, 1933; d. January 27, 1996). He was a mime, dancer (choreographer, teacher, performer), writer and director, actor and comedian all in one. I have seen many, many brilliant performers onstage in my lifetime - many of whom were quite keen at knowing how to grab an audience and keep them. My dad was unparalleled in his onstage charisma and sheer power. When he arrived in the U.S. back in the 60's, he barely spoke English, but his early theatrical training in Israel made his talent obvious, and he was soon performing on Broadway and on television. The only 'missed opportunity' this man regretted was not speaking better English (and not being a few inches taller, ....... like his son...;-) He garnered the respect of his fellow artists through his unflinching dedication to the causes of the Israeli Actor's Union (EMI/IUPA) and, of course, his work ethic. Juki Arkin was also a terrific father to me! I used to learn so much by watching him, but I also gained strength from being around him. For someone who grew up without a father (my grandfather was killed in the Arab riots of Jaffa, 1939), he was well grounded, confident and a caring family man - a real 'Israeli:' tough exterior, sensitive heart. There has never been anyone like him.

The Early Years

Along with his great friend and comrade, the late Shaike Ophir, my dad put Pantomime on the map both in Israel and around the world. He studied with Etienne Decroux in Paris, and later studied with (and was asked to join the company of) Marcel Marceau. Don't be put off by the 'white-face' makeup: my father's act was not limited to balloons, tug-of-war and the 'Walled-in Man:' he actually used to make audiences cry with his touching stories without words. Standing ovations and raves in the Soviet Union, Italy (Spoleto Festival), Paris, South Africa and the U.S. greeted him at every show. His 'Eagle' number is breathtaking to watch.

Broadway!

From his first entrance on a tractor, interrupting some syrupy song, Juki Arkin commanded attention; and throughout his first Broadway musical - Jerry Herman's "Milk & Honey," he continued to make 'em take notice. His character, Adi, was not blessed with the best singing voice, but he more than made up for it with plain ol' sass and attitude. Check him out on the soundtrack album, or a mention of him in Jerry Herman's memoir, SHOWTUNE. He followed up this success with another B'way show ("No Strings," with Diahann Carroll and Howard Kiel), a cabaret act, master classes, along with several appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, Shari Lewis' show, Wonderama, Ed Sullivan, his own half-hour special on CBS, Finnish TV.... Whew! My parents met during the Broadway years, and I was conceived and born during the National Tour of "No Strings," making me a true 'Broadway Baby!'

1975

Move over, Shaft. This guy's duty, is to deliver the booty. After years of dance training (Luigi, Anna Sokolow - both of whom I eventually studied with briefly, but *check out more mentions of him in Anna's memoirs*), Juki came back to his native Tel Aviv and began a second career: jazz dancer, teacher and choreographer. It is this for which he is most well-known by Israelis, but it didn't detract from his continuing work on mime. He just 'phased in,' slowly, into his one-man show, some dance numbers featuring cute girls doing 'Fly Girl' numbers. Sometimes there would be just himself and another, sometimes all six would be onstage with him. He resurrected a great pantomime number he originally performed with Shaike Ophir (then later with my mother at the Olympia in Paris); the "Mocking Spirit," and turned it into a dance, 'The Wax Museum.' He continued teaching well into the 90's, often exhausting dozens of young, strong students after an hour of kicking and stretching, only to crank it up for another hour.