Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's end the Party!

I'm with Sergey!

I've distanced myself from posting political rants in the social media soup this presidential election year. I wasted enough time arguing and trying to change the minds of people with differing views last time around. And it's no secret which way I lean. But the two things that have really stuck in my craw this time are the Presidential campaign circus and the polarizing party system.

It's really time for the president to clean up the wasteful processes of seemingly endless campaigning, diverting the attention from the important tasks at hand. And he should leave the Democratic Party. I'm not saying Democrats are all bad or wrong. Hell, I voted straight across the party line. But it's time for the whole country to get off the two-party bandwagon and start dealing with each issue on their own merits.

What a huge step if President Obama did this! People would eventually have to actually educate themselves on the candidates and their positions before they vote, rather than hunting for the (D) or the (R) next to the name (I'm as guilty as any!) No more fruitless "reaching across the aisle," because there would be no aisle!

Maybe this Cold Civil War will cool down (so to speak).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

SlapCon 2012

On Sept. 21st, I drove down to LA to participate in the first annual SlapCon, a convention of pratfalls, silly stage combat, and comic stunts. Organized by the great comic juggler and comedian Scot Nery, SlapCon was a two-day tour de force in learning and exploring the ins and outs of physical comedy. The convention was held at an amazing homemade gym attached to the home of Jack and Jeri Kalvan. With tall ceilings, crash mats, padded flooring, and mirrors galore, we were primed to get nice and bruised and sore for the weekend.

Day one began with introductions and a quick primer on basic slaps, hits and falls by clown Tuba Heatherton. We then broke up into teams to eventually present a short slapstick act of our choosing at the end of the second day. Stefan Haves was on hand to teach multiple amazing workshops over the course of the two days--on clowning, trips, falls, and double takes.

In the middle of he first day, the entire group happily devolved into a free-for-all of unstructured lessons on various falls, hits and kicks--especially some long falls onto a big crash mat. This is where we really got to know what the needs and the skill levels of the individuals were. It also became clearer in what the direction SlapCon wanted to point itself.

After the free-for-all, the group sat down for a long discussion on the definition and history of slapstick. I was of the opinion that maybe at the next SlapCon, we could go through slapstick through history and maybe try to recreate it. From Vaudeville or even much earlier, through the Chaplin/Keaton era, through Three Stooges, through movies like Singing in the Rain, through television shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and Three's Company, all the way up to Jackass and Tosh.0 today.

Then we got back on our feet for more structured work with falls and double takes with Stefan.

Day two began with a great workshop on Alexander Technique by Kate Conklin, giving us some incredibly useful tips on how to perform outrageous acts of lunacy, while paying close attention to our body's alignment, so that we can keep what we do safe and effective.

Then I began my workshop of silly stage combat. The night before, I sat down and wrote out a 20-second, 3-person fight for everyone to learn. I demonstrated each punch, kick, and grab separately as the whole group paired off. Then I built the fight sequence for each group of three. Everyone dove into the challenge with relish and enthusiasm. It seemed to be a big sweaty success by the end of it.

After dinner, Scot asked us all for one last presentation of our own devising, either solo or in small groups to show to each other. Scot, Amanda and I put together a three-person fight where I played a douchebag with my bitch on my arm trying to get past a bouncer to get into a club. The bouncer would get the best of me before being walloped by the bitch. The real highlight, though, was Jon, Jareb and Momo as they picked up their original, first-day presentation, and pretty much added a ridiculous summary of the entire two days into their story.

After many tearful goodbyes by everyone, the group did one final (funnily unsuccessful) exercise before disbanding into a alcohol-induced lovefest.

Very much looking forward to SlapCon 2.0 next year!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Offerman/Mullally - Defiant Gets Some WTF Juice

My buddy Keith Ellis tipped me off to a LA podcast that had an interview with Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. It was really nice to hear both of them talk about the business and their backgrounds in a genial, long form. There's some sweet history and analysis of the Chicago entertainment scene. 

And as a bonus, Nick goes into some good detail about Defiant Theatre, and they both mention Sci-fi Action Movie in Space Prison, which they both saw in 2001. You can watch the entire play (in 20 chapter chunks) here.

Nick also gives great insight to the unbelievable deluge of Ron Swanson fan art that's arisen in the past couple of years. 

This gem was found in an art gallery at Las Vegas' First Friday fest!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Springtime with Devils

This April and May, I will have the good fortune to tour once again with the Handsome Little Devils, the Denver-based, nouveau vaudevillian troupe, in their hit show Squirm Burpee. I spent the better part of November 2011 with them in New York and New Hampshire in this "vaudevillian melodrama". I've praised these folks before, more from afar, and was hoping one day to work with them. And luckily enough, I get to!

I play the lovably evil Baron Vegan Von Hamburger, one of four characters in this non-stop thrill-ride of juggling, swing dancing, and steampunk wet-dream!

It was a welcome return to actually recite lines again, something I haven't done for about 3-4 years. I've been mostly sticking to the physical stuff with Cirque du Soleil and Le Reve. Now, as the show's malcontented narrator, I have quite the mouthful of soliloquies to growl and sneer through. It's a lot of fun!

This April we'll be touring multiple cities in New Mexico, and then immediately following, we trek over to Cleveland, OH for a week of the International Children's Festival at the Playhouse Square.

If anybody is in either of these areas, please look me up and bring the family to the show!

The next challenge is mapping out summer plans! Stay tuned!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pratfalls with JimmySlo

Just taught my first Comedic Pratfalls class. It was a one-on-one with Le Rêve wardrobe assistant, Rudy Uresti. I was pretty nervous that I wasn't going to fill two hours worth of useable, interesting content. But it turned out pretty good. I think I'm putting together a solid curriculum for a bigger class. I've always thought I SHOULD eventually try my hand at teaching, I just needed an extra boost to get the ball rolling, and I think this class was it.

In the Vegas area and want to learn how to fall down correctly, safely, and funnily? Give me a jiggle!

Not in the Vegas area and want to try your hand anyway? The next best thing would be to get the instructional video!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dictator... Really?!

Like an excited schoolgirl, I rushed to my computer to watch the trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming comedy, The Dictator.

I've been a huge fan of his since Ali G, but I've admittedly been skeptical of both Borat and Bruno before they came out. When they announced Borat, I was actually disappointed. It was not my favorite character on Ali G, and I was hoping for an Ali G or Bruno movie--I thought they were stronger characters. Of course, when I saw it, I thought it was a masterpiece. Then when they announced Bruno, I was a little disappointed again. I thought SBC was going to just follow the same formula, I thought it was a bit of a cop-out. But then Bruno blew me (ahem) away! I also really enjoyed SBC's supporting performances in Talladega Nights and Sweeney Todd.

So when I heard he was making a new movie called The Dictator, for the first time I was thrilled. Maybe this was going to be another schmuck-the-real-people flick, but now he's a huge leader of a nonsense-named country, or something like that. I was going to forgive the potential that it would again follow the same formula, since it worked so well last time. He's gotta outdo himself with this one, right?

Well, when I fired up the trailer on YouTube, I was pretty excited until I saw all the famous people supporting in his cast--Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, Megan Fox. And his jokes were the same pointedly offensive jabs at modern culture, but the only thing that was missing was the look of genuine horror/confusion/anger on the real non-actors he played against in the past.

I'll have to go back and check the other movies, but I suspect if the Borat or Bruno gags were taken into a pure narrative filmmaking scenario, they wouldn't be very funny. The "straight man", in the comic sense, in the other two films was absolutely integral. And while both movies had very funny narrative elements sprinkled in, and some of the candid moments were probably a little less candid than they let on, the places where I laughed and cringed the most were when people genuinely reacted--not acted reacted. In fact, the narrative sections of those movie just supported the anticipation of the real-people scenes.

I'll give it a chance--I've been wrong about SBC before, maybe I will be surprised again. But the trailer doesn't seem to do a potentially great movie justice. It looks like Adam Sandler in a schlocky remake of Coming to America. Am I alone here?

And, I mean, come on... Am I crazy for thinking this looks like a funnier movie:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanks for the 'tude, Doctor!

Had to take the boy in for his scheduled vaccines. Robin and I have done a lot of research and discussion about putting together a vaccination schedule. Being itinerant for the first year of his life, then being on and off health insurance, we've unfortunately had to bounce from pediatrician to pediatrician.

Today, we saw a new doctor for the first time to get his fourth DTAP and his Chicken Pox vaccines. I brought in the spreadsheet that we made up for his schedule and showed it to her. I also showed her some of the past height, weight, and head size data I had in my iPhone. She seemed put off by it all.

First, she said she couldn't find all of his records paperwork, but she almost brushed off my iPhone with disdain. Sorry, lady, technology trumps your absent tree-killing papers! And then she had the gall to tell me, "I don't believe in this schedule," referring to our spreadsheet. The boy is almost two, he's been getting shots all along the way, he's healthy as a horse--now is not the time to judge our process. I didn't need her opinion about our method, I needed her recommendations, and we'll make the final decisions about our child's future, thanks.

And she also could have spared us the line about how she's seen children die of mumps, chicken pox, and HepB. I'm not a small-time bumpkin that just stepped off a boat. Of course I didn't go to medical school for X amount of years, but I do live in the 21st century, where a much better educated decision can be made than just blindly going along with whatever snotty person with a PHD has to say.

The little guy cried a bit at the shots but then recovered like a champ. I think I'll recover from the doctor visit by taking my child's healthcare elsewhere.

End of rant.