Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
October 26, 2009
Issue #351

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I will be at the Next Step Workshop in Wilmar, Minnesota next week.  I'm looking forward to seeing some Thought For The Week subscribers there.
Then I will be home for a while.  I am looking forward to having the time to complete some projects here.
Have a great week, 
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Theatrical Term
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

October 19, 2009

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson
"Try to stay in the moment, which only means that every time you do the same scene, on stage or in front of a camera, if you're relaxed and you're reacting to the other actors at that moment - not the way you did it yesterday or fifteen minutes ago - then even though the lines are exactly the same and the staging is exactly the same, the scene will be a little different each time you do it, and it will be alive." - Gene Wilder
When I was in college I appeared in a production of "Trudi and the Minstrel."  During the Wednesday night performance, I got a big laugh during a scene I did with another character.  On Thursday night the audience didn't laugh at all.  That threw me and I started trying to figure out what I had done different.  After the show, Ken Rugg, the director, told me, "If you don't get an expected laugh, don't think about it.  If you do, you aren't thinking about what you need to be thinking in this performance.  Then you won't get any laughs."
Steve Long and I were the headliners at the 1992 NW Festival of Clowns.  We were scheduled to perform during the awards banquet.  We decided that it would be nice if we did something together.  Steve suggested that we perform a skit called Stagecoach.  (This skit is described in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two as well as in some of Barry DeChant's skit books.)  Steve told me that he would probably do some improvisation and that it was okay with him if I improvised as well.  I listened to everything he said, and reacted to it.  For example, when he asked me if I knew what the Shotgun was supposed to watch for I pointed to a pretty woman sitting in the audience.  When Steve corrected me by saying I had to look for bad men, I pointed to her husband.  We continued in that manner.  The performance was a great hit.
A few years later Steve Long and I were both on the UW-L Clown Camp staff.  Steve asked me to repeat our performance of Stagecoach as part of his Staff on Stage show.  Instead of listening to Steve and reacting to what he said during this performance, I tried to remember what I had done before.  The skit fell completely flat.
The key is to listen to your partner.  Then react to what they said.  Carole and I were performing our Bandanas That Become Tide skit at Clown Camp.  (This skit is described in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three.)  In the skit I attempt to follow the directions for a magic effect as she read the instructions out loud.  At this particular performance she emphasized the words "Step One."  I heard the emphasis and took one step forward.  The audience had heard the same emphasis and knew what I was responding to so it got a big laugh.  The audience knew I was involved in what was happening at that moment so the skit took on a life of its own.  They believed what was happening.
If you are a solo performer, you still have a partner, your audience.  You should listen to them and react to what they say.  For example, in my mismade flag routine I drop a blue scarf onto the floor while putting a red scarf and a white scarf into a change bag.  If somebody tells me right away that I dropped the scarf, I look into the bag to see what happened and slowly pull out a scarf that has red stripes but no field of blue.  If nobody says anything about the blue scarf on the floor, I confidently pull the scarf out and proudly display it unaware that the blue field is missing.  I wait for somebody to tell me what is wrong.  If the first thing they do is say that the blue scarf is on the floor, I look down at it, and then check to see what happened to the flag.  If the first thing they say is there aren't any stars, I stare at the flag in confusion wondering what happened to the blue.  I don't discover the scarf on the floor until somebody calls my attention to it.  I have probably performed my mismade flag routine hundreds of times over the years.  But because my partner, the audience, is different each time the routine stays fresh for me.
Do you listen to your partner while performing?  Do you listen to the audience?  How does what you hear affect your performance?  How can you react to what they say?

Theatrical Term -- Spike

In last week's newsletter I talked about hot spots.  If you discover your hot spots before a show, how do you find them again during a performance?  If the position of a prop or set piece is important, how do you insure that it is placed correctly, especially if somebody else sets the prop for you?
The anwser is to spike its location, which means mark it on the floor with tape.  For example, to spike the location of a table you put strips of tape on the floor marking the location of the front legs.  (If the front legs are in the right place, the rest of the table will be as well.)  Generally you make an L shape by putting a piece of tape along the front edge of the leg and then another piece along the outside edge of the leg.
Often a tape X is used to spike a place to stand or to leave a small prop like a hat.
You generally spike the important locations.  If you spiked everything the floor would be covered with tape and it would be hard to see the ones you want to use.
If there are spike marks close together that might be confused one act might use a tape square instead of an X.  Another solution is to use a different color of tape for each act.
If I will have to move during a blackout I use glow in the dark tape to mark a safe path to where I need to be.  I'll put the tape on the back side of things like my magic table so I don't bump into it and knock it over in the dark.  (Glow in the dark table is easily available at this time of year and is probably on sale now.)
When a show curtain is closed, it can be very difficult to find the opening.  So if I have to make an entrance or exit through a closed curtain, I spike the opening with a tape arrow on the floor.  That lets me, and others , find the correct spot quickly.  If possible, I have somebody behind the curtain open it slightly for me.  (I do the same for other acts that have to pass through the curtain.)
Thank you for being a subscriber.  I am always interested in your questions and comments.
Remember if you have missed an issue, you can read it by using the archive link in the right column.  If you want to change the address where you are receiving this newsletter, use the update profile link below.  If this newsletter no longer meets your needs, you can use the SafeUnsubscribe link to be permanently removed from my mailing list.  If you want to spread the word about this newsletter, you can use the forward email link below to send copies to others that you think might be interested.
I hope to see you down the road.

Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2009 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved. 

Educational Opportunities
 November 4-8, 2009
Next Step Workshop
Wilmar, Minnesota
This is an advanced workshop for those serious about Gospel Clown Ministry.  It is limited to fifteen participants.
April 29 - May 1, 2010
Branson Magic Bonanza
Branson, MO
I will be there with a dealer table.
July 9-15, 2010
Clown Camp Singapore
Sixteen hours of classes over three days plus four days of performing in Singapore schools. 
I believe in promoting any event I will be lecturing at.  If you schedule me for an educational event that you are hosting, I will list it here.  My goal is to do what I can to best meet the needs of you and your group.
For information on additional services that I can provide for an educational event 

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