Monday, August 03, 2009

"Be Funny."

News Flash:
Less Actually Is More.

Apparently the Buddah said it this way:

“When you speak, make sure you are improving on silence.”

Reason 1,148 why I am not the Buddah.
My policy in performance has always been “Always Leave Them Begging For Less.”
I like to go big and then see if I can justify my choices after.

Now I find myself performing in the circus.
Go bold or don’t go at all I say.
I like to make broad brushstrokes with my physicality in the theatre whenever possible, then find the inner world to support my choices.
Over thirty years this has served me reasonably well in the Theatre.
But the same laws of diminishing return apply with the audiences here under the blue and yellow spires of the Grande Chapeteau.

Scratching Your Head, Rubbing Your Belly

Physically I need to go big: Everything from exacting moments of frozen stupor to full body, supported gestures that stretch to the back row of a circus tent.
But vocally it needs to be as intimate and present as if I was doing it for a group of friends in the living room.

(Treating center stage as our very own living room is one of the elaborate tricks we clowns must play on ourselves mentally as we mine for the funny in performance.)

So even as the yawning space and the 2 thousand plus people out there and my well honed Outdoor (un miked) Shakespeare instincts clamor for me to match my movements vocally I must conquer my impulse to yell.

“The Buddah does not need to yell.” yelled the Buddah.

I must trust the four hundred dollar microphone clamped to my head and the hundreds of speakers tucked into every nook and cranny in the tent.

Crickets and Confetti

So the Body is showing 180% while the voice cruises along at 65.
Mind-bending Fun.
But this adjustment is crucial for the success of my character and the clown acts in our production.
This is not multi-tasking. This is doing two opposite things at the same time.
But it gets better:

Even though I am playing a Fool, a nincompoop King who doesn’t know where he is or what he’s doing most of the time, I must also be confidently under control underneath it all. Therefore I must remove any sense of vocal strain.
This actually sends a subliminal message down the synaptic highways of the audience that, goofy as I am, I am also in Buddah-like control. That we clowns will take care of our audience even as we make fun of /with them. In clowning signs of undue effort can kill the funny deader than a crushed cricket under a jack boot.

Nowhere is all this more crucially tested than when I close out the Cannon Chase/ High Wire Set Up near the end of our first act by crushing a cricket with my jack boot.

It is one of the earliest circus traditions to enlist the clowns to distract from the work the riggers must do to set up the next act. In Kooza we clowns cover for the High Wire set up with a confetti fueled chase through the audience.
A sudden burst of controlled insanity.
A kind of happy mayhem.

At the end of said shenanigans I have a moment alone with a recalcitrant cricket.
While mining for the funny with the (imaginary) insect, I must keep an eye on a cue light 200 feet away that will give me the go ahead to end the scene.

Green: All is set, you’re good to go.
Red: VAMP!

Ending the scene too early could have catastrophic consequences with the high wire artists waiting in the wings.
Welcome to the circus.

Dasha staring at me (again!)

So if you’re keeping score, my job:
Be a patient Buddha on the inside.
A Goofus on the outside.
Eyes- Hypersensitive, aware, available, OPEN!
Voice- Relaxed, intimate, crystalline.

And one more thing, as Andy, one of the riggers reminds me every night seconds before I go on for the “Wand Chase “ segment of the show:

“Be Funny.”

1 comment:

dreemama said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading your thoughts as the King. It's so interesting to see the things that us outsiders don't always get to see. We are so lucky to have you on KOOZA. Oh, and the cricket is my favorite trombone player/husband!