PORT TOWNSEND — The New Old Time Chautauqua is bringing back its annual benefit show to Port Townsend with special performances this year to honor a former member of the Flying Karamazov Brothers who died in November.
Sam Williams, known by his stage name Smerdyakov Karamazov, died of a heart attack Nov. 18 while driving his bus route in Seattle. He was 63. He was scheduled to perform at this year’s benefit show.
“He was a great spirit and a super funny man,” said Paul Magid, known as Dmitri Karamazov. “He walked funny. He talked funny. He was just plain funny.”
The benefit will be at the Palindrome at 1893 S. Jacob Miller Road just outside of Port Townsend at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for those 12 and younger if purchased in advance at http://notcholidayshow.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets at the door are $20 for adults and $12 for children 12 and younger.
Magid met Williams in 1972 at a Renaissance Faire outside Seattle. Magid said they became fast friends and Williams joined the Flying Karamazov Brothers in 1981.
For 18 years, Williams toured as a juggler and comedian and performed with Magid on Broadway, opened for the Grateful Dead, taught Fred Rodgers how to juggle napkins on the PBS show “Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood” and appeared in the film “The Jewel of the Nile” alongside Hollywood stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.
Magid said this weekend was supposed to be Williams’ return to the stage. Williams left the Flying Karamazov Brothers in 2001 to take care of his two sons after his wife, Barbara Warren, died of cancer in 1999.
“He’s on the poster still since we had it printed beforehand,” Magid said. “He was just one of those people who were innately funny. He also kind of looked like Santa in his later years. He’d wear a Santa hat when he drove the bus sometimes, and kids would just love it.”
Magid said he’s teaming up with NANDA, a Port Townsend group that bills itself as an acrobatic ninja theater group, to perform something Williams wrote before his death but never was able to perform.
“It’ll be a special show for sure,” Magid said.
Aside from the special performances for Williams, the Flying Karamazov Brothers and NANDA will perform their own acts. Magid said they have also invited Godfrey Daniels, also known as the 8-foot clown; magician Joey Pipia; and the Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band.
“We’ll also have a professional whistler,” Magid said. “He mostly does classical music.”
This will be the second annual holiday benefit show for the New Old Time Chautauqua. The group, made up entirely of volunteers, uses the funds from this performance to tour the country, bringing education and entertainment to rural areas across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. This year, they will be touring Oregon.
Magid co-founded the New Old Time Chautauqua in 1973.
“At the time, we wanted to find people who were doing what we were doing, which was basically new vaudeville,” said Magid. “We also wanted to add a social message, which we decided was education, especially in rural areas.”
When group members tour, they put on performances and conduct workshops on everything from juggling to farming, according to Magid.
“We encourage community members to bring their skills, too,” Magid said. “Everywhere we go is a collaboration with the community. The more they put into it, the more they get out.”
Magid said community service is also important to the New Old Time Chautauqua. This year, the group donated its bus and kitchen supplies to Stand with Standing Rock activists in Port Townsend so they could take donations and warm meals to the protesters in North Dakota.
According to Magid, the New Old Time Chautauqua brings in performers from around the world, but many have roots in Port Townsend.
“A lot of the energy comes out of this town,” Magid said. “That’s why we do this benefit here.”
“It’s just going to be an amazing event,” he said.
“It’s a pretty unique and extraordinary evening.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.