Sunday, January 17, 2010

The PuppetSlam Mini-Tour, Part I: Providence

January 15, 2010::
Friday evening, I caught the train from Boston's South Station to Providence to perform at Blood From a Turnip, a fifteen-year-old late-night puppet Salon at the Perishable Theatre. Having forgotten my map, I had to navigate my way to Providence's Downcity Arts District from my memory of landmarks from when Cosmic Spelunker Theater performed at AS220 back in 2004 (you can read an an interview I gave to the Providence Phoenix Bill Rodriguez here.)

Once I found my way to the brick sidewalks of Empire Street, I quickly found the foyer of the Perishable Theatre (actually the landing of the building's staircase, and met Vanessa Gilbert. Who whispered greetings, because, as she explained, there was little soundproofing, and a new radio serial, Destafano on the Air! by Cyrus Leddy was playing in the theatre. So we continued to talk shop in whispered tones and she had me come up with some biographical details she could use while she introduced my act. Soon afterwards, her co-host, Nicole Leduc, showed up as well as Jonathan Little and Hakim Reid of Little's Creatures showed up, and we decided to go next door to the Restaurant at AS220 for sustenance (I had the white bean and kale soup with vegan faux-bacon and coffee) while Nicole interviewed us for her hosting duties as well, in the process, getting completely different information from me than Vanessa had!

David Higgins, their co-curator met us after a while to tell us that Destafano on the Air! was about to let out and that we would be able to load in soon. Once we settled up we went back to Perishable. Perishable is a good sized black-box theatre. The room is bare-bones, like most blackboxes but the lighting rig is nothing to sneeze at. I did my costume change in the basement and started my stretches to which Jon, who specializes in hand-puppets, commented, "those poor masked performers: always having to stretch before shows."

Soon we were joined by Jim Sedgwick with his cart of props, Z. and Chad of WonderSpark Puppets and Baby Oil (a synthpop duo with a wickedly campy sense of humor) who were to provide our musical interludes for the evening.

Everyone went over their tech requirements with David who was running lights and sound that evening. Jim, who was going on first, set up his props and and headgear and then sat in a chair facing upstage so that when the audience finally poured in, they saw his back. The show was sold out to standing room only (and Providence audiences are willing to stand!)

This would be the first performance of Arlecchino Am Ravenous in a dedicated theatre space-- and I finally figured out why each full rehearsal and performance took so much energy. My experience from having staged readings of Total War, a particularly wordy play, is that each page averages about one minute, twenty four seconds. I had assumed that with all the physical lazzi that Arlecchino would average more like two minutes per page.

I was incorrect, after the show: it clocked in at thirty-two minutes; the length of many one-act plays, or roughly four minutes a page: far too long for many of the short-play festivals to which I had been submitting it. Somehow I had managed to forget to time any of my rehearsals or ask friends in prior audiences to time it for me-- thankfully no one had ever minded the length.

Still, I seemed to have kept a room laughing, and at times, gasping in shock and horror, for a little more than half-hour. The cause of one such gasp is going to be the topic of a forthcoming blog entry, tentatively titled, "Arlecchino meets Shylock" (I think that should be sufficient to tell you that it's going to deal with something serious.)

Nontheless, this meant that the following evening, at the PuppetSLAM, where there would be eight different acts, I would have to cut Arlecchino Am Ravenous into an approximately ten minute, Arlecchino Am Abridged


Vanessa and Nicole are terrific co-hosting team.

Jim Sedgwick does really surreal stuff with props, costumes, and tape recordings, and if he had a website I would point you to it.

Baby Oil did a great bit where they requested the audience text message the singer's cellphone (which he was using as a codpiece) regarding their own "booty calls" and later in the show, the text messages were incorporated into the lyrics of a song. This was apparently their third gig, so they might not have a website yet.

Little's Creatures do classic early Henson-style puppet comedy sketches. They also gave me a lift back to Somerville. Jon, who was hosting PuppetSlam the following night, helped me brainstorm Arlecchino Am Abridged.

WonderSpark's "Jack and the Beanstalk 2: The Director's Cut," besides being incredibly entertaining, includes some wonderfully imaginative choreography where Z. and Chad, sitting in chairs, twist their bodies, give and take each other's weight, and otherwise form the landscapes that their puppet characters to inhabit.

Sorry: I have no new photographs. My camera broke a few months back.

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