Sunday, August 20, 2017

Theatrical Post Mortem

This is a picture from last night.  It was a confusing Marquee to say the least.  It appears that a show called "Jay Johnson- One Night Only" closed a week ago after running since June 30.  It was actually a black box acoustical version of my show "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" entitled "Excess Baggage" and it played for  one night only August 19th.  Evidently they changed the name of the show and not the date/dates. To all my friends who came in spite of a dyslexic marquee, thank you.  I didn't get to visit much with anyone for very long at the post show gala.  But I knew you were there and appreciate your attendance even if I could only give you a quick hug after wards.

The one thing that I know after performing "one night only" at the Group Repertory Theater last night is this: I don't know how I did 8 of those shows a week at the Helen Hayes in New York. If anyone says, "you were younger then" they risk a verbal smack down from some wooden actors.  In those Hayes  days I would come home and write about the experience before I went to bed.  Last night I was too exhausted to sleep, much less to use my fingers for typing. But with the perspective of the "morning after" I have come to some conclusions about my show and performing it.

It's not a big theater and the sound system is mostly used as background sound effects for their productions.  I knew it was going to be a nakedly acoustic show but I also knew I could be heard clearly, even un-amplified. After all,  aren't we actors supposed to be able to do that?   I found the lack of amplification was not an issue when delivering the text of the show,  but performing the delicacies of ventriloquism was a challenge.   Being a ventriloquial purist I was shocked at how much I have become accustomed to amplification.  Not so much for the audience as for me.   More than anything, I missed stage monitors. So as not to get too technical and bore readers who are not ventriloquists here is the easy explanation. 

A distant voice requires the vent to "recreate" a sound as if it is coming from another place.  This is done by manipulating the epiglottis to change the amplitude of the sound. (See the Jay Johnson book on ventriloquism to come out soon).  It is basically a balance between diaphragm pressure and the controlled resistance of the vocal chords.  If you push too much with your diaphragm or do not have the correct tension on your chords the "distant voice" is pushed out of the sweet spot you're going for.  

For years, and certainly every time I have ever done my theatrical show, I have relied on hearing what the audience is hearing to adjust that distant voice sweet spot.  It is like singing off pitch, and if you can't hear the pitch you can't correct it.  I have to hear what the audience is hearing, not the sound  I hear in my head.  In a perfect situation I have stage monitors, second best is performing with a house audio system that allows me to adjust my hearing to the "bounce back" sound.  In this case I had neither.  I found that my training to project my voice to be heard without a mic was in direct conflict to finding that sweet spot of the distance voice.  Since I could not hear what the audience was hearing it was easy to lose the balance.  

I am sure that if I were to have more than one night in a "mic-less" theatre my ears and technique would adjust to find the sweet spot. However,  when opening night is closing night there is no chance to learn those corrections. Maybe that's what I love about performing. It doesn't matter how long you have done something or how good you try to be; there is always more to learn because every audience and every theater is different. 

The audience was wonderful and followed the journey and my story with sublimely supportive energy. They did not seem to know  my ears were continually trying to decipher what they were hearing.  I was glad to help raise some money for the theater. Perhaps an updated sound system can go into the budget.

I was lucky to have one of my co-directors in town for this show.  Murphy Cross is not only a wonderfully creative soul, she knows this show better than I do and always has the perfect perspective.  I was treading water until she stepped in and brought her incredible vision to not only the space but to my performance last night.  Her gentleness and angelic qualities are unique in the ego driven world of show business, and I will always be grateful for the Muse that brought us together.  I probably better stop my effusiveness at this point, in case Sandi is reading my blog.  However, if anyone could think more of my friend and partner Murphy Cross than me and Paul Kreppel,  it would be my wife Sandi.  
The task of repacking the show. 

I didn't make a curtain speech last night but if I had , on top of the list of people to thank would be Sandi and Murphy.  Followed by Stan Mazin, Mr. Kent, Rishie, Steve, Larry and all the people who make the Group Rep Theater function. 

For me it will be a day of trying to repack the show for the next performance. That is of course after I catch up on some rest.
As you were,

1 comment:

P. Grecian said...

It sounds like you were a hit. But then, of course you were.