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The gypsy life of Vaudeville

Trio of high-tech vaudevillians has performed from Japan to Saudi Arabia and now Southeast Alaska

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Lazer Vaudeville

Time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Place: Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

Tickets: $16 for general audience, $12 for students and seniors, $50 for family pass, available at bookstores.

Sponsor: Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

Three world-class jugglers and a 7-foot tall dragon that glows in the dark and breathes fire sweep through Juneau this week.

Lazer Vaudeville takes the stage Friday night at the Juneau-Douglas High School, bringing comedy, puppetry, acrobatic feats and lasers to Alaska. Juggling is the heart of the show, and the performers work with dozens of different elements.

Carter Brown, Cindy Marvell and Jeffrey Daymont will not juggle running chain saws in Juneau, although they've been known to. In one routine Brown manipulates up to 10 rolling hoops, which circle the stage as if taking on a life of their own. In another he works a spinning lariat. All three jugglers work together in routines juggling drums, clubs and South American bolas.

"There are so many different kinds of juggling that people haven't seen before," Marvell said.

She and Daymont have both won international juggling competitions, and Brown started his career 20 years ago as a clown with Ringling Brothers' Circus.

Lazer Vaudeville starts the show with a blacklight routine that illuminates the flying objects, but renders the performers invisible. The giant dragon serves as master of ceremonies. He's multi-lingual, and has introduced the performers in Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin.

Islamic culture has restricted American entertainers from performing in Saudi Arablia in the past. Marvell and Daymont said last summer they were the first Americans to perform for the general Saudi public.

"A lot of performers come to play for Americans working for the oil companies or military," Daymont said. "We were at a big amusement park. They were really receptive. They'd never seen juggling at all before. It's not something they do there."

Marvell said she was in for a surprise when they arrived. The promoters who hired them were concerned about the religious police enforcing laws against women in public, and asked her not to perform with the group.

"I could only perform in the black light session, or in the dragon and all the puppetry side of the troupe," she said. "I also did a show for women only. Not even male technicians could watch."

Marvell said Lazer Vaudeville travels 50,000 to 60,000 miles a year, not counting overseas trips. Last year they performed in England before heading to the Middle East, and this fall they tour Taiwan.

"It can be hard - here comes Kentucky, there goes Tennessee," Marvell said. "But Alaska has been fun. We've never been here before, and we've been able to spend a few days in each town."

The troupe has been teaching school classes about lasers and giving juggling lessons and demonstrations as well as performing. They've also seen whales, musk ox, bald eagles and a fox, critters Marvell said they've only seen in museums.

Carter Brown founded Lazer Vaudeville in 1987. Brown was born into a theatrical family in New York City - his father was a set designer and stage manager and his mother an actress and a dancer. Brown began performing when he was 8 and has never stopped.

 

Daymont said he started juggling when he was 14.

"My high school had a juggling club and I learned from one of the students," he said. "I started with golf balls, but wouldn't recommend that. Bean bags are better. They don't bounce or roll away when you drop them."

Daymont toured the Caribbean performing on cruise ships, played on Japanese television and even had a brief stint on "Days of our Lives," juggling in a couple of episodes. He joined Lazer Vaudeville two years ago and has logged more than 100,000 miles with Brown and Marvell. He said being in an ensemble has advantages, especially with comedy.

Marvell joined Lazer Vaudeville seven years ago. Her professional relationship with Carter Brown has grown over the years, and the two married last year.

Often the troupe will spend the off season - when they aren't touring - learning new routines, practicing, and developing new elements to the show. A few years ago they had original music composed and recorded. They serve as their own roadies, technical crew, booking agents and managers as well.

"There's a lot of work people don't see," Marvell said. "We spend about six hours before the show setting up."

It all pays off on stage and after the show, she said.

"People just love it, and the kind of response we get reinforces that it's not just us up there," she said. "That's a big side of it. It's the kind of show that gets a lively response."

The Lazer Vaudeville show will last about two hours, with a 15 minute introduction. Because the show opens with a black light routine, latecomers will not be admitted for ten or 15 minutes to prevent light from entering the hall.



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