I know I’m involved with a physical comedy when my legs are covered by ugly purple and green bruises, many of which are of unknown origin. This show is no exception.
More so than in a drama, I’m asked to use my body in extreme physical ways in a comedy: entering from Stage Left and being “thrown” to the ground; running around to evade a lascivious embrace; a knee to the groin, stage-combat-style; or physical intimacy the likes of which could make a nun blush. Oh, and my character in this show? A former nun.
I love comedy for this aspect. It’s the most dance-like of my time onstage, unless I’m actually dancing. I’m learning a lot about physical comedy in this production, thanks in large part to PK’s love of the history of it. At the end of rehearsal the other night, we sat down and watch a YouTube clip of Ferruccio Soleri, a master of Italian commedia dell'arte (Harlequin). Such control over his body! Like a dancer, yes, but more of his intention was focused on being still. Everything still except an arm or a leg, which brought that movement into relief, which made it funny - especially when repeated over and over!
After this clip, we watched another classic: Bugs Bunny. Did you know that Bugs is patterned after Harlequin? I sure didn’t, but watching the cartoon with that knowledge, I could see the incredible connection, and Bugs became funnier than ever.
One of the leads in Volpone is being staged much like Harlequin/Bugs, but all of us have elements of commedia in our physicality. PK said “The key to physical comedy is stillness with intention.” Just as Soleri economized his movement to achieve the greatest comedic effect, so PK is trying to get us to focus our movements. Stylize, I guess, but all physical comedy is stylized. Manic movements contrasted with sharp stillness. It’s challenging, but I love the way I’m learning another way to use my body onstage.
I know I’m not getting the Big Picture of this across very well in this post, so I may ask PK to pop in as a guest blogger and share a bit more of the concept. Stay tuned…