Page 24                                            Spring 1995

Carter Brown and Lazer Vaudeville Keep on Rolling

By Cindy Marvell


Somewhere along the Continental Divide, under a backdrop of orange skies and blue mountains, a 16-foot box truck weaves its way through the terrain. The unassuming white truck contains 28 road cases, a bunk complete with mattress and sleeping bags, a coffee maker, three vaudevillians, and a dog named Roxy. The show, Lazer Vaudeville, is now in its seventh year of touring, and has crossed this mountain range seven times in various configurations since September.


The current cast is comprised of founder Carter Brown, Randy Johnson and Cindy Marvell, who collectively share the driving, juggling and everything else the show entails. As the truck rumbles along to the next show, Brown wakes up from his brief nap to cast a glance at the speedometer.


"Floor it," he advises, adjusting his makeshift pillow, "and keep it floored." Marvell complies, and the truck picks up speed around the curve. As the leader of a national, sometimes international, touring company, Brown does not get much sleep these days. "You constantly have to balance what you have to do to keep the books balanced with what you have to do to keep yourself artistically satisfied," says Brown of the many responsibilities involved in running the show. As a juggler, he tries not to become consumed by the endless bureaucracy involved in presenting more than 150 theater shows a year.


Though he initially focused on developing his solo act, it was Brown's ambition to perform a well-rounded show with a theatrical bent. Since its formation in 1987, Lazer Vaudeville has been committed to combining traditional skills with new technologies and original modes of presentation. "When I started the show, I was fed up with the lack of creativity in circus acts and vaudeville in general," Brown recalls, "I really wanted to see it combined with the lighting effects and technology of the 90's."


Brown's is an intense personality, full of energy, humor and mystery. And the show follows suit. With a mixture of laser beam displays, blacklight puppetry, acrobatics, clowning, and state-of-the-art juggling routines, the show is quite a handful for both audience and performers. It takes 5-7 hours to unload, set up and "tech" the show, not to mention warming up. Obviously it takes more than the usual obsession with juggling and performing to engage in such an enterprise. One must be obsessed with many different things and some­how keep track of them all.


So, how did the insanity begin?


Brown was born into a theatrical family. His father worked as a set designer and stage manager, his mother an actress and dancer. As a hyperactive child growing up in New York City, Brown was encouraged to channel his excessive energy into dance, gymnastics, mime and acting classes. At the age of eight he started performing in local plays and musicals. At 12 his family moved to Vermont, where Brown later attended the University of Vermont with a double major in theater and art. He has fond memories of "The Silent Company," the university's mime troupe, which he eventually ended up directing. As a new member, he was required to learn the basics of juggling, and after that things were never quite the same.

Carter Brown and a pyrotechnic display

Carter Brown and a pyrotechnic display

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