Check us out—Pinky, Cheese Balls, and Goofballs wearing Angela’s masks!
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Check us out—Pinky, Cheese Balls, and Goofballs wearing Angela’s masks!
We were scheduled to perform on the first day of filming, and it turned out that the light on the side of the stage where we’d intended to shoot was too patchy at that hour, so we were forced to flip things. Conveniently, that gave Pseudolus and Calidorus an actual doorway and tree nearby to ‘hide’ in and behind. After measuring out our usual playing space (two body lengths in either direction, to keep us crowded together and the energy up), and donning the appropriate costumes (which is quite a process for Ballia!), we took the stage. What a pleasure to perform our full script before a large audience of our colleagues! There’s nothing like eliciting real laughter from a crowd, and it’s especially fun when they know–generally–the outlines of the plot and what’s coming. We were rather proud of some of the word-play we’d included in our translation, and it was nice to hear that the audience appreciated it too. (Particularly the break-out ‘commentary’ scene, when the lowest-ranking slave suddenly starts to lecture on the manuscript tradition of Plautus.) We took advantage of the magic of film to re-shoot a few spots where we’d skipped a line or two, and then happily distributed Ballia’s smorgasbord of junk food to our audience. It seemed entirely appropriate to feed them after they’d fed our energy so well during the performance. Indeed, the miraculous vat of cheezballs fed us for the rest of the week, and we never managed to empty it. Like the whole NEH experience, those cheezballs were the gift that keeps on giving!
Session 8: July 12
Today was time for stock-taking… first of all the amazing props Serena got us, fitted remarkably to our specifications (many, many thanks), then of our costume ideas (should the slaves dress in keeping with each other, and should their clothes tie in with one of the jokes?), and then of what stills needs working out, rehearsing, and polishing. We made a plan that lets our Ballia, Pseudolus, and Callidorus do some intensive work without bothering with the slaves, and that then brings us all back to have some extended time to pull the scene together. We’re hoping to invite some of the other participants to be a rehearsal audience for us during a weekend moment when they’re not rehearsing, too.
Session 7: July 10
Today Pseudolus B went to the Forest Theatre to map out a plan for the space of the stage. The trip proved useful, gave us a few questions in need of answers, and informed some staging ideas. After our field trip, we went back to the rehearsal room to work on staging. The mask/character work proved helpful as we jumped right into the scene with specific ideas for personalities and reactions. We made it through the first third of the script–taking time to choreograph and drill timing as we went. At the end of the rehearsal, a few guests joined as audience and gave us a chance to play our ideas for fresh faces. There was much laughter, which helped us to think about specific moments in need of fine tuning or better laugh-timing. It was a great time, and we can’t wait to get back into the space together.
Session 5 (July 2)
Monday put the “Badass” back into Group B. After our exploratory mask work over the weekend, and the near-finalization of the script, we had a lot to play with today. We began with a read-through of our script, tweaked a few jokes, found some more wordplay, and laughed a lot. Envisioning the broad-brush-stroke characters that began to appear with the actor+mask work, we also shared some staging and business ideas that crept into our imaginations as we read. Next, we went back to our prop and costume lists to cull them down. This proved to help us all get on the same page stylistically. Whether looking at staging or stuff, economy is the name of our game. This is also true for the space of our stage, and we have an infallible method for measuring out the space we will use. We finished the day by sharing some comedic inspiration–particularly interesting to watch and discuss given Tim’s talk today about meter and the reading for tomorrow about gender/identity. Next up–staging.
Session 4 (June 29)
On Friday, we began with a discussion with Tim about the proposed audience of our performance and, using today’s lecture by Toph and Sander, thought about how different audiences might change the way we approached the performance. Then we spent the rest of the day continuing re-translating, using the text we were given as a base, but attempting to both modernize and update the language, while still keeping faithful to Plautus’ spirit. We met again on Saturday and continued the process throughout the day, finishing the translation my mid-afternoon. Plautus, we hope, would be pleased. After that, we left the text alone for a bit, got up on our feet and began experimenting with masks (using Angela’s). Each person selected a mask that would be a base character and we all got some time to play with how we would move/act with that mask on.
Session 3 (June 28)
Today Group B continued re-writing the text and visualizing comic lazzi’s for the scene. By working in tandem with the Latin text, we are exploring verbal rhythm–alliteration & onomatopoeia in the re-writes. We focused on contrasting and complimenting high and low status language, stereotypes and gestures–expanding on what we discussed today in the morning session. We are planning some mask work sessions outside of class in order to get more comfortable in the masks and to begin to create character(s) bodies and relationships. We are setting tentative goal to be working on our feet in the space sometime next week.
Session 2 (June 27)
Today we played with the idea of having either the Pseudolus character or the Calidorus character exist merely as a puppet (with the mask held by the other character). We decided that Calidorus is better as the puppet figure since Pseudolus ‘directs’ the Simia-as-Harpax con elsewhere in the play, and Calidorus is just helpless in general. Such a move will free up 3 actors to play the roles of all the slaves and prostitutes, and thus will allow for more funny business. We also talked about Pseudolus doing live sound effects from his eavesdropper position. We ended the day by starting to tinker with our script, often maintaining the spirit of Plautus’ Latin without following it too literally.
Session 1 (June 26)
Our group reaffirmed our earlier decision to work with masks, although we’re not sure which masks we’ll use (since Angela brought some with her). After discussing how the height and gender of actors/characters can affect the interpretation of a scene, we decided to play up the physical comedy that we think is inherent in the scene. (And we are contemplating how to exploit the sand stage of the Forest Theater, since it has tremendous comedic potential.) We want to incorporate a few subversive elements too, but we’d rather not reveal our secrets just yet. Lastly, we decided that the ‘B’ stands for ‘badass.’