Posts Tagged ‘Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant’

Lucy’s Forbidden Fruit Salad

December 15th, 2011 No comments

Loneliness is the key ingredient of the fruit salad I am about to prepare for you.

Wrapped up the Writing from Character workshop this evening at CPT and it was a blast.

The evening started out much as the evening started Monday with a lot of intense movement work. This time we were in Parish Hall, so we had quite a bit more space and a nice wood floor to move around on. We started in a circle and did a quick refresher on names and then moved on to Sun Salutations. Again, I was happy that my P90X work came in handy–as I felt like I was working straight out of CardioX. We started with some pretty intense yoga salutations that increased in speed. There was a little bit of plyo in the jumping–you know, we mixed it up; because variety is the spice of life. Sorry, channeling Tony Horton. Next we imagined that the large expanse of floor was gridded up at 90 degree angles. We all moved along in lines, redirecting when we encountered others. We played with tempo (speeding up our movement and slowing down); we played with spatial arrangements; we kept each other in our soft vision areas–periphery–and mimicked each other; we changed our core body positions in height: slinking down, rising up, crawling, tumbling, jumping. The sweat was pouring off all of us when we were finished, and I know that my legs will be sore tomorrow.

We took a break and then came back in costume: dressed as our personas from Monday. We walked about as before, getting a sense of ourselves in our characters. Then Jeffrey divided us into groups. We were charged with creating a 5 minute ensemble piece in :50 minutes which we then performed for the other groups. For those of you who’ve seen Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant, you have a sense already of what the pieces were like, as they revolved around the creation of one course of a meal. For those of you who haven’t seen Conni’s, your time is running out. Very like Conni’s, the segments that we created had to have several components: 1) we were working with food, so we had to create a dish (the food was very basic: carrots, boiled eggs, apples, lemons, nuts, etc.); 2) the dish that we created had to fulfill a need of one of at least one of the characters in our group; 3) there had to be a song; 4) audience participation was greatly encouraged; 5) something in the piece needed to reveal more about each of our characters (deepen them); 6) there should be movement involved (i.e. no static tableaux); 7) we had to work together to create the piece, accepting as much as possible all ideas, suggestions. It was a challenge.

Fortunately, I worked with a great team. A great team! I was in a group with Lynna Metrisin, who was fantastic in my thesis play Patterns and who directed Cat Kenney’s play that ran on the same bill as mine in Springboard; Katie Nabors, who recently starred in The Underpants at the Beck Center; and the always fabulous Lauren B. Smith of concon fame. Our short piece centered on getting love for Lucy (Smith). This was accomplished by the other characters: Luna (Katie) my “hay rollin” cousin from the farm days; Bernie (Metrisin) who played a dispirited Browns fan turned coach for our team; and myself, Schnitzel Fritz: ponderer extraordinaire, who happens to be skilled at animal husbandry. Our piece started with a quick dance routine that was energetically and spontaneously created by Luna. The dance involved using paper plate bowls in either hand, choreographed movements, clapping of plates, and a quick spin around our protagonist, Lucy, as she sang about her need for love. Bernie, Luna, and I then gave Lucy a quick going over as we circled around and concluded that she needed a “stud,” whom we obtained from the audience (Randy Muchowski–who is an Actor Teacher at Great Lakes Theater Festival and who is also fantastic). Luna blew up a latex glove and Fritz gave Randy a quick instructional session on handling large breasts and how to clench a nipple firmly while pulling: Luna was quite inspired. We then guided Randy to a nearby dinner table where Lucy awaited his company. Luna dolled out some dishes to the audience while the two love birds at their appetizer course. Luna and Fritz then served up the “Intercourse” segment of the meal, but not before presenting it to the audience for inspection. Luna carried a thick, long carrot with two appropriately placed hardboiled eggs at the base; while Fritz carried a plate with the nippily ends of two lemons upward and a succulently halved and spread red pepper resembling another portion of the human anatomy. The meal was the generative portion of the supper which, after being presented to the dining pair was eaten with great enthusiasm, culminating in the orgasmically spontaneous noshing of an apple by Lucy. Then she was sleepy and laid down upon Randy. Later Lucy was heard to say that while it was not love, it was satisfying.

Such was our stint into the dynamic world of character creation and character in action, a la Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant!

Writing from Character

December 13th, 2011 No comments

Silver3 at Conni's

Attended the Writing from Character workshop last night at CPT, which was run by the heroes of Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and that is good as I was somewhat nervous being one of the only playwrights in a room filled with actors.


The workshop, loosely described, is about creating character by using a variety of techniques, including clowning. The main idea being that you have a character in mind based on a prop, and combined with movement and various other techniques you identify some biographical information about your character which then you can develop more fully into three dimensions.

I have been through a variant on this process before in a workshop at CSU. Interestingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, both focused on getting into one’s own body prior to the activity; and it is remarkable how much physicality can influence quirks of character in the development phase.

The evening started with everyone circling up and going through a quick name game to, as much as anything, loosen everyone up. That was followed by a five minute period during which everyone stretched on his/her own just to loosen up. This was the outset of my being thankful for doing, albeit half-heartedly, P90X. The stretch techniques and CardioX came in helpful for not only the stretching but what followed immediately upon it. We were encouraged to move around the room, walking, exploring the space.

We were in the Orthodox Church at CPT which is a quaint, baroque, and highly engaging space. The vaulted ceiling, tumbling into a cupola, is painted the hue of the lightest bluest sky of summer, set off by the brilliant gold paint liberally scattered about. The silhouette of tree limbs peeped at the windows and the wood floors felt immensely real under my bare feet. (I owe that description to the elevated awareness to which my senses were subject by the exercises. )

The exploration quickly turned to simply walking around the room, engaging the eye on whatever it took rest. Then the pace was increased. We were next encouraged to identify open space between all of the bodies moving about and move through them. Circles circled and then reversed, people dashed diagonally across the space. The clip increased. A rule was added that if you encountered a person you were to turn and move the opposite direction, as if you ricochetted off the individual. We were admonished to keep loose and lithe so as not to bash anyone we might bump into. Next we were encouraged to follow persons. Then to either stop or deflect when we bumped into another. The pace continued and we were encouraged to become aware of those around us, to pick a person and keep him/her in our peripheral vision at all times. Next it was two, then three. My eyes seemed to slide sideways in my head as I became increasingly aware of the breadth of the space around me. When the exercise concluded I was drenched in sweat, and yet was strangely un-tired. As one person described it, it was very much a constant exchange of energy from everyone in the room; and it might have been a sort of sustenance.

We did an exercise where we imagined we had extra limbs; where we contorted our bodies into odd shapes and physical expressions. Next we donned our outfits: pieces of clothing we brought along to help us envision a character. I wore a tremendously gaudy dress splattered with a rainbow of colors; I looked, no doubt, like an Amish Moony. We sauntered the room soon after listening to the coaxing commands of Jeffrey Frace to imagine that we were happy, to imagine that this was the happiest day of our lives, to imagine that we were infinitely desirable: that the world’s leading thinkers sought us out; the leading politicians called us on the phone for advice; etc. We were to inflate ourselves as much as possible and strut about the room greeting all the other inflated personas who inhabited the room. It was quite fun.

Then we sat and picked up a pad and paper and in response to Jeffrey’s commands, created a biography for a character that had emerged for us. The questions: Name, Age, Where from, Education, Key Moment in life, personal eccentricity, Greatest Fear, Greatest Dream, etc, required immediate responses (we were given approximately five minutes in which to get the details of our character in order). Then, as the main body of the workshop attendees sat, some several of us where called up in a group and Jeffrey pummeled us with questions about our biography. Many of the questions required on the spot generation of new facets to our personalities. We were then all given a scenario in which we had to act together: the first group was that a ballet troupe was unable to make their performance and the characters in the group had to fill in; next was the same scenario with Shakespeare replacing ballet; finally, (my group) it was a square dance.

All of these aspects are on view in Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant at CPT, which ends next week. Wild characters, bursting with energy, are engaged in running a restaurant and in coordinating the cooking and live entertainment for Conni’s guests (i.e. you, the audience).

The workshop concludes tomorrow night with an advancement of the characters we created and a short stint into cooking and working together to create and serve dinner while working in characters. Should be fun!

For those of you who are interested, my character is Schnickel Fritz, a 41-year-old Ponderer from Middletown, Ohio, who talks like Tom Waits. He can’t remember his education only that he became totally enlightened after a rumspringa acid trip. During the trip he realized that certain core tenants of the Mennonite faith coincided with a mix of Japanese zen Buddhist thought as filtered through a Hippy-style smokendum. Fritz’s personal eccentricity includes making animal faces and expressions (as well as accompanying noises) with his beard–but this only happens during periods of great excitement. Fritz’s greatest fear is being forcibly shaved. This also happens to be his greatest dream. One of the more terrible moments in Fritz’s life was when his pet cow Beatrice, a Hereford-Friesian dairy cow, was given over for slaughter to Butcher Langer.

When interviewed Fritz admitted that his sole exceptional feature is Pondering. “I am especially good and noble when it comes to the art of pondering. I love to emponder others. I am in transition. In my youth I was sought out for my great pondering ability and exquisite pondering poses: for which I was featured as a centerfold in Thinker Magazine: the Journal of the Subsupercilious. (Known in certain circles as “the Bent Brow”.) More recently I have traded my stardom for seeking states of non-being in my pondering, concentrating less on the outward form of my poses and more on a deeper sense of nothingness. In this regard, I have taken to assisting others who seek out deep wonderment.”

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