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Comedy Silent Film Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Women Writer

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – Specters of Slapstick & Silent Film Comediennes

Women explode out of chimneys and melt when sprayed with soda water. Feminist activists play practical jokes to lobby for voting rights, while overworked kitchen maids dismember their limbs to finish their chores on time. In early slapstick films with titles such as Saucy Sue, Mary Jane’s Mishap, Jane on Strike, and The Consequences of Feminism, comediennes exhibit the tensions between joyful laughter and gendered violence. Slapstick comedy often celebrates the exaggeration of make-believe injury. Unlike male clowns, however, these comic actresses use slapstick antics as forms of feminist protest. They spontaneously combust while doing housework, disappear and reappear when sexually assaulted, or transform into men by eating magic seeds—and their absurd metamorphoses evoke the real-life predicaments of female identity in a changing modern world.

Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes reveals the gender politics of comedy and the comedic potentials of feminism through close consideration of hundreds of silent films. As Maggie Hennefeld argues, comedienne catastrophes provide disturbing but suggestive images for comprehending gendered social upheavals in the early twentieth century. At the same time, slapstick comediennes were crucial to the emergence of film language. Women’s flexible physicality offered filmmakers blank slates for experimenting with the visual and social potentials of cinema. Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes poses major challenges to the foundations of our ideas about slapstick comedy and film history, showing how this combustible genre blows open age-old debates about laughter, society, and gender politics.

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Simultaneously hilarious and seriously incisive, Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes is a dazzling demonstration of the way in which the female body in early film comedy is the privileged site for the display of the cinema’s defamiliarization of the world. Hennefeld skillfully links the centrality of women in comic films of mobility and catastrophe to anxieties surrounding their rapidly changing social position. This is a marvelous analysis. (Mary Ann Doane, University of California, Berkeley)

Hennefeld does a remarkable job of framing the politics of early film comedy in relation to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century philosophies of laughter. This is a far-reaching study that will change our understanding of the history of early film slapstick and gender. (Robert J. King, Columbia University)

Hennefeld draws on hundreds of films to reveal the radical interest and specificity of the silent film comediennes who humorously ruptured themselves while negotiating the shifting place of women’s bodies in cinema’s early years. Forging a rigorous third way between “killjoy refusal” and “unruly disruption” using a “Laughing Methodology” to counter misogynist violence, this brilliant book illuminates the vital link between feminist laughter and the slow-burn pleasure of feminist thought. (Karen Redrobe, University of Pennsylvania)

An original and significant book, solidly grounded in comic theory. (Film Quarterly)

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Categories
Clown Comedy Commedia dell' Arte Performing Arts Physical Theater

The Performers Slapstick is Back!

New York City based mask maker and commedia dell’arte specialist, Stanley Allen Sherman, discusses the history of the slapstick as a stage implement turned musical instrument, his creative process, and the importance of developing a performer’s slapstick.

Contact Stanley
or visit online at maskarts.com

Video by Jeremy Charles Hohn

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Categories
Clown Comedy Film Performing Arts Recommended Reading List Silent Film Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Day The Laughter Stopped”

The Day The Laughter Stopped by David Yallop

The Day the Laughter Stopped

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and the story of his tragedy.

Buster Keaton said that the day the laughter stopped was September 5, 1921 – the day that Virginia Rappe became ill during a party in Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle‘s suite at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. She died four days later as a result of her illness, peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. Mr. Arbuckle had nothing to do with Ms. Rappe’s illness and death, but he paid with his good name, his career and his happiness nonetheless. He was tried three times, by a politically motivated and extraordinarily underhanded prosecution, and was acquitted with an unprecedented apology signed by every member of the jury. This should have been more than enough to ensure his warm welcome back into film, but nothing of the sort happened. The tragedy of Roscoe Arbuckle is that he was made to be the scapegoat of a Hollywood running scared from public opinion – his guilt or innocence had become irrelevant.
This is the story that David Yallop tells in The Day the Laughter Stopped. Though the book tells the story of Arbuckle’s birth, start in show business and the years after his being sacrificed by so-called friends, the focus of this book is on the unfortunate death of Virginia Rappe, and the ham-handed attempt of the prosecutor to wrangle a political future out of the railroading of an innocent man. The problem? The prosecution had no case – its “star” witness, Maude Delmont, was lying from the onset and was easily discredited, and the doctors who examined Ms. Rappe during and after the party, and who conducted the autopsy, clearly indicated that no violence was done to her. The question, of course, is why she didn’t receive proper surgical medical care in the first place, but due to the passage of time I suppose that query will forever go unanswered.
When Mr. Yallop began research for this book, all three of Mr. Arbuckle’s wives were still living, and were eager to share their stories with him. Even Minta Durfee and Doris Deane, whose marriages with him ended in divorce, remembered him with great love. Indeed, all who were still around to be interviewed by Mr. Yallop had positive and kind things to say about the gentle, generous Roscoe Arbuckle.
This is an indispensable and devastating text in the study of the trial and the nature of Hollywood politics in the 20’s. Simple common sense and a rudimentary review of the facts indicate that Roscoe Arbuckle was completely innocent – this book makes it abundantly clear. It is a shame that Mr. Yallop has not written further titles regarding the silent era – his voice would be more than welcome. My only quibble, and it is a tiny one, is that there is some gratuitous foreshadowing in the “Before” section of the book – chances are that anyone who awaited this book’s arrival knew that its main focus was the events following September 5, 1921, and didn’t need to be reminded of the sadness just around the bend during Roscoe’s happy times.
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REVIEWS
This book should be the end of all the scandal regarding the case of murder against Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle. The author lays it all out so well that there is no question that Arbuckle had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Virginia Rappe. That is not to say this is not as interesting as the dirty little stories that others have told about this case, it is just that this happens to be the truth! I highly recommend this book!!!
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David Yallop is a film and television writer. He spent more than three years writing this book. The `Acknowledgments’ thank the many who helped in this 1976 book. There is a `Filmography’ by Samual A. Gill, and a `Bibliography’. The `Preface’ presents the testimony given by Maude Delmont. She accused Roscoe Arbuckle of murdering Virginia Rappe. Delmont never testified in court because her story was all lies. District Attorney Matthew Brady knew this as he prosecuted Arbuckle. Most people know of the legend of Arbuckle as a murderer with a Coke bottle. It ruined the career of Arbuckle, one of the most popular comedians of Hollywood, and was followed by a national board of censors. Arbuckle was the first actor to be blacklisted (p.261).

Part 1 has the history of Roscoe and show business. Originally all American films were made on the East Coast (p.25). California had better weather and light, and a varying landscape (p.25). There was a wide-open free market for films in the early days (p.27). Mack Sennett was an inventive pioneer who recorded real events for future films (p.40). Roscoe was enormously popular in American, but also in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and elsewhere (p.47). The “true story of what happened in Boston” begin on page 67, when Roscoe “was still a sick man”. Roscoe “is not now considered one of the greatest silent film comedians because most experts have never had the chance to see the best of his works” (p.83). Roscoe was a deputy sheriff (p.86). There was a famous dinner party (pp.87-90). 1921 saw the beginning of the Depression (p.96). [Due to falling agricultural prices.]

Part 2 tells about the St. Francis Hotel that survived the earthquake and fire of 1906. Roscoe picked the best hotel in town. Yallop interviewed many of the people who were involved, and read thousands of pages from the six proceedings to construct what happened on September 5, 1921 (p.109). Pages 108 to 128 end with Virginia’s death. Yallop says medical malpractice killed her. An illegal post-mortem removed organs that could tell of an abortion. The death caused reporters to investigate the story for The Front Page. Theaters began to drop Roscoe’s films (p.135). Lawyer Frank Dominguez advised Roscoe to answer no questions at the Hall of Justice (p.136). [This prevented the creation of prosecutorial perjury.] The reports in the Hearst Press was “criminally irresponsible” (p.138). Was Hearst the only millionaire to use gangsters (p.140)?

Was the scandal about Roscoe meant as a diversion from the economy (p.141)? Censorship of Chaplin (p.143)? Lehrman made up stories (p.145). Delmont made up stories (p.149). D.A. Matthew Brady knew that Roscoe was guiltless but prosecuted anyway (p.152). They tried to put words into one witness (pp.162-165). Brady knew he didn’t have a case (p.186)! Arbuckle’s films were banned in Great Britain and elsewhere, but not in France (p.191). [Is there some human flaw that causes people to hate what they once loved (p.194)?] Was the incident a variation of the “badger game” (p.196)? Maude Delmont played this game before (p.197). Brady refused to let her testify (p.198). A fickle public now cheered Arbuckle (p.202). Private detectives guarded Roscoe (p.207). Finally, the third jury acquitted Roscoe in five minutes because there was no proof (p.253).

Part 3 asks why an innocent man ws banned from movies (p.259). Will Hays was a puppet of Adolph Zuckor (p.260). The acquittal and the ban shattered Roscoe (p.264). He worked behind the scenes (p.265). Popular support ended the ban (p.266). But there were objections (p.267). [How wise are those moral leaders who would condemn an accused innocent (p.268)?] Billy Sunday said the ban was evil (p.272). The film “Sherlock Jr.” was based on the trial (p.278). There was another important case about the morals of a plaintiff (p.279). The rest of the book tells about Roscoe’s last years. Roscoe made comedy shorts in 1932 and was prepared to return to features when he died in his sleep (p.294). [Was there a need for comedy during the Great Depression?] The `Epilogue’ tells how the ban on Roscoe’s films continued long after his death (p.299). [Andy Edmonds’ book explains why the event was a frame-up.]

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Book Shelf Clown Comedy Film Marx Brothers Performing Arts Photography

The Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence

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Born Julius Marx in 1890, the brilliant comic actor who would later be known as Groucho was the most verbal of the famed comedy team, the Marx Brothers, his broad slapstick portrayals elevated by ingenious wordplay and double entendre. In his spirited biography of this beloved American iconoclast, Lee Siegel views the life of Groucho through the lens of his work on stage, screen, and television. The author uncovers the roots of the performer’s outrageous intellectual acuity and hilarious insolence toward convention and authority in Groucho’s early upbringing and Marx family dynamics.
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 “Lee Siegel’s brilliant analysis of the glorious, scary, beyond-funny humor of Groucho and his brothers made me feel as if I were watching their movies for the first time. In this hugely enjoyable and stimulating book, Siegel shows how Groucho became an impossibility: an immortal comedian.”—Ian Frazier, author of Great Plains and On the Rez
Ian Frazier
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 “Spirited and revealing . . . An astute psychological profile of the man whose biting, nihilistic comedy broke so many barriers.”
John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle
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Groucho Marx with Margret Dumont
Groucho Marx with Margaret Dumont in “The Cocoanuts” from 1929.
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Great article by Lee Siegel in the Wall Street Journal here!
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Categories
Comedy Film Performing Arts Silent Film

Hal Roach – Our Gang – ‘Monkey Business’ 1922 Silent Film

Categories
Big Apple Circus Circus Clown Performing Arts Variety Arts Vaudevisuals Interview

Vaudevisuals Interview with Rob Torres – International Clown and Funny Man

Rob Torres performing with Circus Flora

Sitting in the park in NYC, Rob Torres talks about what is CLOWN and what people think it is.
A wonderful talk about the misconceptions people have and what makes the difference.
1st Part of a series on CLOWN on Vaudevisuals.com

Contact Rob Torres here:
http://www.funeeestuff.com/

Rob can seen currently in The Big Apple Circus show ‘Luminocity‘ at Lincoln Center running from now thru Jan.12th, 2014.

Categories
Dance Mime Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater The Tank

“Guerra” – A Clown Play performed by La Piara @ The Tank

They describe the show as follows:

“A military farce from Mexico with love”

It is a wonderfully funny show that combines slapstick, dance, bouffant and farce to tell the story of a military outpost desparate for recruits.

The company La Piara is Artus Chavez, Fernando Cordova and Madeleine Sierra Carrascal.  They are superb comics and actors.

Here are a few photographs from the show.

Guerra being performed at the TankFernando Cordova as the General’s assistant and Artus Chavez as the General in a surprise moment.

The General looks down at his assistant in Guerra.Fernando is looked down upon by The General (Artus Chavez) in many moments during the show.

The General is outraged by the phone call in GuerraThe General (Artus Chavez) is outraged by the Commanders phone call.

Madeleine Sierra Cassascal plays the audience member who gets drafted to fight.Madeleine Sierra Cassascal plays the audience member who gets drafted to fight.

La Piara company looks on surprised.La Piara company looks surprised by the sudden activity.

The General tries to convince the new recruit (Madeleine Sierra) to use the 'big' gun.The General tries to convince the new recruit (Madeleine Sierra) to use the ‘big’ gun.

During the war off stage the recruiit loses her mind and Fernando looks on in terror.Returning from the war off stage the recruit loses her mind and Fernando looks on in terror.

La Piara company dance a disco number during the show.La Piara company dance a military disco number during the show.

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The show is on from July 11th thru the 21st as part of the Flint & Tinder series at The Tank.

Sound Design: Nick Keenan

Costume Design: Mieka van der Ploeg

Graphic Design: Guram Lubaggi

Created by Seth Bockley, Devon de Mayo and La Piara

More information about this series at The Tank here.

More information about La Piara here.

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La Piara will be teaching a three day clown workshop at The Tank July 20-22.

Categories
Clown Dance Magic Mime Music Performing Arts

Bill Irwin and David Shiner in “Old Hats” at the Signature Theater.

Check out these two’brilliant’clowns and their first appearance together in quite some time

David Shiner and Bill Irwin in “OLD HATS”

Directed by Tina Landau
Music by and Featuring Nellie McKay

2003-04 Playwright-in-Residence Bill Irwin reunites with fellow clown David Shiner for a new work combining their inimitable magic, slapstick, and hilarity. Using music, technology, and movement, plus other tricks up their sleeves, Irwin and Shiner create another wild and remarkable outing of theatre for a new generation of audiences. Signature is proud to present this dynamic duo’s first collaboration since the smash Broadway hit FOOL MOON.

“Ebullient and Charming” NY TIMES
“One of the funniest shows of the past few years” NY POST
“Leaves the audience buzzing with joy!” Time Out

Tickets here.

For additional information go to: Broadway.com
Bill Irwin photographed by Jim Moore
Photograph of Bill Irwin by Jim Moore in his studio circa 1982

Categories
Clown NY Clown Theatre Festival 2012 Performing Arts Photography The Brick

La Piara – “Guerra” – 2012 NY Clown Theatre Festival

From Mexico City/Chicago, Illinois

La Piara Teatro

GUERRA

 Guerra: A Clown Play combines slapstick, clown, dance, bouffant, and farce to tell the story of a military outpost’s last stand. Created by a Mexican/U.S. collaborative team, Guerra is performed in three languages and features a trio of incompetent officers engaged in a struggle against a vast unseen enemy. Their epic yet intimate journey features a recruitment lottery, bloodthirsty nursery rhymes, and at least one aerial bombardment. Guerra blends bombast and camp with serious echoes of American and Mexican military realities to create an irreverent and darkly resonant satire.

 Created by La Piara with Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo

Performed by La Piara (Artús Chávez, Fernando Córdova, and Madeleine Sierra)

Directed by Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo

Artus Chavez is delightful as the leader of the group.

Artus Chavez, Fernando Cordova and Madeleine Sierra make up La Piara Teatro.

Artus Chavez comforts Madeleine Sierra in a war scene.

Madeleine Sierra shows off her battle wounds to the audience in GUERRA.

Fernando Cordova has some funny eyes and great scenes in GUERRA.

A humorous moment during the dressing of the Chief in camouflage garb.

Artus Chavez sings while the paper airplanes fly over head.Madeleine, Artus and Fernando take their bow at the end of a very funny show!

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