Thursday, April 23, 2009

Theatre Blog Directory

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cruising on the high seas

Anne Marie and I were getting ready for a rehearsal of our Performance Plus class version of Puss In Boots. The kids are aged from 11-17. Very motivated. A young woman named Courtney Cook dropped by. She had worked backstage with us a few years ago before she headed off to Sheridan College. She was now the Production manager for Cunnard lines; a cruise ship company. She graciously agreed to talk to the class, about life for performers on a cruise ship. Starting salaries work out to about 1700 to 2000 dollars a month but you don't have to pay for accomodations or food. Cruise lines seek triple threat performers which of course means, dancing, singing and acting. Actors are hired for things like mcing events and anything that requires talking to crowds of people about either performances or narrating the sights that passengers are seeing. It is a good chance to see the world when you are young, when you are unencumbered by marriage and jobs. Sheridan College is a good recruiting zone for cruise lines because of their very strong triple threat program. One thing Courtny emphasized is that there tends to be a three strike rule in show biz. Miss or be late for rehearsals three times and you're gone. Show up on drugs or alcohol once and you're history. Another interesting point she brought up was that a lot of jobs in theatre were had by being in the right place at the right time, by having your number on someone's cellphone. People tend to call the people that they know so networking was very important. She impressed on the kids that it was hard work but very rewarding. She told the kids to look at one another because those were going to be people who would remember them from this class and this show and they were the people that would be able to help them out if an opportunity arose for a job in the performing arts. You can check for Cruise Line jobs on the appropriate company's websites.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Blog Catalogue

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Timing is Everything - Delivering on Comedy

Rehearsals have been underway for a few weeks now and Puss and Boots is shaping up very nicely. Our Performance Plus class is doing a remarkable job of refining the show, adding the songs, and getting that ever-important comic timing down pat.

During rehearsals, I am very mindful of the generation gap that is developing between me and the young people who we direct. While they are smart, much smarter than I am, or was, or will be, and while they have a vast knowledge of music, including 'classics' that I am very familiar with, we have a big gulf in communication when it comes to what is funny. I read an interview of Martin Short last week. He said that comedy is generational, and that it has to be... maybe that is true. But how do you explain comic timing to someone who has never seen the old shows that you grew up on?

My generation had the 'benefit' of less affluent television stations. They could not pay for new movies. We got black and white movies from the stone ages. You know, movies starring Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or the Keystone Cops. The Little Rascals was a primer for comedy.

Teaching comedic timing is very difficult, but watching it is easy - if you get good comedy. Just as we watch dramatic actors and learn their techniques and methods, we need to be sitting our kids in front of some of the solid comedians that have come and gone, and learn their lessons.

Try some Laurel and Hardy or Three Stooges, some Carol Burnett or Lucille Ball, some Jackie Gleason, some Jack Benny, some W.C. Fields and Mae West, some Groucho Marx and his brothers.

Didn't they teach us that funny stuff happens in three beats? Didn't we learn from them that if your inflection rises during a line, and you put a beat before the next word, then it's funny?

Mae West's, "Come on up and ... see me sometime."
Don Adams had brilliant delivery in Get Smart, "Aand... llloving it."
Bugs Bunny, "Ehhhhnnnn... what's up, Doc?"

Can you imagine those lines without the build?

Comedy is slow. Anticipation is the most delicious aspect of it. Lucille Ball eating chocolates off of an assembly line is one of the most famous moments of television. The thing that made that a brilliant comedic piece instead of a disgusting show of gluttony or an alarming pathetic tragedy is all in the timing. Compare that to 'Just for Laughs: Gags' and tell me that things have not slid in a downward spiral on the small screen.

More recently (although not yesterday!) Ellen Degeneras and Tia Leone also are excellent comic actors. Bob Newhart... I am trying to name people who are not profance or inappropriate for young people in hopes that they will get seen by actors who can benefit from a good laugh and an entertaining lesson.

Too often, shocking behaviour, creative use of foul language and zany antics are accepted as comedy. There is a pleasant way to learn about comedy. Be a consumer of the 'good stuff'.

Treat your family to some vintage films and watch the masters at work.