2008 : stagematrix.com : T-blog
... my comedy showcases:
Gogol (Inspector General)
R/G are Dead
"Theatre is not a mirror but a magnifying glass." Mayakovsky... Bigger, bigger! I scream in class.
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Could it be?
COMEDY = DRAMA - TRAGEDY
In acting one we start with comedy. Biomechanics we start with comedy. At auditions I ask for a comedy monologue. First directing assignments -- comedy...
You can't do "drama" without understanding of the COMICAL!
Aristotle thought of comedy as inferior to tragedy, but could we have HIGH without LOW?
Pitty and Horror?
Pitty comes with a smile?
I. COMEDY AND COMMEDIA
"Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life." (Aristotle)
We complain (and I myself do) that the sitcoms are so stupid. Although American television by any comparison is of the highest quality. Laughter is a big business. Michail Bakhtin on comical culture, reverse values; a top is a bottom, a bottom is a top. Bathroom improvisations are the most popular. How does it work according to B.? Conflict starts with contrast. Opposite. Objective and obstacle (Stanislavsky) could serve as tools of building up the conflict as long as they are fully established.
Mr. K's monologue (Mayor's monologue in "Scene Study"). (see Monologue Breakdown in Acting Directory. Now we study the same dramatic text on genre execution).Klestakov:According to Aristotle, comedy starts with a disaster, results with a happy end. Cry transits to laughter. Go for extremes, we'll tune it down later. Go for bold choices, for black and white colors.
Oh let me tell you! Champaign, caviar! I'm at some party every day of the week. The Canadian Foreign Minister, the French Ambassador, the English Ambassador, The German Ambassador and I play golf till we're exhausted. I'm barely able to drag myself up to my dorm... What nonsense I am talking - I forgot that I live in the mansion. You would be interested to see my reception hall in D.C. before I am even awake in the morning: there are ministers and diplomats jostling each other, bussing like bees - all you hear is bzz, bzz. Sometimes even members of the president's cabinet drop by. At one time I even ran a country. Very curious - the president had vanished, nobody knew where. Well, naturally, there was a lot of talk, "How will we manage?" "Who will replace him?" Many in the congress were eager and took it on - but as soon as they tackled it they saw that the job was too much for them. What seemed easy, but look deeper into it and it is a hell of a tough kind of job! They see there's no way anyone can manage it - so they run to me. And all at once politicians come racing, then more politicians, and more politicians... Think of it - thirty-five thousand politicians! "What's the problem?" I asked, "Sir, come and take charge of the government," they say. I must admit I was a bit taken aback. I came out in my robe, meaning to turn them down. But there, I thought... "Very well, gentlemen, I accept the post, I accept," I said, "so be it.," I said, "only with me, gentlemen, you had better look out! I won't stand for any nonsense. No, sir!" And, as a matter of fact, when I walked through the government offices you would think an earthquake had stuck - they were all trembling and shaking. Oh, I am not one to play games! Even Saadam Hussein, Castro and the United Nations are afraid of me. And well they might be! I am like that! No one gets in my way! I tell them all, "Don't teach me!" I am everywhere! Everywhere! I pop in and out of the White House. Tomorrow they're promoting me to the Chief of Staff!
(Slips and almost falls. All support him respectfully)
B's advise: go for the challenge, provoke, attack. Sex works because it's understandable. Cliches? Begin with a cliche, make it yours, makes it specific and unique. Start with physicality, if this is easy for you. Vocal characterization first? Fine. Walk? Go for it. Build it up layer by layer. Step by step. Culture of laughter -- reversed roles, against expectations.
DUMB SCENE: MAYOR stands in the middle like a post, his arms extended and his head thrown back. On his right hand are his wife and daughter leaning forward toward him, behind them, EDITOR transformed into the shape of a question mark addressed to the audience. Behind him SUPERINTENDENT in a state of innocent bewilderment. On MAYOR's left, DIRECTOR, his head inclined slightly to the side as if listening for something. Behind him, JUDGE, his arms extended, squatting almost to the floor, and moving his lips as if about to whistle or mutter, "We're in for it now, my friends!" BOB and DOB arms straining toward one another, mouths gaping, and eyes popping. The frozen group holds its position for almost a minute and a half.
(Inspector General, Gogol, last scene)
Movement asks for static moments.
Face asks for masks.
Where to start study structure of drama? With the most simple drama -- comedy.
We laugh more often than cry. Pitty and fear are the expensive feelings. Getting results is a main objective of comedy actor.
ACTOR as an acting machine. Puppets, marionettes, umber-marionette. Biomechanics as a training, not style (not esthetics). Meyerhold's obsession with types.
COMEDY IS A SHOWCASE OF SHOW BUSINESS. "I don't see it," cried Stanislavsky. If we don't understand, we don't laugh.
In ClassThree points (any action), and Stop (pre-acting) -- play the audience (timing), make it big. Yeah, Biomechanics, again.
"Slap on the face" in three steps. What would make it comical? Comedy is a drama with happy ending or non-tragic theme (dic). Non-tragic? We have to establish a "non-tragic" situation.
Bergson on repetition. How many time do we have to repeat something before it becomes funny? At least three times.
Comedy units, and beats of comical action.
NBI. Monologue exercises. (Stand-up comedy, what a definition!) Dramatic? Monologue as a confession. Prayer. Preaching.
II. Improv (lazzi). For space, time (through character). Rehearsals. Situation -- how? Conflict.
Levels: voice, positions (at least, three levels).
Breakdown according to dramatic structure (comedy genre is in Plot, Characters and Ideas).
Levels: vertical, horizontal. Floor level, sitting, chair level, standing. Space breakdown by body.
COMEDY TIME. Subjective Time -- a comedy breakdown. Comedy timing is most visible.
Biomechanics Lessons: "4th Step" -- Point, Full Stop. For audience to react, to laugh, their time to act. Only after the audience "speaks" actor could go to the next action cycle.
"Scenometrics" and comedy: floor plan for comical action. S. Eisenstein lectures (door, bed, frame)
Character treatment: characterization (physical, vocal = must. Walk.)
Structure: sharp situations and stock characters. Contract and conflict.
Stresses (accents) > repetitions (Characterization). Method Acting Limited in comedy.
Comedy of situations, comedy of characters, and both.
Contradiction between character's intentions and his actual situation. Conflict = situation + character.
"Choices" mean only one -- out, cut, say "no" to the rest.
Style (genre acting): space treatment into time.
Sense of yourself, life.
"Imitation, then, is one instinct of our nature. Next, there is the instinct for 'harmony' and rhythm, meters being manifestly sections of rhythm." (Aristotle IV)
Comedy rhythm, timing.
Grotesque and farce, physical comedy, you always could tone it down.
Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type - not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. To take an obvious example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain. (Aristotle V)
High, Low Comedy, farce, tragicomedy.
In Comedy conflict is open: Contra-Test vs. Sub-Text.
Think (feel), do, and say -- three different ways. What about "think-feel"?
The message (drama) lies in the between of all of them. To overcome text you have to exercise contra-text. Absurd drama is fine material for contra-texts.
Objective and obstacle (EXERSISE): a drunk goes for a bottle. Straight line -- what is the absticle? Or should I say "who"?
C. Chaplin and The Clown.
British comical traditions (Chaplin's movies in class).
III. PRE-ACTINGThe actor's work consists in the artful juxtaposing of acting and pre-acting.
In the Russian theatre, the famous actor Lensky (1874-1908) was a master in the art of pre-acting. In the part of Benedict (in Shakespeare "Much Ado About Nothing") he gave a classic demonstration of pre-acting, which was describe as follows in Russie vedomosty, 1908, no. 241:`Benedict emerges from his hiding-place behind a bush, where he has just overheard the conversation about his love for Beatrice which had been contrived especially for his ears. For a long time he stands staring at the audience, his face frozen in amazement. Then suddenly his lips move very slightly. Now watch his eyes closely: they are still fixed in concentration, but from beneath the brows imperceptibly, gradually, there begins to creep a triumphant happy smile; the actor doesn't say a word, but you can see that a great irrepressible wave of joy is welling up inside Benedict; his face muscles, his cheeks begin to laugh and a smile spreads uncontrollably over his quivering face; suddenly a thought penetrates his uncomprehending joy and in a final mimetic chord the eyes which until now have been frozen with astonishment light up with delight. Now Benedict's whole body is one whole transport of wild rapture and the auditorium thunders with applause, although the actor has yet to say a single word and only now begins his speech.'Critics might argue that this is a perfectly normal instance of the spoken text being enhanced by mimetic embellishments. But note that we intentionally emphasized the last words of the quotation to stress the point at issue.
Pre-acting prepares the spectator's perception in such a way that he comprehends the scenic situation fully resolved in advance and so has no need to make any effort to grasp the underlying message of the scene. This was a favorite device in the old Japanese and Chinese theatres. Nowadays, when the theatre is once more being employed as a platform for agitation, an acting system in which special stress is laid on pre-acting is indispensable to the actor-tribune."
Forget "the actor-tribune."
Comedy acting is extreme and the extremes.
Mono Studies:DOOLITTLE: Don't say that, Governor. Don't look at it that way. What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I'm playing straight with you. I ain't pretending to be deserving. I'm undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that's the truth. Will you take advantage of a man's nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he's brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she's growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you. [ PYGMALION, A monologue from Act II by: George Bernard Shaw ]
Sorry, notes only! Anatoly
From the First Edition, 1771...
LAUGHTER, an affection peculiar to mankind, occasioned by something that tickles the fancy.
In laughter, the eye-brows are raised about the middle, and drawn down next the nose; the eyes are almost shut; the mouth opens, and shews the teeth, the corners of the mouth being drawn back and raised up; the cheeks seem puffed up, and almost hide the eyes; the face is usually red, and nostrils open, and the eyes wet.
From the Second Edition, 1780
Authors attribute laughter to the fifth pair of nerves, which sending branches to the eye, ear, lips, tongue, palate, and muscles of the cheek, parts of the mouth, pręcordia [chest cavity], c. there hence arises a sympathy, or consent, between all these parts; so that when one of them is acted upon, the others are proportionably affected. Hence a savoury thing seen, or smelt, affects the glands, and parts of the mouth; a thing seen, or heard, that is shameful, affects the cheeks with blushes: on the contrary, if it please and tickle the fancy, it affects the pręcordia, and muscles of the mouth and face with laughter; if it cause sadness and melancholy, it likewise affects the pręcordia, and demonstrates itself by causing the glands of the eyes to emit tears. Dr Willis accounts for the pleasure of kissing from the same cause; the branches of this fifth pair being spread to the lips, the pręcordia, and the genital parts; whence arises a sympathy between those parts.
The affection of the mind by which laughter is produced, is seemingly so very different from the other passions with which we are endowed, that it hath engaged the attention of very eminent persons to find it out.... "The passion of laughter, (says Mr Hobbes) is nothing else, but sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly. For men (continues he) laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance, except when we bring with them any sudden dishonour...."
All these opinions are refuted by Dr Beattie in his Essay on Laughter and Ludicrous Composition, where he has treated the subject in a masterly manner.... "Some authors have treated of ridicule, without marking the distinction between...things ludicrous and things ridiculous [which] have this in common, that both excite laughter; but the former excite pure laughter, the latter excite laughter mixed with disapprobation and contempt....
"When certain objects, qualities, or ideas, occur to our senses, memory, or imagination, we smile or laugh at them, and expect that other men should do the same. To smile on certain occasions is not less natural, than to weep at the sight of distress, or cry out when we feel pain.
"There are different kinds of laughter.... [Unfortunately] there are men, who, by forcing a smile, endeavor sometimes to hide from others, and from themselves too perhaps, their malevolence or envy. Such laughter is unnatural. The sound of it offends the ear; the features distorted by it seem horrible to the eye. A mixture of hypocrisy, malice, and cruel joy, thus displayed on the countenance, is one of the most hateful sights in nature, and transforms the 'human face divine' [quotation is from John Milton's Paradise Lost] into the visage of a fiend. -- Similar to this is the smile of a wicked person pleasing himself with the hope of accomplishing his evil purposes.... But enough of this. Laughter that makes man a fiend or a monster, I have no inclination to analyse. My inquiries are confined to that species of laughter which is at once natural and innocent.
"Of this there are two sorts. The laughter occasioned by tickling or gladness is different from that which arises on reading the Tale of a Tub [a satiric tale written by Jonathan Swift]. The former may be called animal laughter: the latter, (if it were lawful to adopt a new word which has become very common of late) I should term sentimental....
"Animal-laughter admits of various degrees; from the gentle impulse excited in a child by moderate joy, to that terrifying and even mortal convulsion which has been known to accompany a change of fortune. This passion may, as well as joy and sorrow, be communicated by sympathy; and I know not whether the entertainment we receive from the playful tricks of kittens and other young animals, may not in part be resolved into something like a fellow-feeling of their vivacity...."
The pleasing emotion, arising from the view of ludicrous ideas, is known to every one by experience; but, being a simple feeling, admits not of definition. It is to be distinguished from the laughter that generally attends it, as sorrow is to be distinguished from tears.... Why this agreeable emotion should be accompanied with laughter as its outward sign, or sorrow express itself by tears, or fear by trembling or paleness, I cannot ultimately explain, otherwise than by saying, that such is the appointment of the Author of nature. -- All I mean by this inquiry is, to determine, 'What is peculiar to those things which produce laughter;--or rather, which raise in the mind that pleasing sentiment or emotion whereof laughter is the external sign.' Philosophers have differed in their opinions concerning this matter...."
Our author now goes on to lay down his own theory concerning the origin of laughter, which he supposes to arise from the view of things incongruous united in the same assemblage. "...What has been said of the cause of laughter does not amount to an exact description, far less to a logical definition.... All that can be done in a case of this kind is to prove by a variety of examples, that the theory now proposed is more comprehensive, and better founded, than any of the foregoing." This our author afterwards shews at full length; but as the variety of examples adduced by him would take up too much room to be inserted here, and as every reader must be capable of adducing numberless instances of ludicrous cases to himself, we shall content ourselves with the above explanation of the different theories of laughter, referring those who desire further satisfaction to the treatise already quoted.
This article is reprinted through the next 60 years substantially unchanged until being dropped from the eighth edition. There, however, the following footnote appears in an otherwise unrelated article (on William Drummond):
From the Eighth Edition, 1855
Sir Thomas Urquhart is said to have expired in a paroxysm of laughter, on hearing of the restoration of Charles the Second; a statement which is rendered sufficiently probable by the record of similar cases, and by the eccentric character of the individual. Aretęus, an ancient physician, specifies unextinguishable laughter as one of the causes of death. And other ancient writers have mentioned the names of different persons who died of excessive joy. According to the common account, Sophocles was of this number.
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