Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Great Outdoors

A post in which Kate Meehan, our Managing Director and frequent performer, waxes on about performing outdoors.

Every now and then, a show will remind me of why I keep coming back to Commedia dell'Arte. This past Friday, La Fenice's performance of For Whom the Dong Tolls was just one of those nights. But I'm already getting ahead of myself.

When I was a little girl, my mother would disappear every night and wouldn't return until very late. One night, when she'd snuck into my room to give me a kiss, I asked her where she disappeared to every night. She promised to show me. The next night we packed a picnic dinner and went to the old Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. We climbed the magnificent stair and, half way up, went through an anonymous, nearly invisible door into a dark, cramped staircase that led to the peanut gallery, which had been sealed off decades before. Cut into the plaster that had sealed off the balcony were two open windows with gigantic spotlights leering out over the audience below. In the darkness of the balcony, the sounds of tiny claws scuttling across the dust and ancient peanut shells were transformed into a miniature army of monsters. But those windows. Oh, those windows. Far below, Cabaret was unfolding. My mother guided the spotlight as people sang and danced, plucking their performances out of the darkness.

It has nothing to do with Commedia, but I share it because it marks my first formative experience with the theatre. At that moment, theatre became something that fused spectacle and danger. That was 28 years ago, and that show, the way it made me feel, is as tangible as this keyboard.

I performed on stages all over, but there was always something missing. Sure, there's always some potential for surprises in live theatre - missed lines or cues, costume malfunctions - but there was some threat that wasn't there that seems to both ignite and unite audience and spectator. I delved into improv in Chicago, finding the risk inherent in improv a little closer to what I felt was missing from traditional performance, but missing the structure and spectacle that comes from tangibles like properties and costumes.

I'd performed in Commedia-inspired version of Tony Kushner's The Illusion (twice, actually), so had been introduced to the style and had done a bunch of armchair research. It wasn't until I moved to Austin and was introduced to a bunch of ex-Renaissance Festival geeks starting up a Commedia troupe that I found the combination of danger and spectacle I'd been looking for. They performed in bars (Club Deville was our first venue). They wielded swords. They crammed more fart jokes into an hour than should be legal without a permit.

That troupe, of course, was Austin Commedia Society, the progenitor of La Fenice. In addition to the improv, there is something really magical about performing on outdoor stages in bars. With the broad expanse of stars and sky, your task as an actor not only includes providing a convincing portrayal of a strange human within a predetermined narrative, but to physically draw the audience away from the expanse at their backs. We were creating invisible windows in peanut galleries.

And then there's the elements. We perform in wind and heat. Heat. Did I say heat? Why are we always performing in summer? We sing and dance, and it feels like we're performing inside a fat kid. Our thin blades flash across the stage, and inside our velvet and brocade costumes, we're making human soup.

On Friday, it was muggy and hot. The sky to the north of the stage flashed with wild lightening, and as the show progressed, the audience's attention was pulled by the ominousness of this crazy, natural light show churning behind the stage. Would the storm hit before the show ends? Will it rain? Was that thunder? We all felt it. With each lightening strike, the audience sat a little more forward in their seats. The actors, off stage, looked to the north and engaged in frantic math as they pretended to be meteorologists. That shared trepidation united the audience and actors in an electric way unrelated to the storm.

And then, slowly at first, fat drops hit the stage. We looked to the audience. They told us to play on.

We frantically took off our wigs and masks and stowed them in dry places, and kept going, slipping a bit on the stage as the rain came down harder and harder. We rolled on the stage, on puddles, while our audience, uncovered, got just as soaked. And they stayed. And we blew through the show like a tempest.

And as we took our bows, soaked to the bone, looking out at our half-drowned audience applauding merrily, I realized that we'd made something that many of those people would remember years down the road - the night that they watched this crazy show in a torrential downpour. It would've been impossible in a traditional stage. It would've been impossible in a show that was tightly scripted. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Giangiacomo: An Italian trapped in an American Commedia

Gian Giacomo Colli comes from a family of commedia dell'arte performers and practitioners. He holds an MFA and a PhD, and is the only actual Italian performing on our stage. In the past, he's visited as a guest director, flying in to tidy up shows at the last moments before performances. After many moons of cajoling, harassment, and plying with wine, he finally agreed to join us as Pantalone in For Whom the Dong Tolls. We caught up with him, now that we've performed the show a few times, to see what performing his native theatre for foreign audiences has been like.

We've worked with you previously as a director (sort of), but this is your first time performing with us. How is La Fenice's process different from our foreign counterparts?

Well, it's different in the sense that everything is improvised. With La Fenice, we start with a scratch of a scenario while in the past I've always started from a very well developed scenario. With a scratch scenario, more of the development is done onstage than when you begin with a fleshed out scenario. Improvising. That's the big difference for me.

Was it hard?

Well, it's not hard. Actually, it's fun. No, actually it was hard because I felt, and to an extent I still feel, not so much for the action or physicality but for the language to understand and to develop verbal lazzi. Sometimes when you all get going I don't entirely understand what's going on. I mean, I think I have a general idea, but especially when you're discussing cultural references, sometimes I get lost. That's the only tricky part, but it's a different process, and it's been fun.

You understand how important it is to have a really good feeling for the other people in the company. To know how they perform, and the kinds of things you can expect from them. That's very important.

How easy is it to improvise in, what, your second? third language?

It's okay to improvise, but I feel like I'm kind of improvise. I can't use the language to it's full power, so there are lots of moments that aren't as verbally crafted. In Italian it would obviously be much easier to create jokes. In English, I'm kind of limited.

So, next time we'll just have you do the show in Italian and we'll just figure out a way to subtitle you.

That would make sense, but I'd still have to understand some of your weird cultural references.

The style of our show is a little different from the commedia going on in Europe.

Commedia in Europe - France, for example, or some of the Spanish troupes, the big traditional theaters aside like Piccolo Teatro and their Servant of Two Masters, you see a strong connection with the popular roots of commedia, the low-class tradition.

Like street performance?

Yes, many street performers. There are double aspects in Europe. It can be either very political, like Dario Fo, or it can just be pure entertainment, very circus-like, but still you can see a very local connection. That's where the language becomes important, it is tied to the place and the audience. You can see it in Italy and France.

Here the language is much more important. Here's it's much more about the connection with the characters. There's a sort of American idea of commedia, a sort of cultural idea that isn't the same as Europe.

So the idea of Commedia is different in America than it is in Europe?

Europe has a historical connection that goes back to the Renaissance, maybe not straight back, but there is a practical development of the form that happened there. Here, commedia was more of a recent rediscovery, like in isolated parts of Europe, like Russia in the 1920s and 30s. A sort of perception of commedia as popular theatre that was at the heart of the interest in it.

So it's more of an American reinterpretation?
I wouldn't say reinterpretation, exactly, but there is a different sort of perception. Again, there are elements that belong to American commedia that are perfectly right that aren't as at the forefront as European commedia. Maybe it is a reinterpetation. Maybe it's that Americans can go to the historical renaissance and pick and choose what is important in their interpretation, but in Europe it's continued to evolve, so there are expectations.

That makes sense. Most of the troupes we are familiar with in the US, with some exceptions, are based in Renaissance Festivals or related to historical reenactment of some kind. Or it's a "commedia - inspired" production, which is taken to mean more of a masked, avante-garde circus.

That's the difference, I think. In Europe, commedia was born in the renaissance but there was a continuation, and then a transformation in the 18th century. The vision of Commedia in france and all of the revisions there. There is a continuity of performance in Europe that is an entirely different cultural element than in America. But that's okay. I don't know what's happening in south america, but I'm sure it's reflective of their development.

Any parting thoughts?

I think that I'd like to keep working with you. It's been fun, and I want to keep developing our show. This one. We should do that.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Adam Rodriguez: Punch vs. Capitano, with cameos by Paolo Garbanzo

Adam Rodriguez is rehearsing his fourth show with La Fenice.  Previously, he has only played the role of Pulcinella, but this time he's shaking off his hunchback to play Capitano.  In this interview, Adam, stand up comic and Esther's Follies veteran, is joined intermittently by Company Member at Large, Paolo Garbanzo (who was making eggs), and Managing Director Kate Meehan.

Kate:  Usually you play Punch.  This time you're playing Capitano.  How different are you finding the characters?

Adam:  There's a lot of similarities and a lot of differences.  Naturally, the physicality is very different.  In rehearsal, I often find myself growing a hunch back, and it's like "oh, damn it!  Capitano stands up straight!"  The fact that he's new is exciting is nice.  When I played Punch, I was just trying to add layers to him as a character.  He started off as just a straight up murderer, and later he turned a little more perverted, and by Sloop I think he had a lot more complexity.  Capitano now is just back at square one, so it's cool to get to start the process over again.  There are still a lot of similarities.  My Capitano is a killer and a pervert, so in that way, they are very much the same.  They're both scumbags, really.  The only real difference is that Capitano gets a sword instead of a rubber chicken.  Just in the back of my head, I want to play Capitano once or twice more to fill out the complexity of the character.  Standing straight and goosing my neck and carrying a pair of swords is the real fundamental difference.

Kate:  Gotcha.  

Paolo:  I've got a ton of eggs!  I'm adding this chicken to it, okay?

Adam:  Do it!

Kate:  What about the differences between performing stand up comedy and performing Commedia?

Adam:  They're both very experiemental.  My fundamental difference is that in standup you're flat-footed, by yourself delivering a joke, so if it doesn't work, it's all on you.  All the consequences are yours.  In an ensemble, you've got people to bounce off of.  If something doesn't work, you've got people to share the blame and maybe fix it.  You have people to help you out.  In standup, you're all alone in the cold vaccuum of comedy.

Paolo:  Doing solo shows, you're not alone, the other character is the audience.  If they're not giving you the time of day, you're screwed.

Adam:  You have to trick them into investing in you.  You sell yourself in the first five seconds, so the audience decides in the first five seconds whether they'll like you.

Kate:  And whether they'll allow you to be funny.

Adam:  And that you're worth their bloody time.  In an ensemble, you get five seconds for each performer, and if one of your cohorts can win them over, by the end of the show they may have softened to you a bit.  They're already invested in the scenario concept, so if you can hook them into the story, they'll probably like you more by the end of it.

Kate:  It helps that we cover ourselves in masks and fancy wigs and shiny baubles.  It helps that we dazzle them.

Adam:  You aren't as alone as standup.  In stand up you're just alone with your voice and your presence.

Kate:  And your meat.

Adam:  And all of our stupid props.  I mean, really, we're a swordfight away from being a Carrot Top show.

Paolo:  I've done so much solo stuff, so the things you can get away with in an ensemble show is awesome.  You can have someone be a total jerk, and then the rest of the group gets to totally overreact to his jerkness.  If the other members of the troupe are the people who call a performer out, the audience doesn't have to over-react.  If they watch you overreact, they can say "Oh, well, come on, he's not that bad."

Kate:  Yeah, "You should meet my brother in law.  He's a way bigger dick than that guy."

Paolo:  "Sure, his joke has offended half the population of the earth, but...  I mean, come on."  You can totally go over the top, but if you're alone and you're a jerk, you're just a jerk onstage and everyone hates you.

Adam:  In an ensemble, frequently the audience will love you for being the jerk.  That's why playing the villain is so fun.  You get to invite the audience to hate you a little bit.

Kate:  I don't think anyone's going to hate your Capitano.

Adam:  I'm goofing him a little bit.

Kate:  He's kind of tender, really.  He's the fat kid that picked up swords to keep people from picking on him.  He kind of reminds me of the Truffle Shuffle kid.

Adam:  Chunk.

Kate:  Yeah.  Like Chunk was an exchange student in Germany and fell in with a bad, stabby crowd.

Adam:  Started knifing people, totally.  Truffle Shuffle.  Yeah, I'm not doing the Truffle Shuffle.  Maybe the next show.

Kate:  You really shouldn't have told me that. I'll build an entire scenario around that. 

Adam:  That and the "dictate" joke.

Kate:  Paul, that smells delicious.  Adam, let's wrap this up.  Any final words on Commedia, or the show or the DC Universe?

Adam:  Hmm.  Let's see if I can have words on all three.  Yeah.  I think this show is probably one of our best, easily, because the process was very clean.  Not only is everyone in it a veteran of this process, the only one that isn't is Gian, who has more experience in Commedia than anyone I know.  I mean, more than any one of us know.

Kate:  Naw, Aaron and I met some pretty fancy dudes at the Commedia conference. 

Adam:  La de dah.  The ones willing to play with us. 

Kate:  But I don't think we'll be getting John Rudlin, Carlo Boso or Antonio Fava on our stage.  

Adam:  Having Gian has streamlined our process.  So often we'd lose a day in rehearsal to complications in the scenario.  Gian just nipped all that in the bud from day one.  The scenario was hashed out before we even started.

Kate:  Having the hash day in the beginning was nice.

Adam:  There was no second-guessing everything, so the rehearsal was clean.  Gian had already front-loaded the rehearsal process with second-guessing everything, so none of us had to.  I don't feel like we missed a single day in rehearsal, where in the past every now and then we'd realize that we'd have to trash a day's worth of work because something wasn't clicking.

Kate:  Yep.

A.  That alone has already added to the quality of the show.  We can throw all of our experience behind making things awesome, rather than making a story work.  We're like the A-Team.  We're like the Justice League of our particular little troupe.  So I get to play the Solomon Grundy to Gian's Lex Luthor.  That's awesome.  Good stuff.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Aaron Johnson: On Technology, Collaboration, and our Summed Parts.

Aaron Johnson serves as La Fenice's Artistic Director, and is currently playing Orlando, the male lover, in our next show.  In this interview, he speaks with Managing Director and long-time collaborator, Kate Meehan.

You had your laptop out the entire rehearsal.
Well, not the entire rehearsal, but for a significant portion of it, yes.

Were you looking at pornography? 
Yes, if by pornography you mean our scenario.

We're using technology this time around.  Talk about that.
We're chronicling the way we work in a way that probably isn't entirely new to us, but we're employing it more consistently.  We have the scenario, which was started as a very simple sketch of a plot, and over the time that we develop new material, we're now able to do live updates through Google Drive.  In fact, while you guys were working on the song, Tate and I were actually making jokes back and forth together, editing one of our scenes in the scenario simultaneously in real time.  So, he would enter a line and would suggest my reply, and I would edit it to say "what if I said this instead."  It's pretty nifty. We didn't want to interrupt the good work that was going on, so we worked collaboratively by typing.

So, when we called you out for having your faces in your gadgets in rehearsal, we were being jerks.
Yeah, we were actually working.

Probably a little harder than the rest of us.
But yes, I also had a side window up that was porn.

Was there a woman in the porn?
I think so.  Maybe?  Yes?  Moving along?  Actually, I do prefer my porn XX.

Um.  Does that mean Diet Porn?  Like a 100 calorie porn snack pack?
No, I was referring to chromosomes.  But that works too.  1/3 less the guilt.

As the Artistic Director, you tend to get bullied by the rest of the company.
That's okay though.  I mean, that's the nature of working in a collaborative form.  Different people drive at different times.  Everyone tends to be very open to ideas, but also has to be responsible for shutting a process down if we're getting off track or if things aren't working.  I've studied a number of groups working collaboratively over the last year, and in class last semester we watched some behind the scenes production work from a company called Mabou Mines up in New York.  It was really interesting to watch their collaboration process alongside more traditionally trained actors, because they found their process extremely creative and innovative, but I found it to be very natural, the sort of interactions.  It's the same thing as here.  You're in a room full of people with very strong personalities, and you're sort of editing toward the best idea for the work that you're doing.  As a result of that, I changed my designation on our Facebook page.  I believe I was originally called the Artistic Pushover, but I changed it to Artistic Distractor, because I thought it mirrored the word "director" a little better and it's probably more accurate to what it is that I do.

Well, the tasseled pasties you wear to rehearsals are a bit distracting.  Especially when you set them wagging in opposite directions.
Hey, when you've got skills, you don't always know you're displaying them.

But to talk about the group we're working with, I feel that everyone in this show comes playing their A game whether they want to or not.  We've certainly gotten older and potentially wiser, but we've also gotten more efficient.  People are able to work fast and funny.  We're a commedic version of the Borg.

No way, dude.  We're summed parts.
The newest performing member of our troupe is Gian [Giacomo Colli], who has more experience than most of the rest of us combined.  I know he's having to learn a new process, - oh wait.  He's right behind me, isn't he?

Don't worry.  He's looking at porn.
Does he have his laptop open?  Oh, okay.  Good.  Well, I know we work in a way that's very different from how he likes to work, but he's picked it up very well.

I'm really enjoying working with Tate [Green].  It's my first time working with him, and I'm amazed at how quickly he and I work together and how well we jive.  I was talking to Adam [Rodriguez] the other day and remarking how much working with Tate is like working with Paul Joiner.

Both of them have Yes, And in their bones.
Adam is playing Capitano instead of Pulcinella, and I think that every show that we've done at this point.  He's behind me too, isn't he?  Is he looking at porn, too?

No, he's slurping soup.  Which I guess is a sort of Adam porn.
There's a website that charges money for that.  Adam's playing Capitano as the heavy, the dangerous Capitano, which seems increasingly to be our choice.  Theoretically, the Capitano in Sloop of the Damned was also dangerous, even if he was a Don Nazi.

Oh, man.  No, that went straight to the cutting room floor.  Thank God.
Genevieve is getting to go back to Columbina, which is something she's wanted to do for a long time.

We're actually a bunch of Fascist jerks for not including that burning desire while we wrote our scripts.  By "We" I'm using the Royal We.  But I'm including Adam.
The Royal We is a total pain in the Us.

Genevieve is getting a chance to play Columbina, but because of the construct of the show, she's now in the position of playing Columbina in a very different way than she ever has before.

How many shows have you and I done together?

I can't even start to count them.
More than a couple, basically.  I'm actually enjoying doing Lovers with you again.

I think the only time we've played the Lovers together was the pick up show we did of Family Jewels where I kneed you in the jimmy in the middle of the show.
Yeah, where you were drunk?

Yes, totally.  But, to be fair, it was my 21st birthday and people kept buying me shots before the show.
And you didn't actually get me in the junk, you frogged me on the top of my thigh.

Really?  I had this huge bruise on my shin afterwards.  I wonder how I managed that.
Yeah.  You didn't get me in the junk, because that probably would've stopped the show.  You were flailing about quite a bit.

Ah, youth.
But yeah, I think you're right.  I think that was the only time we ever played Lovers together.

Bruce, of course, doing music, is a great comfort.  Working with a musical genius is awesome.  I mean, we just sort of hummed some stuff to him and sent him away, and by the time he came back, we pulled together a three part operatic number.  It's encouraging, but not surprising when you've got Bruce around.

Am I missing anyone?

I hope not, or you'll look like a real jerk.  Any parting words?
Um.  People of the Philippines, I shall return?  Old soldiers don't die, they just fade away?  Thanks for this interview?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kate Meehan: on Aesthetic and Being Totally Lovely

Kate Meehan has been performing with La Fenice since it's very first show as Austin Commedia Society back in 1999.  Over the years, she's played a number of the Commedia stock characters with us, and currently serves as Managing Director.  Before joining ACS, she performed on many famous Chicago improv stages, including ImprovOlympic and Second City.

How does La Fenice's approach to Commedia differ from other Commedia dell'Arte troupes?
Well, I've really only created Commedia shows with La Fenice, but for the last few years I've been in touch with a whole lot of different performers.  Apparently, we're pretty unique in the United States in that we're performing Commedia outside of Renaissance Faires, the confines of a Goldoni script, or a proscenium stage.  We perform in bars to keep things risky - usually at least half of our audience was unaware there would be a show that night, and it means we don't have the luxury of a trapped audience.  They can ignore us, talk over us, throw bottles and loose change or just leave.  Our job is not only to keep their attention, but to convince them at the end that what they saw was valuable enough to dip into their wallets.

How well does that work, with the masks and such?
Pretty well, actually.  We've morphed our aesthetic over the years to suggest a sort of vague historic past, with stock characters pulling visual references from characters our audience already knows.  Pantalone, for example, is based off the Monopoly guy.  The masks and big shiny costumes cue our (likely drunk) audience in on the kind of over the top theatricality of our shows, and sort of prepares them for some of the bullshit conventions we try and pull later.

You're playing the young Lover this time?
Yes, a bit of a stretch, huh? At least I'm paired with Aaron, who is even more elderly than I am, instead of young Tate.  Sloop [of the Damned] made me feel like total a cougar.  I began playing the Lover with Austin Commedia Society back when I was, more or less, the Lover character in real life - obnoxious, loud, and with limbs a little too long and spindly for any real grace of movement.

Not much has changed.
That's totally true, except now I've got a lot more person to cram into the corset and am sporting these grey racing stripes.  Genevieve [Kinney] usually plays our lovers, and she somehow manages to explore various permutations on the Elegant Lady every time.  This is the second time I've picked the Lover back up since La Fenice reformed, and I'm trying to keep from making her too crusty, to just allow the character and myself to be lovely without making any commentary.

What do you mean?
Well, there's this strange attitude that's apparently pervasive among female comics.  They can be attractive, but you don't run into material from Cloris Leachman or Lucille Ball or even Tina Fey and Amy Poehler about how good looking they are and some of them will go out of their way to actively remove their femininity from their acts, talking and behaving in more masculine patterns, but there's no denying that they're all a bunch of total foxes.  In part, I think it comes from tending to be one of very few ladies in a dude's world - no matter how many manicures you get or how well you walk in heels, your testosterone starts to pique and you become less comfortable playing femininity in truthful ways.

I assume you mean the Royal You.
I always do.  Unless we're talking about doing dishes or picking up squished cockroaches, in which case, I mean Actual You.  I did a show during the Great Commedia Hiatus where I played this punky angel for the first act of a show, and a rapist-tormenting succubus during the second act.  The succubus role was really hard for me.  I remember being fairly confident someone would stand up in the middle of the show and call me out for farting into my corset and bustle, or point out how wildly uncomfortable I was with the slinky vixen thing.  I've never felt so exposed and awkward in my life, and I've done some really ludicrous things on stage.

Back up.  You were farting into your bustle?  Is that what chicks do into those things?
Well, yeah.  With all those voluminous folds, it's hard to resist filling them like a hot air balloon and there's  a lot of gut squeezing with corsets.  When the review came in for that show, the reviewer said I had played the role of a succubus too narcissistically, but playing the angel like I had just been hit in the head with many hammers and was suffering from Tourettes was called "spunky," so I guess it reinforced the notion for me - stick to what you know, and cling to the fart jokes and on-stage jitterbugging and leave being ladylike to the dancers.  So, you know, the first Lover I played when we re-formed was a sexual being, but in an aggressive, hyper-masculine way. It was actually a totally cowardly move. 

So this time?
Well, first of all, I'm going to sing like a freaking Disney princess.  Then I'm going to be so damned lovely, you're going to want to paint my picture like one of your French girls, Jack.  And somewhere in there I'm going to be funny, too.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Meet Tate Green, La Fenice's new Arlecchino!

Tate Green is our sprightly young actor playing Arlecchino - the first since it was retired by Jason Fawcett back in 2002.  Tate was last seen as Ottavio in Sloop of the Damned, and is the creator and host of the wildly popular YouTube Gong Show.

How has the process of stepping into the fabled shoes of Arlecchino been?
Well, all of the tales of past La Fenice Arlecchinos – shots lined up across the stage and all – I’m feeling it’s the perfect role for me. Although I don’t think I can handle a shot thrown in my eyes.

Don’t worry, that wasn’t Arlecchino’s eyes.  Those were mine.
Yes, but you threw it in your own eyes, right?  

Yes.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Tossing liquor into your eyeballs is not a requirement for the role, unless you’re into that kind of thing.
I enjoy the experience of playing Arlecchino a lot better than playing the Lover.  I’ve been having more fun with it.  I’m not sure if it’s the character or the process that’s just a little more comfortable for me, but I’m having a lot more fun this time.

Yes.  You appeared to be pretty dour about playing Ottavio in the last show [Sloop of the Damned.]
Well, more than anything I was really nervous all through rehearsal for Sloop.   I don’t know if I didn’t fully understand how the process was supposed to go when we started or if it was just trying to do some fancy new kind of theatre.  I mean, Commedia’s weird.

It’s funny that I’m less nervous for this show, while I’ve got Gian Giacomo Colli breathing down my neck during rehearsals.  I suppose he’ll get a lot more terrifying when we start to layer in the larger physicality.  I’ve been practicing Arlecchino’s particular walks and my movement in my classroom just for that occasion, and my students have started calling me out on it.

So what is your most favorite thing about the way La Fenice puts its shows together?  Ha.  How’s that for a leading question?
Yes.  “What do like best about my lovely face?”  

I like that it’s all super relaxed until – see, I got half way through a sentence before I got negative – it’s all very relaxed until we get hung up on something, and then you see people get passionate about the construction of some bit of material or other.  The way people debate the nuance of a fart joke or fight for the inclusion of one of your weird history references is really awesome.  The collaborative nature of the story building process is great – the fact that rehearsal is totally interactive, and we all help each other in creating and structuring each others’ work.  You don’t just build your own character and material, it’s all a result of everyone sharing ideas.  I think the whole process has made a lot more sense this time around, and that’s made it much more fun.

It’s less onerous this time than during Sloop?
Well, I still feel like we don’t have near enough time, but I feel like when we rehearse this time around, everything has been tighter and our time has been more purposeful.  We’ve had only four rehearsals, and it feels like we have 2/3 of the show hammered down.  I mean, we just have to toss in a few extra jokes and we’re square.

Bah, who needs jokes?
Good point.  Instead, let’s just take turns reciting facts about the Holocaust?  

Oh.  That sounds experimental. 
Yeah.  We should maybe add puppets.  No, wait, let’s not do that.  It’s suddenly reminding me a terrible formative experience I had as a young theatre kid.

What’s that?
Well, I was trying to learn about puppetry, and somehow I wound up on a website called Puppetry of the Penis.  

I could have grown up a totally different person if it weren't for that website.

Fun Facts about Tate Green.
I could have been [puppeteer and Company Member at Large] Dan Raynor.  Hell, that might have been Dan Raynor.  Oh, man.  Now I have to check and see if it’s still there.  [An iPhone is retrieved, and Googling takes place.]  Sweet Jesus, it still exists.  What?  “Now in 3D?”  Don’t put any of this in the interview.  I do not endorse this scary website.  Oh my god, it has mobile apps?

You are, at this very moment, earning yourself a file at the FBI.  Children take classes in this building.  Holy wow.  They just do full on handstands and stuff all naked, don't they? Are you blushing?
Next question?

Ahem.  What sucks about making shows the way we do?
Can I say when Gian doesn’t understand American jokes?  Or English?

Also, when Aaron doesn’t understand Kate English, and Kate doesn’t understand Aaron English.  Adam always seems to understand everybody.  I think he always understands everything.  

Or it could be that Adam is not wildly interest in understanding anyone.
Actually, the hardest thing is splitting my time with my job and this.  It makes show homework really hard, especially since I feel like I’m not as funny on my own.   

Wait.  Can we strike all the puppetry of the penis stuff?

No.  We’ll be providing a link for our readers.  That stuff is better than RuPaul videos.
Crap.  So I guess my grandmother can’t come see this show, and now she can’t read this interview. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Making this look easy since 2010

- Adam W. Rodriguez    

Tonight I met with Bruce Salmon, the man behind the guitar and one of the reasons our shows are awesome. It is becoming procedure to spend a bit of time with Bruce outside of rehearsals to collaborate the opening number of the show. Usually, I find some bit of music I dig and write some lyrics loosely based on said music, show it to Bruce who then, kind of like a wizard, transforms it into a bit of awesomeness! I've worked with a few guitarists in my history of metal bands and comedy rock shows and find one thing that makes the experience totally kick ass, and that's the seamless ease with which these creations come to pass. I've definitely worked on music with dudes who weren't easy to jive with and the result is often a steaming pile of "What the hell was that?" You know the dynamic is sweet when a writing a song is more like two dudes shooting the shit instead of two dudes convincing each other they are the shit. What I'm saying is a talented and dependable musician is rare, like Hobbits, or Rhinotaurs.

 I'm totally psyched about the opening music number so far.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

International Commedia dell'Arte Day

We celebrated the rebirth of professional theatre and the international Commedia dell'Arte community with a series of lectures (Outdoor Performance Tropes of Commedia dell'Arte with Kate Meehan, Choral Movement and the Commedia dell'Arte with Aaron Johnson; and The Characters of Commedia dell'Arte with Giangiacomo Colli.)  We were joined by a group of really wonderful, gutsy students from nearby Pfugerville High School and from our host, Texas State University.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

International Commedia dell'Arte Conference in Windsor, Canada!

Gian Giacomo Colli, Kate and Olly Crick
Managing Director Kate Meehan, Artistic Director Aaron Johnson, and Company Member Giangiacomo Colli braved "international" travel and trekked up to Windsor, Canada for an International Commedia dell'Arte conference.  While there we took workshops with some of the world's most famous and infamous Commedia dell'Arte practitioners, sat in on a number of fantastic lectures, found the bottom of a number of decent bottles of wine and made lots of beautiful new friends.  

Aaron did his best to live tweet the event, and there are loads of wonderful pictures of international maestri now (at least temporarily) housed on our terribly under utilized Twitter Feed.  For now, we'll leave you with this:
Antonio Fava, Giangiacomo Colli, John Rudlin (skulking in the background), and Carlo Boso