BY JULIE GRAY
Joshua Bell is not Bloomington’s only famous fiddler; Harry Hare, who performs with retired massage therapist Lee Mysliwiec, is an up-and-comer. Mysliwiec and Harry, a marionette rabbit, perform along Kirkwood Avenue, at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market, and in Nashville, Indiana, when the temperature is above 50 degrees.
Mysliwiec, 71, is generous about Harry’s contributions. “The rabbit commands so much attention, it doesn’t matter what I play,” he says. “It’s not about the fiddling. It’s about the fact that the rabbit plays the fiddle.” He notes that adding Harry has dramatically increased revenue. “Before Harry, I might have made only $40 a week,” he says. “Now, on a good week, we can make $350.”
Their biggest fans are kids. “Sometimes there will be eight or 10 kids at the market in a circle around the rabbit,” Mysliwiec says. “And any kid younger than 3 years old is sure that the rabbit is real.”
Mysliwiec got the idea from Elisabet Brogeby, a Swedish fiddler he met at a music festival, though he altered her concept considerably. “The secret,” Mysliwiec explains, “is three pieces of fishing line and one rubber band.”
Mysliwiec ties a length of fishing line to each of his own feet. One line operates Harry’s head, while the rubber band turns it. The second line operates Fido the Wonder Dog, a second puppet that lays at Harry’s feet, who jumps up excitedly during the performance. The third line connects Harry’s bow to Mysliwiec’s hand, so, as Mysliwiec plays, Harry’s bow moves. “Initially, it did ruin my playing,” Mysliwiec says. “But now I don’t even have to look at Harry. I know where his bow is.”
The illusion even tricks adults. “As long as I play in the shade, you can’t see the fishing line,” Mysliwiec says. “People are sure Harry has to be electronic.”
Harry and Mysliwiec have only been performing together since August, but they are so successful they’re going national and plan to perform at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Having busked by himself in Scotland and England, Mysliwiec is not ruling out a world tour — once he figures out how to pack Harry to get him through customs.