Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rehearsal # The Last

One of the things that those few people who could be at rehearsal last week learned was “Dance so that you don’t get shot.” Meaning, pretend you have a big target on your chest and dance such that the audience never gets a good shot at it. To test that this week, Bryce brought in his vintage 1980’s Laser Tag set, but alas he did not bring enough batteries to run the gun so we couldn’t do it. Boo.

Instead we practiced singing rhythmic choruses that riff more on one note and split focus scenes. Puppets need to hardly move at all when they’re not the focus of a split scene because any movement draws the audiences attention away from who’s talking.

Christian brought up a good point he learned from watching a play in LA a few weeks ago. The company he saw perform is grounded in Comedia even though they don’t do Comedia, but generally speaking whoever is talking faces the audience and whoever isn’t talking faces the person talking. This is generally speaking a great rule to follow as a puppet.

We worked on finding the moment in a Bollywood scene when a song should happen, which is oddly different then song moments in Broadway, which I think I’ve touched on before.

Finally we worked on some larger group numbers and opening numbers.

Mostly though we just basked in the warm glow of our last rehearsal enjoying the last time we’d all be together at the same time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bollywood Clips

Clay has been busy posting video clips to Un-Scripted's YouTube Channel. Like this one, where part of the set comes crashing down at the end.

Or this opening number from the show on 12/6:

Week 3: Show Summaries

You may have noticed I didn't blog about last week's rehearsal. That's because less than an hour before it was to start we had to reschedule it for Wednesday due to a mishap with the space being double booked. Alas, I could not attend Wednesday, hence no blog. There is a rehearsal tonight however, so look for a blog about it later this week.

In the meantime, here's what happened last week:

Thursday: Used Car Desert or Road Trip to Love
The life of disillusioned used car salesman Raj (Pepper) changes forever when he sells a bum Miata to the young and beautiful Neesha (Jenny as puppet Evelyn). He quits the dealership and with the help of his best friend Ravi (Clay) fixes the Miata so that all three of them can escape the desert to the mountains! But soon Ravi becomes a jealous third wheel and the call of family threatens to end their fun adventures.

Friday: Look to the Stars or Love Returns... in Space!
Sanjeeb (Dave) falls in love with his boarding school headmaster’s crazy daughter Pooja (Christian as puppet Petal), but the headmaster, Rajeev (Jeff C.) won’t approve of the match because of Sanjeeb’s failing grades in Astronomy. Sanjeeb is expelled from the school and Pooja is locked in a tower, but when Sanjeeb returns to save her he is killed by Rajeev. Unable to live without her love, Pooja throws herself from the tower. Flash forward to a space station in the distant future. Will their reincarnated spirits finally be able to love in peace... in space?

: Armageddon Wars or Partners in Love
An asteroid is headed straight for a small neighborhood of Madras. An American Captain of a fishing boat, Rex Roger (Christian as puppet Stanley) must destroy it in order to win the love of the fair Reena (Christian as puppet Evelyn). The town scientists retrofit his fishing boat into a space ship and he launches into space. Little does he know that Reena and her entire family have dressed up as men and joined the crew. Will they get there in time?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Week 2: Show Summaries

Thursday: The Late Train or Love on the Run
Reni (Jenny) is betrothed to the very large, very rich, and very mean Mr. Rashnish (Larry). She flees with the help of Amir (Clay as puppet Stanley) who has fallen madly in love with her. Pursued and hunted by Mr. Rashnish, all end up dead in a bloody sword battle… or do they?

Friday: H.M.S. Matrix or Art and Garbage
Shubhra (Mandy as puppet Nila), an artist at heart, goes in search of adventure with her faithful protector Rajesh (Alan), but find more than they bargained for when they’re captured and sold by a British slave ship. Will her father Samir (Bryce) save them in time, or will the long hidden love between Rajesh and Shubhra set them free?

Saturday Matinee:
The Lost City of Snakes or Buried Desires
Brothers Sanjul (Alan as puppet Marcel) and Dr. Kamal Kamar (Dave) are excavating an ancient city near a small village. Soon ghosts start warning the terrified Sanjul to leave lest they awaken the hidden terror within, but Kamar refuses to stop exploring the site for the sake of scientific knowledge. It will take a lot of love and the help of the villagers to stop the evil unleashed.

Saturday Evening: Devil’s Tower or Do I Believe What I See?
Former Bollywood star Aisha (Mandy) has gone mad. From her mountaintop lair she kidnaps climbers and forces them to rehearse dance numbers with her daughter Pooja (Bryce as puppet Rita) whom she is grooming to fill her shoes. When simple watermelon farmers Salman (Jeff E.) and Rajul (Larry as puppet George) arrive as fans, Aisha turns Salman into Pooja’s co-star, but then Rajul and Pooja run off together. Aisha sends Salman, now corrupted by the glory of the spotlight, to kill Rajul. Will anyone escape Aisha's evil machinations?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rehearsal #13 and Opening Weekend Thoughts

Yes, we rehearse even after the show opens. Why? Because once you get it up in front of an audience you can know… oh! That’s what this show is. That’s what we need to work on.

So what did we learn that we needed to work on?

We need to dance more. Hopefully a good way to accomplish that will be to do a better dance warm-up before the show itself, but we also worked a lot in rehearsal on the opening number. We have a set formation for the opening number. That’s about the only thing in the show that’s planned, except that even with the structure set up for the opening number, we still have no idea what we’re actually going to sing or dance.

We practiced the formation and the traffic patterns so that people can move around from place to place with in the formation without running into each other. In the heat of the moment in a show, it’s easy to forget where you’re supposed to go. So it’s good to practice.

We also spent a great deal of time practicing how to dance with scarves. Something that happens a lot, but that we really hadn’t worked at all. It’s very satisfying. Susan, who was in the audience Saturday night, pointed out to Mandy that if you’re performing as a puppeteer on a given night, you do not necessarily have to come out with a puppet to do background dancing. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. Especially if you want to work with scarves.

That leads me to a realization I had during the show Saturday night. In the last puppet show we did, and in this one, I would frequently find myself annoyed when a cast member who shall remain nameless, who was supposed to be a “person” on a given night, kept coming out as multiple puppet characters. Friday night, as a person myself, I discovered part way through the show that I was only playing one character, and for some reason found it difficult to come out as another one. We discovered during the Great Puppet Musical that it is indeed a challenge when playing a person to play multiple characters. Why? Because the puppets only every play one character. That trains the audience to make a 1-to-1 association between character and performer. Puppet X = 1 Character. Person Y = 1 Character.

To solve that problem, we had talked about coming out with a scarf or something to indicate that you are a different character than the other one you played. But Saturday night as I watched the person in question playing multiple puppet characters, it hit me. That’s the easiest way to play multiple characters as a person: grab a puppet. Wow, that will be useful.

We did not have a musician at rehearsal, but we practiced singing anyway. We worked on singing in more of rhythmic fashion as opposed to a melodic fashion. Singing melodies is a very western style of music. Hindi music often uses singing to mimic percussion instruments.

We also talked about changing the content and the placement of our songs. Songs in Bollywood musicals happen in different places than Broadway musicals. Bollywood musicals have a completely different narrative structure, which is taking some getting used to. We have trained ourselves very well not to add new information after the intermission or complicate the story at that point. Unfortunately in Bollywood the second half usually starts with some tragic incident. Trouble gets introduced then to reveal the consequences of the comic events of the first half. We find that so hard to do that Saturday night we introduced some trouble at the top of Act 2 and the immediately resolved it, leaving us struggling to make more trouble so the show wouldn’t end 15 minutes after intermission. That will be a major adjustment.

That also points out a limitation on the way we’re doing the show. .Because you’re average Bollywood movie lasts 4-5 hours, and we’re doing it in 2, we have to cut a lot out. We don’t have the same amount of time to develop storylines and characters that they do. That’s also how they get away with songs that don’t really reveal inner character emotions. The songs are very poppy and metaphorical because they have the time to develop the emotions in regular dialog. Broadway musicals use songs as a short cut to reveal those emotions without dialog.

It’s fascinating really.

Personally I think we should only do 1 show on Saturday December 20. Do the first 2 hours at 3 and then the second 2 hours at 8. It’ll be perfect.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Week 1: Show Summaries

Here's a sneak peek at last weekend's show summaries that will go out in tomorrow's email. We had a great weekend with packed houses. Make sure to buy your tickets early as we had to turn people away on Saturday night.

Friday: Naroosh’s Plum or Ambition!
Veeru (Bryce) returns home from the city to work for his family’s dung delivery service only to find he delivers more than just fertilizer to the fair Sarasvati (Jenny). He also delivers his heart. Can his ambition to win her hand be stopped? All he has to do is find the Plum of Naroosh... which probably doesn't even exit.

Ambition! - Sung by Bryce

Saturday Matinee: Love Train or Revenge Is Sweet!
Bashir (Pepper) and Rajul (Christian)have both fallen in love with Anita (Mandy) and pretend to be baggage handlers on a train to Bombay in order to be close to her as her family moves away from their village. When Bashir wins Anita’s affections, Rajul’s revenge takes a wrong turn, but that’s nothing a wedding on top of a moving train can’t fix!

Everything is New - Sung by Christian, Pepper, & Mandy

Saturday Evening: Raj’s Café or Everybody's Friend
Anuvab (Clay) just wants everybody to like him, but as a result he’s running his café into the ground. When his parents kick him out of the house, he’s forced to make the café profitable and becomes a tyrannical boss. Is the cost of success more than he’s willing to pay?

Everybody Likes! - Sung by Christian and Clay