Monday, July 30, 2007

Lessons of the Shovel

"Never hit your mother with a shovel. It leaves a deep impression on her mind"
Words to live by.
But what about when you're playing the outraged and slightly dense gardner Dimas in Triumph of Love and you enter your garden to find two interlopers- actually two women dressed as men- the formidable Stacy Ross and Catherine Castellanos, eating your precious and beloved apples and your buddy Arlequino, played by force of nature Danny Schie, seems to be helping them to it?!?

Time to hit somebody with a shovel.

Director Lillian Groag wants to insure that this opening gambit of slap stick lazzi looks as realistic as possible. So Danny and I begin to develop this little deadly dance of face flattening violence. It is only when a sound cue is added- and at an ear drum splitting decibel level- that our director is satisfied. Almost.
Ahh Timing.

But what about the foot smash that follows?
It looks fake, undermining the comedy and stretching the suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point. Danny and I are banished to the tiny Moscone Stage area to work it out. We both feel like remedial students sent away to practice while the real actors get to rehearse. But after countless attempts, and aided by our paripatetic ASM Cassie, we develop the routine that will let Danny retain all his toes, keep his profile and still (hopefully) we'll get a laugh.(Knock Wood)

The challenge of playing the clowns in this effervescent comedy seems to have more to do with suiting the choreography to the situation and refining it to a little gem than just pure invention. This can be frustrating. We all want to invent funny buisiness and just let it rip but this is Marivaux, not Goldoni, and it requires a delicacy that will highlght the love story and not seem other worldly- even though part of the clowns purpose is to infuse the proceedings with a touch of the chaotic, we are really just a kind of counterpoint to the travails of the lovers and as such our shenanigans need to be just as clean and well executed as the bows and courtly behavior of the higher status main characters.

So Danny and my shovel bit is just as painstakingly examined as the climactic kiss between Agis (the delightful Jud Williford) and Leonide. (the fabulous Stacy Ross).

Like every theatre making experience I've had before this, the pieces of this elaborate puzzle are slowly, painfully fitting into place. And sometimes with a really loud CLANG!

Next up: The Run Thru

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