Thursday, March 12, 2009

I must get a letter like this one once a month. I share my latest with you. (No names... they change but the material doesn't)

This is probably one of the oddest requests you have had!

Let me explain - I am a final year mature art student reading Fine Art at Oxford Brookes University, and for my major degree show piece of work, I started out researching why so many people are afraid of ventriloquist dummies, and this has progressed to me now looking at the 'relationship' between ventriloquists and their dummies, with particular reference to a more sinister side to the relationship.

I would like to ask some ventriloquists questions on this subject, and wondered if you would mind answering any for me.

The sort of questions are :-

Do you think of your dummies as 'real' people?

Do you treat them as 'real'?

Do you have conversations with them when you are alone (other than rehearsals etc)?

Are your dummies' characters your own alter egos, or are they completely different?

Do you find you slip into arguments easily with your dummy?

Do you ever get genuinely angry with your dummy, as if what he says almost feels like it hasn't come from you?

Have you ever felt that any of your dummies is taking you over?

Have you ever felt your dummy could take you over, but you are able to control it?

Do you ever feel that your dummy may bring out a darker side in you, or even personify it?

Do you ever use your dummy to reveal a darker side to your own nature, in a safe context?

As you can see, I am looking into a slightly darker, more sinister side to the vent/dummy relationship, as my research has indicated this does exist, but I really need to ask ventriloquists directly, rather than read about it.

Here is my response:
Dear (Name withheld)
You have touched on a subject that is very sensitive to me. I am aware that there is ventrilo-phobia in the world. I have worked most of my career to try and counter it. The performance of a ventriloquist is complicated and mostly misunderstood. Researchers usually want to find darkness when there is none. While there is also a fear or dislike for clowns and mimes, no one seems to imply any "darkness" between the clown and his stage make-up persona.

I am not sure if you are asking me if I experience a dark side to my art form, or if I understand why some people fear ventriloquist puppets. These are two separate questions and not at all related. I would be happy to talk about either, but I am not interested in perpetuating the stereotype that ventriloquists are, by nature of their professed art form, crazy. One could find a greater proportion of "crazies" in the professional lives of police officers than ventriloquists.

Just answering your questions out of context, won't reveal what you are after. Like the question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" there is really no way to answer.

I would be happy to share my knowledge if you are interested. However, I do not have a clear sense of your thesis. Do you see ventriloquism as a skill, craft, art or mental disorder?

---I'll let you know if I hear back. Usually when the researchers find out that I am not crazy in the way they want me to be they move on.

Rochester is only a week away. Yipes....

As you were,


Bob Conrad said...

Probably because of movies like "Magic", and several episodes of "Twilight Time", we will always be suspect to being "Nuts". Or, at least bi-polar, never enters their mind that maybe we are exceptionally good actors, or talented performers playing both parts very convincingly. I don't know about you, but my vent partners, spend most of their non-performing time in their trunks, and I am in complete control of them at all times.
Great topic.

Ony Carcamo said...

My wooden partners are "alive" ONLY when I'm using them on stage or in practice. They're also inside their trunks when not in use.

I found out that figures having more human-like features (and realististic-looking) may frighten people, especially young children--as opposed to figures with cartoony and "puppet-looking" styles, which are more audience-friendly.

By the way, Jay, I'm glad you're one of the judges who voted my entry "OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers)" 3rd place in the recent Axtell Vent Video Challenge. Hope to meet you in person some time.

You're one of fave vents. I looooove your work!

Thanks from Manila!

Ony Carcamo