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KID STUFF

Mums' the Word : Trio Juggles Hip Stunts and Derring-do In Irvine

November 08, 1990|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

If the word juggler brings to mind rent-a-clowns in goofy shoes or muscle-bound circus performers, prepare to have your stereotypes tumble Saturday when the Irvine Arts Festival presents the Mums, a Los-Angeles based trio that combines juggling, magic and derring-do in a surprisingly hip show.

Performed against a musical backdrop that combines New Age sounds with tribal drumbeats, the Mums' repertoire draws on some of the more exciting stunts of circus and stage. Clubs, flaming batons, rings and mammoth beach balls spin wildly overhead. Fluttering doves and streams of silk appear out of thin air. Fire and razor blades are swallowed as easily as ice cream. But the really amazing thing is just how cool these guys look while they're doing it.

Nathan Stein, Roy Johns and Albie Selznick are the juggling Mums (which, by the way, stands for "minds under matter"). Stein and Johns were San Francisco street performers when, in 1976, they nabbed the last Ted Mack Talent Search Award ("I like to think we killed him," quips Stein), winning $1,000 and a chance to tour the Far East. The pair spent six months in Hong Kong and Japan with a "Las Vegas-style girls-and-feathers show," then returned to the United States.

After adding Selznick, the troupe went on to produce half a dozen works between 1980 and 1987, including "The Nannies," a surrealistic comedy about "three alien orbs who save the Earth through comedy and magic" that had a lengthy run at Hollywood's Stages Theatre. The Mums have performed their feats at the Roxy and New York's trendy Studio 54, appeared in nine music videos and were the opening act for such bands as Duran Duran, The Tubes, Berlin and Devo. They've been seen on the "Merv Griffin Show" and in four episodes of Showtime's "Faerie Tale Theatre," and have pitched everything from burgers to booze in commercials for Wendy's, Suntory whiskey and more.

According to Stein, the group's focus has recently shifted back to live stage shows. They've made a number of Orange County appearances, including last month's opening bash for the Festival of Britain.

The Mums' Irvine show is the second in a series of free performances, exhibits and installations planned for the six-month Irvine Arts Festival. Coordinated by the city's Cultural Affairs Commission, the festival was designed to celebrate Irvine's growth as a center for the performing and visual arts and to develop new audiences for the arts, according to Cultural Affairs Manager Henry Korn. Plans are to establish the festival as an annual event.

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