High-level hijinks

The four juggling musicians The Flying Karamazov Brothers, neither flying, Karamazovs nor brothers, are extremely entertaining.

May 31, 2012 17:11
3 minute read.
Flying Karamazov Brothers

Flying Karamazov Brothers . (photo credit: Carol Rosegg)


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The skill set required to perform with the Flying Karamazov Brothers is so specific, it seems that people are either born ready to fit in or not. It’s not every day that one comes across a man who can juggle at a high level, act, play music, speak several languages, dance and make you laugh. But for Paul David Magid, who will come to Israel this week to perform during the Israel Festival, this challenge is part and parcel of keeping his thriving troupe alive.

In 1973 in sunny California, Magid and Howard Jay Patterson gave their first performance as the Flying Karamazov Brothers. They took their name from Dostoevsky’s novel and transferred what was then considered street performance, or busking, onto the stage. In the years that followed, two more members joined the team. By 1975 the quartet was stable, and audiences were beginning to take stock of this unusual and charming act.

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Like Magid, all members of the Karamazov Brothers are musicians.

“Music came first for me,” he said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “I play clarinet, reeds, saxophone and clarinet.”

Magid’s passion for rhythm has brought the members of the Karamazovs to perform with some of the world’s most beloved musicians. In 1983 Magid reached a personal high.

He was asked to perform percussion in a concert with The Grateful Dead. That concert went on to become one of the most celebrated recordings of the epic group.

Though the connection between juggling and playing an instrument may not seem obvious, for Magid these two passions are closely linked. Over the years, the Karamazovs have developed a unique technology that allows them to create sound with their juggling pins.

“It feels like I am playing music when I juggle,” says Magid. “Most of what we do is musical. Our whole theory of juggling is based on music and always has been. In order to juggle correctly, you have to juggle in rhythm, and it has to be symmetrical. It’s all based on rhythm, as is music. Music is rhythm and juggling is music. It’s our basic philosophy.”

Of the many tricks performed in a Karamazov show, one stands out as an audience favorite. Called The Gamble, this trick allows the audience to offer any object for The Champ to juggle, with only a few guidelines.

The object cannot be a live animal and cannot prevent The Champ from continuing to be a live animal.

“We were offered a lobster, and we said that it was a bad idea because the lobster would die,” recounts Magid. Though the fate of that lobster was sealed when the audience insisted that they juggle it, the Karamazovs decided that rules must be put in place.

That said, they went on to juggle knives, flaming daggers, a long list of food products and many other unimaginable things.

Danger, in Magid’s eyes, is part of the act. To keep an audience on their toes, the Karamazovs perform gravity-defying stunts. One such stunt in particular left its mark on Magid’s memory. “We were performing Comedy of Errors at Lincoln Center in New York City. At the end of it, I was supposed to throw a rope down from the top of the lighting grid and slide down more than 30 feet. I developed a way to do it that I threw it quickly and jumped at the same time. But one night I missed it and fell all the way down. The whole cast were on stage, and they had their backs to me. Normally they hear the whoosh of the rope, but this time they heard a thud.

The audience were going, ‘Those crazy Karamazovs will do anything,’” he recounts.

Luckily, Magid was not injured badly and was able to finish the show before being wheeled off to the hospital. However, he is aware that in a Flying Karamazov Brothers performance, anything can happen. “We’ve been cut, burned, hit by things thrown by the audience. The show is a free-for-all; that’s what is so special about it.”

The Flying Karamazov Brothers will perform on June 6 at the Jerusalem Theater and on June 7 and 8 at the Mediatheque Theater in Holon. For more information, visit www.israel-festival.org.il.

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