PORT TOWNSEND — The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home.”
For Paul Magid, co-founder of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, this seems to be true. In his case, Port Townsend is home, and that affords him a new opportunity to look back, change it up, toss it around and begin again.
He’s rewritten “Club Sandwich,” the show that debuted in Port Townsend 23 years ago. It will debut anew this weekend at the Wheeler Theater at Fort Worden. It’s been updated significantly and features a cast of young, local talent.
“Club Sandwich” will be performed tonight, Saturday and Sunday, with five shows — at 7 tonight, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.
General admission tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth 12 and younger. VIP tickets are $65 for Saturday night only. Tickets are available at Port Townsend Food Coop, Port Ludlow Bay Club and online at https://tinyurl.com/PDN- KaramazovBrothers.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers, a performing troupe featuring physical comedy and music, was founded in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1973. The act enjoyed world-wide fame through its performances in international theater, television and on Broadway.
A native of Seattle, Magid was “born in Virginia Mason Hospital, long ago, before the freeway existed.” He has fond memories of Port Townsend in the 1950s and ’60s when he and his grandfather fished for salmon. It was a special place for him.
Somehow he knew it would play a role in his life.
In the 1980s, Magid discovered that Arcadia, a local estate, was for sale. It featured a 1908 Craftsman home, big enough for everyone, and a dance hall that could be redone as a rehearsal and performance space.
“Port Townsend took my fancy. Everyone came up here, looked at the place and thought it was great.”
“From prohibition times until 1974 the site was home to the illicit dance hall in town until the police shut it down,” he explained. “It was literally sinking so we rebuilt it, attached the old Port Townsend Yacht Club to it, and turned it into a little theater and rehearsal hall.”
They dubbed it: “Palindrome: Never odd or even.”
It was a good home base for the Karamazovs from 1986 to 2000.
The company went on to perform “Club Sandwich” around the world, then mounted more than 20 productions of equal success. “Club Sandwich” went into storage with all its props but was never really forgotten.
Then life happened, as it does.
“Some of the guys were getting married, and for some couples it was a little isolated. So they moved out. We sold the place because it was really meant for all of us to be together there,” Magid said.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers were based in New York in the years that followed.
Magid wanted to stay rooted to Port Townsend, a place where he felt truly at home. He bought a home in the woods near the Cape George Colony with a rehearsal space. He also lives part time in Italy.
So when Magid decided to relocate his traveling toupe from New York, he reconsidered Port Townsend and looked for talent. He began to work with a younger generation that hung around the Palindrome when they were growing up and hanging out with the performers’ kids.
Those local kids are now featured in his show and also work behind the scenes. Chen Pollina, Jules McCoy and Tomoki Sage are performers. Kiyota Sage does the sound. Danny Milholand is the producer.
“Those guys are such a joy to work with, I just love working with them,” Magrid said. “It’s the circle of life, the passing of the torch, literally. They’re super funny and really talented, and they all grew up here.”
Knowing that he had a new talent pool and the desire to keep going, he made the decision to revise “Club Sandwich.”
“When we did it 23 years ago, it was a huge hit. We went to ACT Theater in Seattle, played all over the country, in Europe. It’s a great show.”
“It’s been fun to update it,” he said. “We’ve added a lot more stuff, lots of live music. There’s singing and silliness, and lots of extraordinary physical juggling and dance stuff going on.”
One of the big reasons he’s reviving it is because it’s apropos for the times we live in, he said.
“It’s about a group of juggling millionaires who don’t have a care in the world,” he said. “Murder and mayhem occur all around, but nothing ever happens to them. Sound familiar? They are looking for clubs that juggle themselves in an ancient Egyptian tomb.”
He points out that the first depiction of juggling is on an Egyptian tomb, rendered about 4,000 years ago.
“A whole bunch of jugglers are passing clubs in front of a pharaoh … I kid you not,” he laughed.
Magid is not as young as his troupe of 30-somethings, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The physicality of the more than two-hour show is demanding.
“One of the most notable numbers is when Tom and I sing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ while playing a marimba and juggling mallets — all while tap dancing,” Magrid said. “We’re wearing belled hats and play the rhythm on our hats. We also play harmonica while tap dancing double time while chewing gum.”
“It’s really hard. It’s fun and stupid, but really, really hard,” he said.
“Jugglers are a different breed of performer. I come from a line of long-lived people. My great-great-grandfather lived to 112. All the other older Karamazov members retired. I definitely notice the physicality, but it’s not affecting me that much.
“Yes, it’s definitely different than when I was 20 or 30, no doubt about it, but I still love it. “
Today, Port Townsend is just where Magid wants to be.
“I really want to live the talk. Instead of having my bank and my accountants in New York, I’ve moved everything to Port Townsend. We are trying to do all the production with people from here: the stage manager, local stage crew, lighting designer, carpenters. Our funding has come from local people. Our bank is local, the accounting is being done locally. We’re working with Centrum again. The idea is to just be part of this community.”
“This town is so great on how it supports the arts and it’s so open to our style of performance.”
“When we bring the show to the rest of the world, which we will, Port Townsend won’t just be in our hearts, but we’ll also be promoting it wherever we go: This is a production from this lovely little town,” Magid said.
“We’re pretty excited about that.”
Jaennie McMacken is a freelance wrirter and photographer living in Port Townsend.