Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Training 12/23, The Witlings & The Carol Burnett Show

Gabe here kids, como estas?!!

You know I've read some blogs, not many, never posted to one, and finally here I am with my first post ever.

As I was leading Robert Taylor on Sunday I decided to incorporate one of the exercises from his workshop in October. Two people sprint to each other from either side of the room, make the eye contact, the energy connection and speed off again. Taking this into account, as we began saying "text" to each other in text circle, I emphasized to our group to really take in the other and make the contact before uttering "text" again and removing yourself from the circle.

In the Taylor exercise I made sure we started off slowly before going to the jet speed sprint. I find at times in our text circle it's easy to get into that robotic rhythm and glaze over the connection with the other actor, rather than making it, acknowledging it, AND THEN moving on. I feel compromising the connection for speed is neither effective nor interesting; it's rather banal and pedantic frankly. It really sucks. BUT WE ALL DO IT DON'T WE? ESPECIALLY MYSELF.

That being said, I feel it's best to start off slow and make sure you connect with your fellow actor then bring up the speed. When both connection and the speed of your intention hit it's a marvel every time with or without text.

At times, as we went in the circle, we made ourselves stop, pause, make that connection then go and in doing so that helped make a mental imprint (recognizing that intuitive feeling) of when your energies truly communicate with the other actor; rather than going through the motions. I found this quite helpful for myself as a "self-check" against bullshitting your fellow actor, i.e. scene partner, i.e. audience. Like Suzuki, when you flub it, it's there for all to see. The beauty of the Theatre.

So how does this relate to Witlings & the Carol Burnett show? I sent George a text the other day after I read some more Witlings. I told him it reminded me of the old sit-com "Soap". I said that because I faintly remember the show's satire of the rich, wealthy and beautiful people soap-opera's glamorize. I faintly remembered Bea Arthur and some of the other actors doing zany, outlandish spoofs. Then I saw a documentary on Thirteen last night on Carol Burnett and the Carol Burnett Show, which ran during the same time period as "Soap", and it all came roaring back to me.

Holy throw-back Bat Man!!! I remembered sooo many of those skits as a kid!!! I was on the floor cracking up in my bedroom. It was as if I saw for it for the first time again!! I was like, "This is the Witlings! In so may different shapes in sizes". Here's why for me:

They described, quite accurately I might add, that the show was a blend of Vaudeville, burlesque as well as a variety show. I forgot that Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Vikki Lawrence, Harvey (forgot his last name) were all so in the moment connecting with each other, that they laughed in character, acknowledged it, and still went on, knowing the audience knew they laughed, and it was all part of a spontaneous moment but NEVER losing that connection with the other. An utter scream were these skits. The characters were bold, brave, outlandish, clever and FULLY COMMITTED. They actors kept emphasizing throughout the documentary how much fun they had and I quote Carol Brunette "Don't tell anybody this but I would have done it for free".

I kept thinking of the Witlings because I feel it has these elements of Vaudeville, burlesque and certainly of a variety show. There's something about that era (70's) of comedy that reminds me of this play. I think about All in the Family, The Jefferson's, Soap, The Carol Brunette Show, even Three's Company that has this whacky, outrageous element that reminds me of the characters and situations in the Witlings. It reminds me of Moliere too.

You guys may think I'm nuts, but I feel there's something we can learn from those comedies to help us with our own. It really hit me as I was watching this piece on Carol Burnett. Honestly, watch it for yourself too, beautiful work, I shed a few tears. And the thing was you saw the darkness, the edginess, the pitiful, and the disenfranchised with sincerity and the on flip side it smacks you on your ass laughing. I see that in The Witlings too.

Anyway, I've think I've said enough for now and glad we have this medium to get our thoughts out. I'll have plenty of crazy off the wall things to say I'm sure. In the meantime, I'm going to check out some DVD's on the Carol Brunette Show & Soap and do some further character research. I saw plenty of Commedia in those characters as well; I forgot how physical the comedy was then. Peace Witlings!




Magis Theatre Company said...

I am loving this idea at looking at the Carol Burnett show...if you go to you tube and type in carol burnett you get some great ones including the above which is a skit called "Altercation" -- I think it is required viewing!


Magis Theatre Company said...

This is a riot! I notice in the first part how Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence were in better sync than Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. It's like the women are working executing actions that come from the impulses of the situation... behavior one might do in response, and yet it is the servant who is anticipating it beacause they know the routine so well.
The "kill myself" moment is interesting in terms of some of the class/status work we've been doing with "The Witlings." At this moment, what is the "self" if it is so entrenched in the power relationship? Might not be what the writers intended a viewer to think about, but it could be interesting to get into similar "essential gesture" work to describe some of the power relationships in "The Witlings"