Author: Faryn Borella
The liberal arts degree is often questioned, as the possibilities of where you’ll end up post-graduation are essentially endless — from entrepreneurship to the entertainment industry, an Oxy degree has seemingly limitless potential. Stephen Bent ’09 has already started a successful career as a juggler and performance artist in the famous Flying Karamazov Brothers.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers is a juggling comedy troupe founded in 1973. The troupe named themselves after Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel “The Brothers Karamazov,” and each of the four actors plays one of the characters in the novel. Bent plays Zossima, the youngest of the four brothers, who is always energetic and a huge flirt.
“The show incorporates juggling, theater, comedy, music and dance in a sort of vaudeville-inspired way,” said Bent. There are eclectic costumes, men in tutus, food flying every which direction and a wide array of musical instruments. While a comedic show, even the jokes the brothers crack are intellectually stimulating.There is juggling while playing instruments and a challenge that calls for the audience to present ridiculous objects for the Brothers to juggle.
“It sparks good comedy,” said Bent.
The Early Life
Although Bent didn’t join the Flying Karamazov Brothers until 2008, he has been tied to the troupe from a very young age. His parents’ first date was actually at a Flying Karamazov Brothers show. Bent attended his first performance at the age of 13, and was immediately enthralled.
“After that, I got really obsessed with juggling,” Bent said.
Throughout his teen years, Bent concentrated on improving his juggling skills, searching out juggling opportunities in and out of school. When he arrived at Oxy in 2005, though, he realized that he was passionate about many other activities such as theater and singing. He became involved with the theater department as a first-year when he was able to juggle in one of their productions, and continued with theater throughout his four years. He also joined the Glee Club and the male acapella group Cadence.
“I think that without my experience with Glee Club, I don’t think I would have been able to get into the troupe,” said Bent, who had never been a singer before coming to Oxy.
Bent also commented that while at Oxy, his passion for juggling got put on the back burner in a sense, due to all his other engagements and activities.
“I just got too busy,” said Bent.
This didn’t destroy Bent’s love for juggling, though. The slight hiatus simply allowed for his other talents to blossom and grow.
“I was a music major at Oxy, so having the opportunity to study music and play music really helped in my getting into the troupe since they are very musically-oriented,” Bent said.
Bent’s experiences at Oxy played a vital role in the achievement of his ultimate goal: becoming a Flying Karamazov Brother.
The Beginnings of a Career
Bent first auditioned to join the troupe in 2006. Just a sophomore, he didn’t get the part because he was too young. The brothers wanted him to remain in college, and they didn’t know how that would be possible with their rigorous touring schedule.
In 2008, the brothers had an opening after a performer didn’t work out and remembered Bent. They called him with an offer to join the team and he gladly accepted, becoming an official member of the troupe that summer. The only issue was that Bent still had a year of school remaining before graduation.
Bent’s touring schedule did require him to spend the majority of his weekends and the occasional weekdays on the road, traveling all over the country. Luckily, both his new on-stage brothers and the Oxy community were very lenient throughout the process and helped Bent in every way possible.
He not only had to balance school work with his new profession, but he was also still an active member of the music community at Oxy. Trying to keep up with school, a full-time job and extracurriculars was challenging for Bent, but he handled it well.
“I was lucky that I was at a school like Oxy where I had a community that knew and trusted me to go on the road and come back with everything done,” Bent said.
Big Changes for the Brothers
Since joining the Flying Karamazov Brothers in 2008, the troupe has undergone some major changes.
“Historically the troupe has always been a touring show, but just this summer we started an open-ended run in New York City, where we’re doing six shows a week,” said Bent.
In order to continue touring, the group hired four more performers so one group can go on tour while the others stay in the city
Since their show opened in New York City, the troupe’s popularity has grown exponentially. Just last month they had a two-night guest appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
“We’re hoping to become a New York Theater institution like Blue Man Group and STOMP, who have been here for 20 years,” said Bent.
But the troupe’s expansion does have its limitations. The show’s premise is the dynamic between four brothers, and that will not change, according to Bent. However, it is possible that if the run goes successfully in New York, they may open up shows in other cities around the world.
Bent was optimistic about his chances of improving the performance and making a living off of the show.
“I hope that the Karamazov thing works out as a long-term career,” he said.
Bent and Oxy
So Stephen Bent achieved his childhood dream: he became a Flying Karamazov Brother, and did so at a very young age. His eight years of hard work and dedication, whether first learning to juggle, performing in plays here at Oxy, or singing in the Oxy glee club, paid off in the end. Therefore, Bent’s experience at Oxy was very beneficial to his success later in life.
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