Born of earth and water twenty some years ago, the Mud Bay Jugglers evolved into an organized body of arms, legs and hands; a multi-headed being that was guided by the natural belief in egalitarian leadership. This shows up on stage as their cooperative style of direction plays out in their amazing, non-verbal, choreographed performances. Their blend of juggling, physical comedy, dance, and music is as unique as their working style.
Doug Martin and Mark Jensen started juggling and gyrating on the street in 1980. Alan Fitzthum and Tom Gorski soon added their own brands of goofiness to the troupe and, in 1982, the Mud Bay Jugglers first performed as a foursome to the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 by Franz Liszt at a benefit for the Nisqually Delta Association. For the audience, it was love at first sight. And for the Jugglers, it was the point where they first discovered many of the elements that would define them, from choreographing to music to the costumes they still wear a version of today.
Zany, traveling jugglers.
In the mid '80's, the Jugglers toured the Northwest. They talked and jived on stage, developing their characteristic humor. When a friend showed up with a drum at rehearsal, the elements of movement and rhythm collided, and the Jugglers leaped again. They no longer spoke during performances and choreography came to the forefront with dance movements inspired by the insistent energy of the drums. The Jugglers and accompanying drummers were off and running-touring full time all over the West and Canada. They played the college circuit during the academic year and the festival tours of the summer. Fed by the enthusiasm of their audiences, the troupe cruised hundreds of miles from one performance to the next, developing a routine for changing drivers without stopping.
The Spirits Moved. OR--The Element of Fire
One night the troupe camped overnight at Joshua Tree. They were sitting around the campfire when Doug asked Alan, "Want to juggle some fire?" In the dark they scaled the 200-foot cliff hanging over their campsite. Torches ablaze, the two juggled as the drummers played below. Surely the desert
spirits came alive that night.
The Jugglers Go Through a Stage.
In 1987, Tom, Doug, and Alan performed "Bembe" at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. "Bembe", a rob and replace routine, requires that the performers freeze mid-air and drop-all at once. This particular stage wasn't up to it and on the third drop one section of the floor fell six inches. Imagine the shock--the Jugglers had performed hundreds of shows and nothing this absurd had every happened before. While the audience howled, the show went on, the Jugglers leaping and dancing around the 4 x 8 hole, incorporating it into the performance.
Let's Get Serious
In the early 90's, the Mud Bay Jugglers stopped touring to focus on theater shows, performing more in-depth and nuanced sequences better appreciated in theaters than in distracting outdoor venues. Harry Levine moved from troupe drummer to stage manager, and, finally, into the act. Mark retired, regretfully, to pursue a career in clinical psychology. The Jugglers worked with Pat Graney and other Northwest dancers in developing the movement aspect of their work. Shows included Nod Off, Now and Zen, The Sonny Gorski Show and Passing through Time.
Masters of Levity.
The Mud Bay Jugglers continue to build on their wildly creative history, and the good things that theater, drumming, and dance brought them. Since 1997, the Jugglers have immersed themselves in performing to recorded music, finding that choreographing to different musical themes, accents, and variations inspires them to make another leap forward. Working with the music of the likes of Perez Prado, the "King of Mambo", the Jugglers are timing everything, counting just as dancers do, integrating musical changes and using the comedy of the music to emphasize their expressions and
gesticulations. And they are taking to the road again.
You'll be in on the fun. You'll see what happens when drama, choreography and juggling create a flashpoint with the complex world of music. Still, as Alan put it, "Even after 20 years, our best times are when the clubs just float in the air and we're not thinking about anything but the fun we're having with the people around us."