Giovanni – An Italian Waiter

by: Stanley Allan Sherman © September 8, 2014

Created by: Hew Parham and Craig Behenna
Directed by: Craig Behenna
Performed by: Hew Parham

From Australia

Giovanni – An Italian Waiter

Giovanni is a very different type of show with its own sense and style of humor. Hew Parham character is very strong and he is at his best when he goes between his Italian waiter character breaking what seems as the wall of the over the top waiter. It seems like they have managed to pull every possible Italian joke you can imagine. Music is use through out the show and he uses it well for the most part. Although sometimes it seems to get in the way. One thing that is nice is Hew does not let the music control him.

Opening the show is really nice giving away Italian biscotti pastry as people come in and Hew is setting up. Talking with the audience as he is setting up. One really nice touch is how he goes though the house cleaning under the seats, picking up trash. It is a very character driven show with rapped fire verbal jokes, flavoers and stories. Sometimes with the put on Italian accent you cannot understand what he is saying. Hew’s flirting with the ladies works well, getting lots of laughs, especially from the ladies in the house.

Hew Parham2Director Craig Behenna, I would have like to see him give the show a better flow and rhythm. After a while the show seems to have the same rhythm over and over again. There seemed to be a lack of a dramatic line for most of the show. One note to the directors who I believe was sitting in front of me, only because after the show he was putting away the props on stage after the show. Please do not turn on your cell phone to take notes, it blinds everyone behind you every time you turn it on and we stop thinking about the show as we are distracted by the blinding cell phone light. For the talented Hew Parham this show is a nice beginning. I hope the direction can take him much further in the future. He is fun and entertaining to watch.

There was no program, so I cannot credit the costume or other elements. There was a lot of music used, none of the music in the show I am able to credit the musicians for in this review.

Next shows that are part of the NY Clown Theater Festival www.bricktheater.com/clown
Friday, September 12 @ 10:30 PM & Saturday Sept 13 @ 8:30 PM

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Red Bastard – Truth Now

by: Stanley Allan Sherman © September 7, 2014

Red Bastard by and with Eric Davis

If you miss the Red Bastard – it will be a tragedy – for you. One does not see the Red Bastard show, you with the audience experience and are part of the Red Bastard.
Yes, total theater.redbastardlookoutcrop0004

Lots of theater/entertainment have lofty goals of achieving good. Change the world in some way for the better. Political theater, often we hear and see moving messages. But how often can theater actually challenge you. Move you to action or beginning action. With an actual possibility that it will change your life.   Red Bastard can change your life. It is one of the very few shows I have experienced that is able to achieve this. As Harry G. Frankfurt says in his book “On Bullshit” “no bullshit.”   It is all about truth. Clowns and in this case the bouffon never lies but embrace the truth and takes it where ever it goes.  Laughs, good times, entertaining, great moments of total fear or/and freedom.  It is all your choice…to an extent.

Red Bastard is a truly original show with soul. Built, test, performed, honed and developed over many years. One thing about Eric Davis – you can count on him always pushing and refining his Red Bastard.

Yes it is for everyone and some would say it is an “adult only show.” It can be a show you dare to go to. Is there audience participation you ask?  Weeeeeeelll, no – it is something else on a totally other level.

History: The Red Bastard comes out of the Bouffon, plus all of Eric Davis other talents. Bouffon was developed by the late Jacque Lecoq at his school in Paris. This is the only Bouffon show where I have seen Bouffon work, entertainingly, artistically and commercially; other than the successful Bouffon Glass Menajoree, which Eric Davis directed. First time I saw the Red Bastard was in a very early stage of the shows development, when the Red Bastard was walking up 7th Avenue in Manhattan’s Garment District handing out postcards, getting people to come to his show. And if you went to the show, you would get a free beer. That seems to have been well over 10 years ago plus. This points out how long Eric has been developing his Red Bastard. It is a totally different show and a well developed Red Bastard now with lots of joyful risk that goes beyond where most people can even imagine it can go.

RedBastard Do you have hopes and dreams? Then this is a show for you. Red Bastard lives on an edge that does not give up.

Next shows that are part of the NY Clown Theater Festival, Wednesday Sept 10th @ 10:30 PM and Saturday Sept 13th @ 10:30 PM.

For information, tickets $15 and shows:
The Brick Theater 579 Metroplitan Ave, Brooklyn NY www.bricktheater.com/clown

As part of the NY Clown Theater Festival, Eric Davis will be conducting a two day workshop Sept 14th & 15th from 7 to 10 PM

Red Bastard website http://www.redbastard.com/ 

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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Winter Cabaret – Soulful Laughing Delight from you’re Inside

By: Stanley Allan Sherman

Produced by: Bindlestiff Family Variety Arts, Inc.
20th Annual Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret
March 13 – 16

The Troup: Keith Nelson, Stephanie Monseu, Adam Kuchler, Miss Ekaterian, Sabrina Chap, Chris Delgado, Mitch Lustig, Cordone
Lighting Assistance: Mark Simmons & Lisa Soverino
Lighting Operator: Derek and Jake De Groot
Sound Person: Dwayne Brown
Fixer: Ellia Bisker
Plus many volunteers

Bindelstiff Family Circus PosterAn amazing evening and a breath of fresh cold air that warmly stimulates.  Here is an evening of great entertainment without all the high priced sound systems and electronic gizmos to keep your attention.  They have to rely on their talent!  The troupe has plenty.   Thank you, thank you, thank you – live original music!!!  Played by the Sabrina Chap a one women orchestra.   Having live music creates an evening of performances alive giving total freedom to the performers to do anything, take advantage of opportunities that come up in the moment and go anywhere at anytime.  It is live Cirkus – you want to experience.

Coming in to the Brooklyn Lyceum is a range of down-home cirkus activity with some extra-added feature for the evening adult show.  The multi talented and beautiful Miss Ekaterian is touring the space selling beverages.  The Lyceum is decorated with Bindlestiff Cirkus vintage banners including a large freak exhibition banner, of course the cirkus ring, table of drinks and souvenirs.  Some of these banners look like they are true museum antiques.   Kinko (Keith Nelson) in true American old time circus clown meaning he is really funny and theatrical.  He has the gifted ability and experience of performing the simplest activity and we all have laughing smiles from our insides to our faces.  That is what 20 years of Bindlestiff Cirkus performing brings you.

Ring Mistress Philomena (Stephanie Monseu) with Audience volunteer and her whips.

Ring Mistress Philomena (Stephanie Monseu) with Audience volunteer and her whips.

The entrance of our MC and Ring Mistress Philomena (Stephanie Monseu) with a classy edge of adventure introduces and entertains.  She is a master with the whip!  Playing two whips in musical solo instrumental song.   Then comes the drama…and fun audience participation.  Choosing an audience member is an art.  This evening she just happened to choose someone I know, who came with four friends.  It is always great to come with friend to see a show like this.  The act is loads of fun at the same time keeping the dramatics real and earthy – without all the phony fear you find in some other circuses and variety shows.  This is truly fun funny from the heart entertaining! 

The juggler – hat and box juggling is classic.  The art is to make it enormously entertaining.  With the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus we are able to see the artistry of the performances and Adam Kuchler is pleasurable delight.  Adam taking simple juggling and with little details making it a uniquely great time, even the perceived mistakes are setups.    In the second act Adam comes on again making at what first looks like simple fun with three boxes, then when you think it is over – 20 boxes are now in the ring!   Now the fun begins… and the whole audience is with him every moment.

 Cardone is a magician that will truly make you wonder – what the ^@*!# that’s impossible – how did he do that.  He will keep you wondering and enjoying the magic.

Miss Ekaterian

Miss Ekaterian

Miss Ekaterian just watching her move and how she moves getting into positions that seem impossible and then getting out of them in a lovely kind of dance.  She will have you breathless with her artistry.

Another joyous creative moment is how the whole troupe introduces the intermission.  I have never experienced a more original joyous way to introduce an intermission.  It is all entertaining surprises.

Chris Delgado is a German Wheel expert, what is the German Wheel?  A big metal wheel that a man can stand in and do all kinds of movements with the rolling wheel, controlling rolls, tipping and angle.  It’s a wheel of fun and there are a few great stunts.  To see more you can go to his website www.thewheeldelgado.com.  The show wheels along an excellent pace with Miss Ekaterian.

No one does Arial Silk like Miss Ekaterian.  As a lovely lady once told me,everyone and their sister are doing Arial Silk now, so you have to be really good.”  She is and lovely, beautiful fun and dream like. I have never seen a few of the Arial Silk moves that Miss Ekaterian performs.  And to live music – we are experiencing a really creative treat of beauty!

Kinko (Keith Nelson) turns into Mr. Pennygaff for the second half and keeping this very special cirkus totally alive introduces Sabrina Chap our one-woman orchestra doing a solo, which was a pleasure.   All this affects the total rhythm and timing of the show, which is at a great entertaining pace.

Mr. Pennygaff loves long pointy things – like long scissors and swords.  To prove they are sharp…well I will not give away that moment.  You have to go see it for yourself.   This is sword swallowing at it finest with pleasurable drama of Mr. Pennygaff.

Philomena and Mr. Pennygaff playing with fire.

Philomena and Mr. Pennygaff playing with fire.

One beautiful unique pieces of the night was our Ring Mistress Philomena going from a solo then turning into a two-person fire manipulation and eating choreography that was just beautiful with Mr. Pennygaff.  These two masters playing with fire, becomes a delight, as is this show. Ending in a true Cirkus ring tour of the company, which include Tanya Solomon who artfully ran the geek show.

This is the 20th Anniversary Show with affordable prices; it is also great to take notices that the Bindlestiff Family is giving bargain family prices for their family shows. They encourage people to remember: dress for festival and be part of the glamour of the evening! Those in costume or circusy makeup may ask for a discounted ticket at the door during evening shows.  Also it is the Brooklyn Lyceum so dress warmly.

March 13 – 16
Night time show: 8 PM for those 18 and older
$20 advance / $25 door / $10 discount for anyone in circus makeup (walk-up only)
Family Matinees 3:00 pm March 15 and 16 – for the whole family
$12 or 4 for $40
Advance tickets http://brooklynlyceum.wazala.com/products/bindlestiff-family-cirkus/

Bindlestiff Family Variety Arts, Inc. www.bindlestiff.org
a 501 c3 non-profit  PO Box 1917 New York NY 10009

More great photos of the show by Jim Moore go to http://vaudevisuals.com/?p=10208 

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La Soiree NYC cheers hoooop, screams laughs oooooh’s…

By: Stanley Allan Sherman

La Soiree
Union Square Theater
100 East 17th Street
New York NY 10003
lasoireeus.com

“Don’t watch the whole show through your phone.  Just sit back and enjoy!” The MC announced as he welcomed the Monday night crowd to the packed house.  Cheers, hoooops, screams, laughs, oooooh’s, aaaaaah’s and smiles from beginning to end.

La Soiree changes all the time with acts coming in and out with international and local talent and some international local acts.   Audience members are returning to the show.  Sometimes they see the same acts and sometime new acts.  Return visits are one way to spot a successful show.  Also you are bound to see members of the circus, variety and theater community there.  One night last week many Ringling clowns came to the show.   A young very talented woman Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau that plays the daughter in Queen of the Night, which also happens to wear the daughters mask I created for the show came.  This night my clown friend Rob Torres of the Big Apple Circus and Funfreestuff happened to be across the isle.

Amy G & Whoopi Goldberg

Amy G with audience member Whoopi Goldberg after the show.

Amy G is one of the new acts in the show.   Having seen Amy G before in other events, she is at her best in La Soiree.  She always leaves everything on the stage.  Her original and playful timing, humor, voice and skills she uses to the max.   Rolling in on skates that she is a master with and her beautiful costumes.  Amy G uses everything, everything, and anything is a prop and all is played with.   She had her audience laughing, deep laughter.  I am not going to tell you what she did because I do not want to spoil any surprises.  Thankfully Amy G does treasured spots throughout the show.    Her play with the audience is joyous.  All momentary gifts that happen are used.  Any actor performer out there can learn a great deal in how to use all your gifts as a performer from watching her.   It’s a pleasure to hear her use her full throttled voice.    Hearing American the Beautiful, textured with some theatrical piercing political points are not to be missed.  You have never heard American the Beautiful until you hear Amy G perform it!  

lasorieegentsThe English Gents are one of the main acts of La Soiree.   Two classy English gentlemen, one reading the Financial Times of London, an excellent new paper, are relaxing on stage.  Doing some of the most difficult stunning acrobatics and making it look easy and fun.   Calm humor with hold your breath feats.   Oh, yes it does get sexy with the women in the audience and men screaming with joy as the act gets … let’s say aphrodisiacal.   It is their physical silent play with timing and humor that really makes this act fly.  They are excellent mimes – in their performance.

La Soiree has a good over all rhythm to the show with the variety of acts.  Of course the show rhythm changes depending what acts are in the show you see.   This night opening with Cabaret Decadanse fun puppeteers with their African American soul singing uniquely large puppet with exaggerating American soul girl group movements.  Everyone is moving to classical female power soul recorded songs the puppet is lip-syncing to.   Yes the audience clapping and laughing along.   Sorry, I usually always credit and list music that is used but was unable to receive that list.  Great classic hits are used through out the show.

lasorieemarawaMarawa is the hoop performer.  It was a fun act with pounding Latin spiced recorded music along with rocking blues.   And she manipulates the hoops rolling them up and down her body and fly’s into the air.   Marcus Monroe is a talking humorist juggler that takes the tempo down with his humor, clubs and knives.  There is another clown and juggler also juggling the same kind of knives, which is also funny.  Would love to give this perform credit because his act was great, wonderful timing and became unique, but because there was no program and the up dated list of performers I am receiving are missing a few excellent performers name.

Stephen William also known as Bath Tub Boy does a wet aerial gymnastic acrobatic erotic dance in the tub and air.   Yes there is water that is flying off his body, pants, hair and out of his mouth.   Heard on the way out that this was his last show before returning to Australia.  But this is one thing about La Soiree, it is always changing.   When you hear there is a great act that has come in to the show, go.  There is a new Bath Tub Boy coming into the show soon.

Ambrose Martos also known at Manchego!  Manchego is one different performer with his own very odd type of sexiness.  With Manchego the rhythm of the show changes.   Yet there is also a very truthful clown holding the mirror up to the audience in everything that Manchego does.   He has us laughing, groaning, having a good time and he is great at totally changing the pace and rhythm of the show, which benefits La Soiree.

lasorieesologentThere is a wonderful aerial silk act, who’s performers name could be Alexandra – I have been unable to find out.  She does excellent manipulation and dancing in the silks with drama and grace.  There is lots of recorded blues music throughout the show.   Hamish McCann one of the two English Gents does an amazing street lamp pole dance with feats that seem impossible which brings down the house.

This is a sexy fun – cheers, hoooops, screams, laughs, oooooh’s, aaaaaah’s and smiles from beginning to end evening.  Catch it for a good time; it will evaporate your troubles away for the night.

Lighting, rigging, setup and sound was wonderful.  Don’t ask me who did it.  Also there are two ushers and all around prop ladies that keep the show functioning with charm, wit and grace.  The fellow handing out free popcorn as you come into the show was a fun fellow.
Tickets: as of this date according to their website are from $37.95 standing at the bar to $56.95 to $187.95 with a Champagne Package. lasoireeus.com

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Neutral Mask – Sculpting for Breath

By: Stanley Allan Sherman
© copyright 2013

The subtlety of the mouth and nose of the Neutral Mask is very delicate to sculpt.  The smaller something is the more difficult it is to sculpt in most cases.  The universe of energy with breath of life.  Breathing, which is captured, or a stimulant within the mask is part of what the lips and nose do for the actor/performer.

It is amazing what a tiny amount of clay will do on a lip.   We are not going for character here, character masks are off balance.  Look in a mirror and cover up half of your face.  Now cover up the other half.  Are they the same? No in almost all cases, except with some super models who’s faces are balanced.  Most people one side of the face is totally different from the other side.  Look at faces of people that have committed violent crimes, each half of their faces are usually very different.    This off balance in the mask is part of what makes up character.   But with the Neutral Theater Training Mask – we are going for balance.   A clean Neutral Mask that is driving, revealing, developing and exposing the wearer of the Neutral Mask true energy.

This mask is stripping away bad habits.  I remember when we were doing the Neutral Mask section back in 1970 with Jacque Lecoq at his school and how everyone was walking totally differently by the time we finished the Neutral Mask section.  A friend pointed out how different I was walking in everyday life.  For me there was a big change. Use to walk on the balls of my feet, a little odd.  Yes after the Neutral Mask work I was walking differently.  It helped enabled me to be able to move in so many different worlds and directions.   Which is why sculpting the noses and mouths in the male and female Neutral Masks have the appropriated shape and spirit.   Of course there is no one-way to do it.  It is a search and discovery; which can be just as frustrating as when you are creating a new piece of theater.

Would love to hear any thoughts or stories about your experiences with the Neutral Mask.

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For The Sins I Can Remember – Victorian Era & Whoring

Produced by: Vagabond Inventions
Conceived/ Directed by: Jennifer Sargent
Co-Written/Developed by:
Donna Costello, Cynthia Polutanovich, Jennifer Sargent
Music composed and performed by: Tony Melone, (Except “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, 19th century American gospel song, author unknown)
Light Design by: Derek Wright
Set and Costumes by: Jennifer Sargent
Devised by and Featuring:
Donna Costello – The Women
Denni Dennis – Angel Benjamin
Emily James – Angel Lucy
Elisa Matula – Our Lady
The IRT Theater 154 Christopher St, 3rd Floor, New York NY

By Stanley Allan Sherman © copyright 2013

Elisa Matual, Emily James, Denni Dennis & Donna Costello. Photo by Jim Moore

Elisa Matual, Emily James, Denni Dennis & Donna Costello. Photo by Jim Moore

Forget what you know about whores and prostitutes from popular culture For The Sins I Can Remember is at times very abstract at other times very tangible and real ride of the life.  It pits reality of the Victorian era and the world’s oldest profession, then mix in religious Christian heaven’s judgment of the women.  Two Angels played by Denni Dennis and Emily James are the bumbling stumbling angels of the heavenly court or heavenly theatrical clowns.   Whenever they are on stage it is alive with intense and funny poignant action.

Our Lady played by Elisa Matual is the star of this show.  She is the one that really takes us on a wild ride at time.  We experience the life of whores of that era.   The real stories from the writing of “The Maimie Pinzer Papers” stories of herself and other workingwomen of her time, which the play is based on, are some of the best parts of this theater piece.  One story really shows how a fed up woman can take charge and take out an obnoxious man in a bar.  Jumping off stage swinging on something, jumping on and sliding down the bar knocking all the drinks off the bar then wrapping her legs around the guys neck in a head lock and punching him out. He lost three teeth.  We can picture ourselves there and glad someone finally shut the guy up.  Elisa plays this on the edge experience as only a whore can.  She has the, I really don’t give a dam; I have seen too much and know too much truth.  She balances the journey with very sensitive moments.

 Elisa Matula being questioned by the clown angels

Emily James standing on the chair, Denni Dennis and Elisa Matula being questioned by the clown angels

The clown’s interaction with Our Lady is a real struggle between heavenly Christian rules and the very real prostitute.  For Sins I Can Remember Elisa takes us on a complete ride.  The two clowns battle trying to control the prostitute who is uncontrollable and she does what she wants.   That struggle is a part of what this play is about.  Elisa’s scene of sex with the many different men in one day is abstract but at the same time Director and co-creator Jennifer Sargent makes it very real for us.  The tossing of the white cloth napkins after she is finished with each man is powerful.

The Woman played by Donna Costello seems to be in a modern dance mode most of the show, separate and somewhat of an echo or statement of what is happening.  Her best moments were when she was letting down her hair and ripping her stocking off.  Most of this dance was the one integration in the show that seemed not to work as well with the whole show.  It possible modern dance fans will love this element of the show.  Everything else in the show flows nicely, working well telling this whore story, which is horrifying at times.  Especially when it gets into childhood.  It makes you want to scream justice!  Of course the angels are there.  But these Clown Angels are by the book of the time and the interpretation of what heaven and hell is in this era, good and bad, proper and not proper.  Between the two Angels and Our Lady the show is effective and creates excellent questions.

Elisa Matula in red sitting in a chair looking and Donna Costello up stage ripping off her stocking

Photo by: Hope Davis
Donna Costello – The Women and Elisa Matula – Our Lady in red

The Music by Tony Melone works well throughout the show.  Starting off with a type of Scott Joplin very slow rag, which really sets the time and space.    Jennifer Sargent costumes set the right tone for the show. Light Design by Derek Wright is effective, as I did not notice the lighting but the show.

I have seen most of the works that Jennifer Sargent has performed in NYC with her various partners and For The Sins I Can Remember is very different from her other wonderful shows and the first show of Jennifer Sargent that I have seen where she is solely in the director and creator/writer role and not on stage.

If you are going to For The Sins I Can Remember, the IRT Theater is in the old printing house building at 154 Christopher Street.  The big red brick building that takes up a full block and is on the 3rd Floor.  Remember it is on the third floor, up the elevator.  Press buzzer #3 there is a #3 A & B I pressed both to get in.

Thursday – Saturday at 8 PM; Sunday at 7 PM
Tickets  $18, Students $15
Brown Paper Tickets 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.irttheater.org
www.vagabondinventions.com

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Here is another review from New York Theater Review http://newyorktheatrereview.blogspot.com/2013/10/joey-rizzolo-on-vagabond-inventions-for.html

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New Work by: Jennifer Sargent

For the Sins I Can Remember

Presented by: Vagabond Inventions
Conceived Directed by: Jennifer Sargent
Co-written & Developed by: Cynthia Polutanovich,  Donna Costello & Jennifer Sargent
Music Composed & Arranged by: Tony Melone
Devised by & Featuring: Christine Giancaarino, David Arkema, Jessica Winograd, Lisa Clair, Marty Kate Schellhardt, Peter Musante, Steven Hjar, Christopher Scheer & Jennifer Stokes

For the Sins I Can Remember

For the Sins I Can Remember

Everything I have seen Jennifer Sargent create and perform has been excellent.  She told me about “For the Sins I Can Remember” which she has been working on for about 2 years now.  The inspiration came from letters called The Maimie Papers, letters of prostitute Maimie Pinzer written from 1910 to 1922 across the US during the Victorian Era.    Jennifer explained to me many of these women who went west where stuck with not to many options and came to prostitution because of situations.  They did not intend to be involved in this very old profession.  This piece explores questions of love, morality, and the femininity resonate with the contemporary minefield of womanhood.

Of course there is a multitude of tools used telling this piece as with all Jennifer’s works, physical language, narrative, lyrical movement-theater and absurd language of theatrical clown.  It sounds like it is all used well.

This new show runs at the IRT Theater in New York City, October 4th – 20th at 154 Christopher St, buzzer 3B.  For more information go to Vagabond Inventions.

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Soul in your Mask

By: Stanley Allan Sherman
© Copyright 2013

It all started with an article in the Drama Review in the 1970’s or 80’s about the mask makers of Bali.  The writer I met when telling the story of his article to a hand full of people interested in mask making and performance, at a Movement Theater International Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1980’s.  The writer just happened to be one of these people and when I finished he told me he was the writer and how great it is that someone is really using the information he wrote about.  “The mask makers of Bali make two kinds of masks, ones for the tourist and ones for their religious rituals.  They are the same deigns but are different.  The masks they make for their religious rituals they put a soul into, the masks they make for the tourist they do not put a soul into.”  Reading this stopped me.  How does one put a soul into a mask?

Isaac H. Woofter sculpting in clay

Mask making student, Isaac H. Woofter sculpting his leather Commedia dell’Arte mask in clay.

The article and the mask makers of Bali said nothing about how they go about putting a soul into a mask.

Chis holding his mask with Stanley Allan Sherman

Mask making student, Chris Davies, pulling his first leather mask. You can see the energy in the mask. The guy with the beard is Stanley Allan Sherman.

About this time the great theater artist, producer, actor, writer and director Vasek Simek, one of my mentors when I first came to NYC in 1975, paid me to make him my first leather mask.  Having made a few masks, which no one taught me how to make.  There was nothing written about mask making at the time.  Vasek felt I could succeed and he put his money down.   Which meant I had to produce a leather mask.  Having made many cloth and paper meche masks, going to leather was another world.   Having succeeded, putting a soul into a mask occupied me.

leather unfinished mask, hand holding a small sharp knife cutting the right eye out of his mask

Chris Davies, very carefully cutting the eye out in his mask.  When cutting you must be very careful and use a very sharp knife, which you sharpen often.

The real leap was the soul in the mask.   There is no physical technique for doing this.  It is part of your creative muscle you choose to develop and use.  Just like you build a character, you place the soul into the mask that is your characters.    Consider this – you are creating/designing a living person.  Not a child, who you have no control over, placing a person, persona of age, characteristics, feelings, moods, habits and outlook, which can equals putting a soul into your mask/work.   As you’re creating your mask you put all this into your design – which is where it is developed.  Then in your sculpture where it is refined and is living.  Finally during the creating of the physical mask, you let all the elements flow into your mask.     You finish your mask with the same energy.

Chris Davies with one eye cut out.  Chris is a wonderful jewelry designer.

Chris Davies with one eye cut out. Chris is a wonderful jewelry designer checkout his website.

Of course you are also using techniques and skills you have.  It is a combination of the two you need and you can develop.   Resulting with a mask coming alive when the player puts your mask on easily becoming one with their mask.  Yes, this is transferable to other arts as well.

I now take on private students, teaching paper/cloth meche, neoprene latex and leather mask making.  For clowns there is how to make your own custom leather clown nose.  Have a question please ask.

 

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“Now Leasing” direction development: Hollywood to NYC to Edinburgh Fringe

By: Stanley Allan Sherman
copyright 2013

Created and Performed by: Lea McGowan
Directed and Development by: Stanley Allan Sherman

In June Ms. McGowan’s theater piece ran at the Hollywood Fringe Festival receiving great notices and winning best costume award.  We like to think winning that award was not only because the costumes where the best in the Hollywood Fringe Festival but because of how Lea used her costume.  July 24 Lea had a very successful preview and party in NYC at the Slipper Room and I must add a very supportive theater performance venue.  Now Lea is in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Theater Festival with a 25-show run.

This is an update to this blog with reviews from Edinburgh: Fringe Review  by Dan Lentell, “.. a pacy, intelligent and often witty performance.”     BroadwayBaby by Heather Bagnall, UniqueLea Captivating ,  and Radio Interview link NOW LEASING creative team Lea McGowan and Stanley Allan Sherman speaking with FringeReview.  The line in this review by Carrie Gooch is really nice in that the reviews points out one of the elements I worked hard to achieve.   “A lot of shows in the fringe hurtle along at breakneck speed with all sorts of added electronics to keep the stimulation levels high but this show is different: McGowan eschews all gizmos allowing a quietness and acute attention to develop.. the pace is unusual, but her audience was absolutely held.”

There are actors and there are players.  Players always tell the truth.  Actors can say anything and make you believe it is the truth.  The way we are approaching Now Leasing, Lea is a player in a very truthful show.   She uses her multiple skills in telling this dramatic hopeful story with poetic messages that hits one in the heart and gut.

LeaHeartTopsmalll Lea is using story element created as a basic guide as the Commedia dell’Arte companies in the past used scenario bases.   Giving Lea the freedom within this form to make each performance a new fresh show that can have subtle differences and more.  While still have the set pieces within her show making, Now Leasing a living, alive theater experience.

Each art alone in it’s greatness, dance, circus arts like aerial silk, poetry and use ones voice with all of its highs and lows.  These can all serve as entertainment and theater on its own.  Using all of these disciplines for a reason – telling this story combines the artistry of each of these elements into one special theatrical piece.

We all have assets.  The things we are great at.   We also have deficits.  The things we are not at all great at.  Again from the Commedia dell’Arte we use all of our assets as assets but we also take full advantage of all of our deficits turning them into assets.   Our assets and deficits are all assets for us the company and audience; to enjoy, learn and laugh.    This is a major theme in our new theater piece Now Leasing.

nowleasingNYC

We met when Lea gave me a call signing up for the neoprene latex mask making class I’m teaching.  Then asked, “ do you direct too?”  I said, “Yes.  I specialize directing and developing original shows and solo shows.”   This started our intense rehearsal and development process.  We had much laughter and true tears.  We kept on breaking walls to create this show.  Lea is an amazingly talented mature performer and creator with professional experience as actress, ballerina, dancer, and with circus aerial silks.  Starting with the framework she had we’ve developed a very different, original, fun and this very gutsy theater experience.   Her wealth of talents is exploited to the fullest.  A story, more than a females voyage as she becomes – over coming hardship heart break turning them on their head and doing what she loves.  Inspiring all to over come and follow their creative heart. There is hell, humiliation, success, joy and heart.

Ms. McGowan is having a good time putting everything on the line. Not only each night she performs but in having the courage and foresight to self produce Now Leasing.  Booking her show in small and large venues, festivals around the United States, throughout the world is the future adventure.

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The Essential Scenario – Actors Freedom ~ Commedia dell’Arte

by Stanley Allan Sherman
© copyright September 2010
This article was originally published in Soul of the Actor 2011

Why and how Commedia dell’ Arte is special becomes more evident each year.  Roving Classical Commedia University* (*totally unaccredited) founded the summer of 2001 teaches classical Commedia dell’Arte as close to how we believe it was performed in the mid-late 1500’s.

Theater as well as our whole entertainment industry uses Commedia dell’Arte.  You can see Commedia dell’Arte through out the two 2010 summers Shakespeare plays performed in NYC’s Central Park at the Delcourt Theatre, “Winters Tale” and “Merchant of Venice”.  Auditioning for parts in film and commercials, several elements of Commedia dell’Arte come into play. Our industry uses Commedia dell’Arte improvisation, stock characters, history, scenario, movement, prop object manipulation, voice work and an actors wide variety of knowledge, all elements of Commedia dell’Arte.

Being on both side of the casting table – people that cast any project juggle many facts and talents to cast that one part, for the hundreds or thousands of actors that want it.  How does this art form from the mid late 1500’s help almost five hundred years later?

A basic element of Commedia dell’Arte is working with a scenario. The Commedia dell’Arte actor improvises from action point to action point.  Finding a good translation of an Italian scenario in English for the actor is not easy.  Explaining a working scenario for the Commedia dell’Arte actor is necessary.

  1. Take a play, remove all the dialogue, keeping or replacing it with condensed basic motivated action and what each character is tasked with performing on stage.
  2. Replacing and condensing lines further with specific action points.  What each character needs to accomplish to inform and move the story in each scene.
  3. Include lazzi moments that are a required, sometime included or hinted at. Lazzi is a bit of rehearsed stage business, which can be physical, musical, verbal, acrobatic or otherwise. My understanding it is almost always well rehearsed choreographed and memorized.
  4. Include who is in each scene listed on the margins edge. The actors will easily know when they need to come on stage and what they are tasked with.
  5. If you have a 70 to 90-page play the scenario would be about 5 to 7 pages. This tells you how condensed scenarii are along with how free the Commedia dell’Arte actors is to create within the scenario. Take this freedom into your work today.

The Commedia dell’Arte actor knows and is, his or her character along with their unique habits and eccentricities.  Seeing their assignment in the scenario, each beat or action point that needs to be accomplished on stage.  Actor’s jump into the improvisational void always saying yes to any and all action their counterparts throws at them.  Remembering story line points to hit in each beat in order to move the plot and actions forward.  Actors can go off on a tangent but always accomplishing their action points that are needed with their fellow actors.  It is a bit like a Talmudic debate.  One makes a point and everyone can go off on far reaching tangents.  Always listening to each other they come back to the central point and/or action.  It is a must to work with and not against your fellow player.   There are those wonderful times when you work “with” your fellow actors as the Commedia dell’Arte actors did in the 1500 and 1600’s. Most Commedia dell’Arte companies, like the scenarii had 10 characters or players.   Working with each other is not a choice, it is vital.

We know Commedia dell’Arte was improvised from scenarii because of the church censors of the 1500’s and 1600’s. The church censors letters of complaints talk about how it is impossible to censor “them”; because every show is different and they come up with the most unbelievable things to do that one would never think of, when you tell them not to do something.  Also from the Commedia dell’Arte actor letters, complaining about, lets call them straight actors in the late 1600’s, the unbelievability of going on stage and saying the same words every show!  This was unthinkable for to the Commedia dell’Arte player!  There are schools, people teaching and writing today that are now saying Commedia dell’Arte was not that improvised, everything was pretty much set.   Historical evidence contradicts this.  In theater of today it is always safer to set things, to make sure they will work and be successful on stage, plus it take away the “risk” of failure.   The word “risk” is key.   If you are not risking what the “&%#*” are you doing on stage, in the theatre arts, why are you doing theatre and not real-estate if you want safety?   It is theatre, live theatre, not dead theatre.  Theater is risk weather you are performing, writing or producing, on stage, film or television.  Enjoy the improvisational void and risk.

In an audition, look at a script in terms of scenario and what needs to be accomplish using the author’s words.  Being real is vital, when using Commedia dell’Arte masks, if you are pretending rather than being totally in the moment or void, the mask will fall.  Meaning it will look like there is a mask coving your face, you will not be the character. When one is totally in the masks or carrying the mask all the audience/casting director sees is your total character.  This is the state being one wishes to be in with or without a mask.  In some good auditions at some point the casting director may ask you to improvise.   Commedia dell’Arte tools come in very handy at that point. For you to be great yourself you must work with your fellow auditioner’s.  This requires several skills.   An example, there were 5 people all auditioning together.  No one was paying any attention to the any of the other 4 actors except one, who was doing something funny, trying to play/communicate with the other actors.   The casting director actually stopped the auditions and yelled at the four actors in disbelief, “It is ok you can react to him!”  Him, being the one actor playing and risking.

Another central tool for the Commedia dell’Arte actor; a fellow actor never directs or tells their fellow actors what to do.  Why? Because it limits possibilities of improvisation, improvisation with goals can result in the best drama and comedy.   The Commedia dell’Arte actor always builds on what is present and given in the moment.  They never say no.  Always say yes to all action and situations.  Commedia dell’Arte players live in risk in the void like all theatre should.  In a film audition go over the script. Memorized it. Memorized its action points so you will be able to play within the scenario of the script.  One moment during an improvisation based on the script can get you the role.  Risking and risking wisely is vital.

Read some of Flaminio Scala’sScenarios of the Commedia dell’Arte” you will quickly begin to say, this sounds like Shakespeare.  Yes, everything but Shakespeare’s histories.  Take NY Shakespeare in the Park 2010 Winters Tale. The second act is almost a different play straight from the Commedia dell’Arte with Brighella and Arlecchino. Autolycus played by Hamish Linklater an excellent Brighella.  There was Arlecchino played by Max Wright in the guise of the Shepard’s son with the two performing a lazzi of Brighella stealing everything from Arlecchino including his pants and glasses.  You also had Brighella with his many women he is known for.  In Merchant of Venice you have Dottore Graziano from the Commedia dell’Arte who is known for talking endlessly – his name is even the same.  Pantalone worries about his daughter and his money; of course the daughter running off with her lover that her father object’s to and his money is taken as well.  Everyone is always trying to steal Pantalone’s money; in this case it is Shylock as Pantalone played by Al Pacino. Then you have the women at the end of the play dressing up as men and saving the men, their lovers from a bad situation.  A woman turning the situation is very Isabella Andrine. She is known as the first professional actress, dieing in childbirth in 1604 with her 7th child.  Isabella who always turned the tables and situations in the Commedia dell’Arte and her writings inspiring women of the 1500’s and 1600’s to use their own power to change situations to the better and their advantage.

During film shoots when you are playing a character with the director giving you the freedom you may experience Commedia dell’Arte improvisation within the scenario of the scene.   Taking what the director tells you about the character and scenes, working within the lines, knowing your parameters and key points to hit.  Then the call, action!  “Curb Your Enthusiasm” the television show is improvised using a scenario.  On the set you will see the actors improvise the same scene several times always hitting the same point that are needed. Some directors will have you use their film script as a Commedia dell’Arte scenario. The actors must know the key points and lines that must be hit.  Jumped into that void with your fellow actors, letting the lines come where they need to resulting in driving the action with real moments, on film. If you are given a prop, use it.  Commedia dell’Arte prop manipulation is vital.  You must investigate your prop. Play with it.  Get to know it. Even if the only time you have is while they are reloading the camera. Improvising within the scenario of the script and being in the mask of the character.  Not a physical mask but the essence.  Suddenly many elements Commedia dell’Arte actors used in the late 1500’s you are now using in film.

These are a few points of what is special about Commedia dell’Arte. Played by it self it can be the most powerful side splitting moving theatre.  Using Commedia dell’Arte in our entertainment industry today, it is part of it.   Enjoy your actor’s freedom risking wisely.

 

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