Month: September 2012

The Friday Free For All: Dr Suess’s In The Hat Live On Stage

Welcome once again to the Friday Free For all for September 28, 2012. I know I missed Wednesday’s Wednesday With Will, but I’ll make it up I promise. Had some other things to take care of (like working on lines).

Earlier this week I posted a story about the emergence and importance of children’s theater. One of the things it mentioned in that article was that Europe is leading the way in children’s theater, producing works for younger and younger audiences. Today I’m going to review a show that is the emodiement of this growing movement.

Dr Suess’s The Cat In The Hat: Live on Stage (I’m spelling it the way that it is listed on Netflix) is a 30 minute recorded live on stage at the National Theater in London. Directed by acclaimed director Katie Mitchell and starring Angus Wright as the titular Cat. This is how children’s theater SHOULD be. It’s energetic, kinetic, engaging to younger audiences, and true to its source material. And by true to its source material, I mean it is TRUE to Dr. Suess’ original book. One complaint about the live action Grinch and Cat in the Hat movies were that they packed more material into those movies then were in the original stories and deviated from the source material. This doesn’t. Every word that Theodore Geisel wrote is here and nary a word is added.

The acting is top notch as well, as you can expect from London’s National Theater. The actor playing Sally and Sally’s brother do amazing work with almost no lines and Wright’s Cat brings a…well a danger to the role that was lacking in Mike Myers’ performance. But it’s Justin Salinger as the Fish that is a true delight. From his entrance  with a bubble machine in one hand and a Fish puppet in the other, he adds complexity and simplicity to his performance.

That could be said about this entire performance, from Vicki Mortimer’s stage design to Paul Clark’s jazzy score, everything is complex and yet simple. The set is simple (which appeals to my minimalist sensibilities)  capturing the simple ink drawings of Dr. Suess but then the do the famous balancing scene from the book where The Cat balances on a ball along with The Fish in his bowl, a tea cup on his head, etc. I’m not sure how they did it but it’s amazing.

The Cat In The Hat: Live On Stage is available instantly on Netflix.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company – The Music Man – Remembering Chris Stevens

This is a beautiful post about the late Chris Stevens from The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Austin Tichnor. I wish I had seen this earlier, but I couldn’t not share it.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company – The Music Man – Remembering Chris Stevens.

The Monday WIP: Procrastination

So I’ve been procrastinating. There really is no excuse as to why I’ve not made any progress lately on anything. I’ve progressed nothing on The Three Adventures of Puss In Boots, haven’t looked at Story of an Hour, and my goal of one 10-Minute a play/month has so far not been met. I have approximately 6 days to meet at least one of my monthly goals.

But why has procrastination haunted me so? Is it “writer’s block”? Laziness? Business? I’m not entirely sure to be honest. It really could be any number of things. Sure I’ve had computer troubles, but I’ve also had plenty of time to write. Has the muse been silent or have I just not made myself available to him (yes my muse is a man) to feed ideas into me? Has it been not enough sleep or too much sleep? Sadly I continue to come up with more questions than answers.

That is how it is with procrastination. It’s a silent virus that eats at our motivation. It’s like the common cold, there are so many causes that it can’t be pinpointed to just one cause.

When I get a cold, I know how to fight it; rest, cough drops, fluids, decongestants. What is the answer to procrastination? I think writing anything is one solution. That’s why I do try and blog at least 3 times a week. It gives me an opportunity to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) without the pressure of a contest or a deadline hanging over me. But I also think that deadlines, even self-imposed ones with consequences, are a good solution to procrastination. Sometimes it helps to put things to the side and work on something else for awhile. Let things simmer down and reduce any fluff that may be creeping in by forcing yourself to write. Finally, you can’t beat yourself up for putting things off, just move on.

Anyways, its back to the keyboard for me. I’ve got plays that won’t write themselves and limited time to do it in.

The Friday Free For All: The Serious Business of Comedy

Tragedy tomorrow, Comedy TONIGHT

There are several things I still need to do for The Friday Free For All. First off I need to start posting on Fridays and not at 1am in the morning Friday night/Saturday morning as I am right now. I also need to come up with some kind of logo or picture similar to what I have for the Monday WIP and Wednesdays With Will.

I do apologize for getting this so late, I started working on it this morning and then a series of events and my volunteering to help with my community theater groups float for our 3 Homecoming parades pressed me into service this afternoon. Yes 3 Homecoming parades; local private school, local public school, and local college. Next two Fridays I’ll be busy I’m sure.

I’m also in very early pre-production of our community Christmas play, on which I’m helping with publicity and stage managing, and I’m entering chrunch time for the workshop I’m assisting directing and acting in, BONE WARS, written and directed by a good friend of mine Shley Snider.

That brings me to this weeks topic: The Serious Business of Comedy. There is an old axiom “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Though the person who quoted that statement is unknown (although many have been credited), it still holds true. Comedy IS hard. Edmund Gwenn, best known for playing Kris Kringle in 1947’s Miracle On 34th Street

Edmund Gwenn with Maureen O’Hare in Miracle on 34th Street

(and one of those rumored to have said that axiom) said this:

All the honors go to the tragedian for chewing up the scenery, while the comedian, who has to be much more subtle to be funny, is just loudly criticized when he doesn’t come through. (Act Your Way to Successful Living, Rau, 1966)

Comedy is one of the hardest things to do. As difficult as Hamlet is to do (and it is), in my opinion, Dogberry, Bottom, and Falstaff (Shakespeare’s three greatest comedic creations) are even more so. And not getting laughs is much more noticeably then not getting tears.

I bring this up because the two shows I’m working on and prepping are both comedies. Comedy is more then running around and laughing and then trying to pull it together in the last minute. It requires discipline, listening to your director, listening to your audience, and perfecting your timing. Pratfalls get laughs, but you can’t just fall to get a laugh, you have to know WHY you’re getting a laugh.

as Oscar in The Odd Couple, with Jeremy McGuire as Murray

One of my “signature” roles is Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple. It’s a show I love to do and have played the role twice now and could play it every year for the rest of my laugh and never get tired of it. I did a production where the actor playing Felix had a very easy going nature about him. He could get laughs very easily, but he didn’t earn the laughs. Laughs earned provide you with a greater satisfaction then easy laughs. A pratfall because your character has been drinking a lot and has built up to that moment is funny because the laugh has been earned, a laugh gotten by carrying out the wrong prop because you weren’t paying attention is funny because you’ve obviously screwed up. It’s the same as the “laughing with you” vs “laughing at you”.

Comedy has to be earned and earning it is hard work and serious business.